Horse Racing: Sanderson setting his stall out for bumper jump dates

Dolatulo wins the William Hill Rowland Merrick Handicap Steeple Chase at Wetherby Racecourse.
Dolatulo wins the William Hill Rowland Merrick Handicap Steeple Chase at Wetherby Racecourse.
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Jonjo Sanderson says Wetherby Racecourse is on an upward curve heading into 2015 with the chief executive now only praying the elements are kind for Christmas Jumper Saturday.

After suffering back-to-back abandonments of both Christmas fixtures in 2009 and 2010, the A1 track has now emerged unscathed from their Festive extravaganza for four years in a row. A crowd of 12,000 flocked to Boxing Day’s fixture last Sunday, followed by an attendance of around 5,500 the following day.

Numbers have been on the incline since the elements allowed racing to return at Christmas in 2011 and Sanderson hopes the upward trend continues with the chief exec’ now praying for temperatures to rise ahead of the course’s next fixture on Saturday, January 10.

After five more National Hunt fixtures, the A1 track will then stage their first-ever Flat meeting on Sunday, April 26.

“The 2014 Christmas fixture went really well,” Sanderson told the YEP.

“Obviously we were lucky with the weather in the end that we had no need to have any inspections or anything like that and that always helps as it puts people off. And the forecast on both days was dry which is great because again people don’t like to come and get wet.

“We had about 12,000 there on Boxing Day and then we had about five and a half thousand there on the 27th. Over the two days we were about 2,000 to 2,500 people up year on year.

“In 2007 we had 14,000 there on Boxing Day and in 2008 we had 13,000 but when we lost those two days it kind of put us out of a lot of people’s mind-set.

“Therefore we are still struggling to win people back to a degree but we had 10,000 last year or ten and a half and 8,000 the year before so its certainly going in the right direction but a lot of that is down to the positive weather forecast.

“If we get through the early part of this winter without any abandonments then obviously we will be full steam ahead for Flat racing in April which is coming into the front of our minds a little bit.”

Sanderson is now recharging the batteries ahead of next Saturday’s meeting when racegoers will receive discounted entry if wearing a Christmas jumper.

And another employee of Wetherby Races – gardener Sam Glover – will have an extra spring in his step heading into 2015 after backing the winner of Boxing Day’s feature the William Hill Rowland Meyrick Chase in the shape of 12-2 shot Dolatulo. The success provided yet another winner for Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex – currently the A1’s top trainer for the current campaign.

Sanderson revealed: “Our gardener – Sam Glover had it – and it was 14-1 but Warren is actually our top trainer at Wetherby this season. I think he’s had five or six winners and he had the West Yorkshire Hurdle winner as well in Cole Harden so he is doing really well. He’s a nice guy and I’m very pleased for him. But I was too busy to worry and to be fair I didn’t even write any results in my racecard to be honest.

“I was looking at the operation more than anything.”

Explaining his plans for new year, dad of three Sanderson laughed: “Now I’ve switched off from racing – we’ve shut the office for a week – and we are in Sussex in new year visiting friends from university.

“We’re back at the weekend but they have got three kids as well so it will be carnage!”