Artist's impression of the new parade ring areaNewbury racecourse has announced an ambitious programme of upgrades to its racing facilities and infrastructure. This follows - and is part paid for - by the housing developments round the perimeter of the course.
200 new homes on the site are already occupied - the next phase will include 360 new apartments. Sale of the land for this housing has enabled infrastructure work to begin.
A new entrance from the north by a new bridge over the railway and the new car park are nearing completion. The bridge is expected to open in time for November's three-day bet365 Festival meeting that includes the Hennessy Gold Cup.
Newbury Racecourse stands - from the racecourse sideNow Newbury racecourse has put in planning applications for a further scheme of works in two phases - with a total estimated cost of £20million.
The first phase would start in January with the re-modelling of the parade ring area, new entrances and re-siting of other buildings around the ring.
Phase two would major on the refurbishment of the central Berkshire Stand and the Pall Mall building. This phase will be reviewed in 2018 when likely financial returns from the investment will be clearer.
Outline planning permission for a 120 bedroom 4-star hotel is still valid, but there are no immediate plans to proceed with this part of the project.
Richard Hughes at NewburyRichard Hughes, who lives in Collingbourne Ducis and has been stable jockey to the nearby Hannons' training yard for twenty years, has announced he his retiring before the end of the current flat racing season.
As the Racing Post headline put it so succinctly: "Champ calling time at top of his game as he puts future first." That future is his new career as a trainer - based just over the border in Hampshire at Stockbridge.
He had said he wanted to be flat racing's Champion Jockey for a fourth year running. Now, as the preparations for his training yard take preference, he will retire in two weeks' time - at the end of Goodwood. From August 1 he will no longer be a jockey.
Earlier in the year Hughes told Marlborough News Online that it would be harder to win the championship again as he had to make time to prepare his yard and employ his staff. With 45 winners on the board, he could still have won the championship - though at present he is lying in second place in the table behind Silvestre de Sousa.
On Saturday (July 18) Richard Hughes rode a winner at Newbury. He took the four-year-old Windfast, trained by Brian Meehan at Manton, to beat Mister Universe by a length in a seven furlong handicap. As it happens Mister Universe was ridden by Silvestre de Sousa.
Richard Hughes in the Queen's racing colours Hughes wrote in his Racing Post column: "It's only recently things started to change in my head. I began to realise the enormity of what I was trying to take. While at the July Sales at Newmarket it became obvious how much time, care and attention I must devote to the upcoming yearly sales.'
"I honestly feel my first full year of training will be the most important year in my training career."
Hughes apologised to those who had backed him to retain the championship. Betfair Sportsbook and BoyleSports have said they will refund stakes on Hughes.
Richard Hannon, who is Hughes' brother-in-law, said: "`It's the end of an era but he wanted to enjoy his last couple of weeks and Goodwood has been good to him, so it's a nice place to end things."
Richard Hannon told the Racing Post: "I totally understand his situation. He wants to get on with training and that's fine. he has to do what's best for him."
2015 will indeed go down in racing history as the end of an era. In April twenty times Champion Jump Jockey AP McCoy retired.
Before he retired: AP McCoy with trainer Jonjo O'Neill
Nicholson & Avebury at the Owl HoleLockeridge-based Andrew Nicholson and the 'little' grey' Avebury won the CCI*** title - the feature competition at the St James's Place International Barbury Horse Trials on Sunday (July 12) - for an astounding fourth year running.
No horse in the history of eventing has ever won a class of this stature four times in succession. Last to go after a long afternoon’s tense wait, Rosemary and Mark Barlow’s wonderful 15-year-old grey was flawless across country, finishing 12 seconds inside the optimum time and easily holding his lead.
What was more Andrew Nicholson - a New Zealand Olympic medal winner - and the 15-year-old chestnut gelding Nereo took second place. After the dressage, show jumping and cross country phases Nereo was a mere 4.4 penalty points behind his stable mate.
Members of the New Zealand elite squad took third (Sir Mark Todd and Leonidas II from Badgerstown) and fifth place (Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy from Mildenhall.) There were two British entries in the top ten places: Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen were fourth and Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre were sixth.
A sign of the form as the European Championships approach was the placing of two French entries in the top ten - and a third French pair at eleventh.
The Barlows (who own Avebury) holding trophies - either side of David Bellamy (of St James's Place Wealth Management) with Penny Bunter and Nicholson on the rightA celebratory family group: Andrew with his wife Wiggy and children Lily and ZachThe Championships will be held at Blair castle in Scotland in September - and it is very likely that Nicola Wilson and Laura Collette will have earned their place in the twelve strong British team.
It rained - sometimes very hard - up on the Marlborough Downs during the final cross-country section - and everyone got pretty wet. But there were very few falls on the 3,910 metre course designed by Sir Mark Phillips. And not many riders overran the 6 minutes and 52 seconds optimum time for the course.
