Newbury Racing: Betway Challow glory for Champ, a fond farewell for Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood & Richard Johnson's OBE
. But the day was as much about the people who make horseracing such a popular sport, as about the card of seven races.Newbury Racecourse's final final fixture of 2018 (December 29) saw a classy Betway Challow Hurdle and two tight finishes
Betway Challow Hurdle Day was the final Newbury fixture to be overseen by outgoing Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood after 39 years of working at the course.
Osgood has been part of the team at Newbury since 1979, while the Osgood family has been involved with Newbury for 99 years, with his great uncle John Osgood becoming the manager in 1919.
"It is both a great and sad day for me...My sister died two years ago and that made me think. I am not getting any younger and when you are working long hours nearly every day, I got to the stage where I thought I should slow down. The only way I am going to do that is to actually stop and then just do bits and bobs."
"I have not missed a meeting in 39 years. It will take time to wean myself off it. But life goes on. I have small grandchild who will need looking after when my daughter wants to do other things and I am also going to be freer to play more golf."
You can read more about Richard Osgood on marlboroughequestrian.news. Newbury's new Clerk of the Course is Keith Ottesen, who has been shadowing Richard Osgood since August.
Then there was a great and rousing welcome for Champion Jockey Richard Johnson whose OBE had been announced overnight. He won the Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap Hurdle taking I'm A Game Changer to a photo finish - beating Bridget Andrews on Knight in Dubai by a nose. It was a thrilling finish as four horses had come clear at the last.
Johnson was in great demand for interviews. His reaction to the honour can best be summed up in one answer he gave:"I am doing a job I have loved doing for the past 25 years and to get honoured for doing that is very special."
The going at Newbury on Betway Challow Hurdle Day was Good to Soft and the Grade 1 feature race saw an impressive performance from the favourite Champ (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) who made it four wins from as many starts over hurdles this season.
The six-year-old Champ is owned by J P McManus and is named in honour of 20-time champion Jump jockey Sir A P McCoy, who used to ride for McManus and is still an adviser to the owner. McCoy's young son, Archie, who calls Champ his favourite horse, accepted the trophy along with Barry Geraghty. Champ spent the summer with the McCoys.
Nicky Henderson admitted he had been nervous about the race: "I was impressed with Champ. Whereas last time he took off with Aidan [Coleman] halfway down the back, he was trying to take off with Barry off a slow pace. I love the turn of foot he had at the end of the day, given the fact he pulled pretty hard."
"We were at pains not to let him do what he did the other day and try to let it happen a bit later - and Barry did a great job. A good pace is going to help him. It is funny because he is the most relaxed person you could have at home - you couldn't find a more relaxed horse."
In the Betway Mandarin Handicap Chase, Carole's Destrier (Neil Mulholland/Robbie Dunne) bounced back to form to win - proving the best of the four horses that had chances after the last.
, but had been out of the winner's enclosure since taking the London National at Sandown Park back in December 2015.The 10-year-old had run well to finish second in the 2016 Hennessy Gold Cup (now the Ladbrokes Trophy)
Jumping the final fence in fourth place, Carole's Destrier kept on gamely to get up and deny Ballydine (Charlie Longsdon/Jonathan Burke) by three-quarters of a length, with Scotchtown (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies) another length and a quarter away in third.
The youngest entry, five year-old Reikers Island (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson), had gone out the 9/4 favourite. He led at the last, but made a mistake there and Johnson did well not be dislodged - as you can see here. He finished fourth.
The first race on the card was named in honour of man of the day: the Betway Farewell To Richard Osgood Juvenile Hurdle was won comfortably by the favourite Song For Someone (Tom Symonds/James Nixon (7)).
And Newbury's last race of 2018, the Betway Novices' Handicap Chase was run at a strong gallop and went to De Rasher Counter (Emma Lavelle/Adam Wedge) who saw off Walt (Neil Mulholland/Sam Twiston-Davies) by a neck after a sustained duel on the run in. The Racing Post's David Orton called Der Rasher Counter's win a 'fine ride' and forecast that "...there should be more to come as a stayer."
Newbury next races on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, with Betfair Super Saturday following on Saturday, February 9.