Salisbury Racecourse: a review of the season as its final meeting approaches
The 2018 season at Salisbury Racecourse, which runs solely on the Flat, comes to a close on October 3 with the £20,000 Weatherbys Handicap Stakes and a selection of races for two-year olds.
Salisbury's Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, Jeremy Martin, tells marlborughequestrian.news: "It's certainly been an interesting year". Prime suspect for making it 'interesting' - he did not say 'stressful'! - has, of course, been the weather.
As he says, that is unusual for Flat racing: "It was cold too - not typical Flat racing weather!"At the end of April the rain caused horses at two meetings to run on heavy ground.
Then came June and July with the heat and the drought: "We had firm ground - being on downland we had a problem - it's very difficult to water successfully." They did water, but in that heat much of the water evaporated almost immediately.
The result of such swings in the weather? "We've not had the number of runners we usually have. But it's been much better since the middle of August. We've had our usual show of good two-year-olds - and some really well-bred horses."
For Jeremy Martin one of the highlights of the season was the win in their big race - the £75,000 Group 3 Tattersalls Sovereign Stakes (August 16) - by the Andre Fabre trained Plumatic: "When he brings his horses over here, they do well. But this was his first ever win here at Salisbury."
The four-year-old colt Plumatic went on to give a great performance in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (September 9). Again over a mile, he was fourth by a length and a half in a tight finish - ahead of Lightning Spear.
Then came September and Salisbury had to abandon its September 11 meeting because Chafer Grubs had made the surface unsafe on the course's extension loop. It was no consolation for the ground staff at Salisbury that Epsom had suffered a similar infestation.
Having made a careful inspection of the turf, they were able to race three days later - but using only the straight mile. It is not just that the grubs eat the roots of the grass so loosening it, the local badgers have had 'a field day' digging up the turf to get at the grubs - which they eat with great gusto.
The Chafer Beetles lay their eggs in May and June and Jeremy Martin is looking at the best way to spray the eggs. However, he is certain the loop will be back to its usual state by April for the start of the next Flat season.
The most successful owners are Godolphin on four winners and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum with three winners.As Salisbury's last meeting of the season approaches its leading trainers - so far - are Andrew Balding and Richard Hannon both on eight winners with Mick Channon on six. Their most successful jockey is Oisin Murphy (ten winners), with Charles Bishop in second spot (six winners).
Once the October 3 meeting is over, Jeremy Martin plans the winter's essential maintenance programme. One recent winter they spent £250,000 improving their hospitality facilities. This year has been 'an average year financially' - the very hot weather and the clash with an England World Cup game took a toll on ticket sales.
Salisbury Racecourse is run by the Bibury Club which is a Trust and any profits are reinvested to maintain the facilities, keep the prize money reasonable - and above all to ensure the future of this ancient racecourse with a history going back some 450 years. The Trust leases the course from the Pembroke Estate.
The Bibury Club began at Burford in 1681. After moves to Cheltenham and then Stockbridge in Hampshire, the Club settled at Salisbury in 1899.
The course boasts the oldest racecourse building in Britain - the Rubbing House (photo below) where horses were taken to be washed, dried and rubbed down after racing or exercising.
You can still see the height of the original entrance - allowing horse and rider to go in through the doorway. The building is shown on maps going back to 1706.
Tickets for their meetings - including the one on Wednesday, October 3 - can be bought online. Next year's fixtures will appear soon in the What's On calendars for marlborough.news and marlboroughequestrian.news