Nearly four years on from its closure, Hereford Racecourse reopened its doors to the public on Thursday, hosting a seven-race National Hunt card in what is the newest chapter of its long history.
ARC was forced to close Hereford in December 2012 when it deemed it not viable to keep running after a dispute with Herefordshire Council over the lease. It caused considerable anger and resentment at the time.
With a new Chief Executive at the helm in the shape of Martin Cruddace, ARC announced in January that Hereford would be reopening in October.
Hereford will take part in the BHA’s fixture allocation for 2017 with the intention of holding around 12 National Hunt cards per calendar year.
Susannah Gill, Director of External Affairs at ARC said: “The reopening of Hereford is very good news for British Racing and ARC is delighted to have been able to make it happen. We have worked with a lot of people, from the BHA and the local council through to trainers and jockeys and all have been incredibly helpful and supportive.”
She continued: “The racecourse plays an important part in the grassroots of the sport and has been well supported today with a strong number of runners and over 1,500 tickets sold in advance. We hope this will continue for the other fixtures this year and into 2017.”
Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be became the first horse to win for nearly four years at the Hertfordshire venue, as he scored emphatically in the opening Novices’ Hurdle under Andrew Tinkler.
One young rider who looked to be enjoying Hereford’s return was Sam Twiston-Davies, who went to ride a treble on the afternoon. His first victory came for his retainer Paul Nicholls in the Maiden Hurdle aboard five-year-old mare Coillte Lass.
He then went on to ride two more winners this time for his father Nigel, which included a triumph in the feature race, the three mile Silver Salver Handicap Chase with Belmount.
Twiston-Davies kicked the gelding on three out and maintained a two-length advantage over runner-up Fort Worth from the last flight.
The racecourse plays an important part in the grassroots of the sport and has been well supported today
Katie Stephens, raceday clerk for the first four fixtures, is delighted that the track which she presided over for six years as Clerk of the Course, is back in the fold.
She said: “The track was still being maintained over the last four years with Arabian racing and a handful of point-to-points.
“It’s a great viewing track, it always was popular with runners and trainers and it’s really good news to be back. With got three more meetings leading up to Christmas and there should be some really nice races which we can look forward to.”