Test of stamina in Devon’s famous national chase
The roll call of jockeys and trainers that have won Exeter Racecourse’s prestigious Higos Insurance Services Devon National reads like a who’s who of racing, and next Friday, another name will be added to an illustrious list that is approaching its twentieth year.
The prize for the winner is more than £15,000 and it is no surprise to learn that it is ever popular among trainers, keen to give their chasers that might lack for a bit of speed the chance to win a decent pot of money. With 21 fences to negotiate, and three miles six furlongs to complete, the race requires an abundance of stamina, but it is hugely popular, with competitive fields the order of the day.
Since 1998, the race has taken place just as the early signs of spring begin to emerge and Vince Slattery was on board that first ever winner with Workingforpeanuts coming home a distance in front of his seven rivals. Joe Tizzard has won three Devon Nationals and Sir Anthony McCoy has won it twice, on Samlee for Philip Hobbs in 2000, and Teeming Rain for Jonjo O’Neill in 2009, the only horse to have won consecutive runnings of the race. Nigel Twiston-Davies has saddled the winner twice, with duel Grand National-winning jockey Carl Llewellyn winning on board Spanish Main in 2003, and Paddy Brennan on Ammunition in 2011. The reigning champion jockey Richard Johnson was the victor in 2008 aboard Obaki De Grissay.
Long-priced horses can spring a surprising with The Clyda Rover winning at 22-1 in 2013 and Ammunition the winner at 16-1 in 2011. Local horses often land the spoils too, with Flying Award, trained by Sue Gardner near Exeter, winning in 2014, and Jeremy Scott’s Clash Duff, who is trained on Exmoor, the victor in 2012 ridden by racecourse ambassador Nick Scholfield.
General manager Daniel Thompson said: “It’s a race that has been part of the calendar here for many years. It takes place over a marathon distance, so it gives those that might not be the quickest, but can keep up a relentless gallop, the opportunity to race for some significant prize money. We will also like to show our appreciation for each of the runners and will be giving them all a net of carrots and packets of polos.”
The racecourse will also be welcoming the 2012 Aintree Grand National hero Neptune Collognes who will be in the South West Shelters Retired Racehorse Stable for racegoers to meet.
Staged on the last day of the week, the racecourse’s ever popular £5 offer on Fridays for pre-booked Grandstand and Paddock tickets for groups of ten or more, is a late winter incentive to reward friends and colleagues with a day at the races.
More details can be found at www.exeter-racecourse.co.uk