It was noted by the experts that the top five riders had no penalties against them in both the show jumping and cross country - and finished with just their dressage penalties. A remarkable achievement - especially for those who went round the course later in the somewhat more slippery conditions.
In the final, cross country phase of the competition the riders that top the leader board from the first two phases go last and the crowds certainly stayed to watch the last few riders and see whether Avebury would make history.
It was a very exciting finish. Not only was there a very tight margin between Nicholson's two horses, but Sir Mark Todd was just one tenth of a penalty point behind Nicholson and Nereo.
Sir Mark & Front StreetEarlier in the day, Sir Mark Todd won the eighth running at Barbury of the Retrained Racehorse Eventing Championship title - a competition for racehorses that have not lasted long on the racetrack and are being retrained in another discipline - in this case as eventers.
Sir Mark was riding Front Street. After his victory, Todd said: "I love thoroughbreds they have brilliant minds to work with. I used to train racehorses in New Zealand and now we've just won a big Retraining of Racehorses class here at Barbury proving their versatility. Front Street is such a genuine fellow and tries his heart out, which is typical of his breed."
Front Street, 11 years old, ran a total of eight times. In his most successful outing he took third place in a steeplechase at Plumpton. The competition is sponsored by the Retraining of Racehorses charity and the National Trainers Federation- the racehorse trainers' association.
[Click on photos to enlarge them.]
She is a familiar figure on the British eventing circuit - she wears dark clothes embroidered with her name and the name of her sponsors. She is about the same height as her two very long lenses - if you stacked one on top of the other. And you can tell she works outside in the sun.
Libby Law is a New Zealander and since 2011 she has worked in Britain for about six summer months each year. At the end of October, when her business visa runs out, she returns home for the New Zealand eventing and showjumping season.
This year she came back to Britain via Kentucky for the Rolex CIC**** three day event - the first four star competition of the northern hemisphere season. And she had to watch her fellow New Zealander, friend and client, Tim Price and Wesko take down one rail in the showjumping to lose out on the $100,000 first prize to Germany's Michael Jung and Fischerrocano FST.
She is, she told Marlborough News Online with one of her cheeky grins, the only photographer to cover all six of the world's four star eventing competitions: "I love being part of the media for these occasions - I get a real adrenalin surge when I send good photos out to people who are really keen to use them."
She did not grow up with media connections, indeed she came to professional photography quite late in life. She was brought up on a farm and rode horses. But at nineteen and after her second scary three day event, she sold her horse and went off travelling.
She worked in Australia - in hotels, in marketing, the travel business and in radio. Shed went to Canada and fell in love: "Beautiful country, beautiful people." Seven good years, but the love did not last. And in 2010 she returned to New Zealand: "I was a little baffled with the world - but excited to be home."
Aged 34, she used her marketing experience to set up a cleaning company - paying good wages and with contracts to clean offices: "Never clean for private homes! It's not worth the bother they give you."
Then along came another idea: photography. She had had a camera from the age of eight and loved her photography and in Australia she had done some amateur courses. So she set out on a new way of life: "I thought to myself, get a camera and allow yourself to follow your feet."
Having bought a good camera and set-up a website, her feet took her to meet some of New Zealand's young eventing stars - Lizzie Brown, Jock Paget and Jesse Campbell before they (and many other New Zealand eventers) moved to Britain. They told her about eventing in Britain.
The Little TurtleHRH Ninja - by HondaWith a 'you can only ask' attitude she applied to Badminton for accreditation - and got it. She was amazed by the Badminton eventing scene - and then succeeded in getting accreditation to Burghley too. That was in 2011.
"I know horses and am quite a confident person - I didn't worry about what people thought of me." As good as her word, in 2012 she invested £40,000 in her first full season in Britain. Some of that investment was a mobile home - her 'Little Turtle' - which makes travelling round Britain and Europe so much easier and cheaper. In winter it is kept at the Prices' Mere Farm.
Libby Law covering a polo tournamentIt is a full-on life: most of her regular clients are in New Zealand and she will start to get emails from them at about eleven o'clock at night - and is often still sending off photos at three in the morning.
She has a contract with Equestrian New Zealand's High Performance Squad, with the major Australian website An Eventful Life - which in fact covers most of the world's eventing and horse trials, and with the popular magazine New Zealand Horse and Pony. She has other contracts and is, as she insists, a freelance: "I have the freedom to do what I want."
At home she is now sponsored by Honda New Zealand and is the proud owner of 'HRH Ninja' - "My fab Honda CRV-Limited."
Has Libby Law Photography, I ask gingerly, now become known and valued internationally? She mouths a 'yes'. Recently she was invited to cover an important competition in Qatar, which is preparing an eventing team for the Rio Olympics: "It was a fantastic occasion - and the light was just great for photographs."
In Britain she has the whole flock of New Zealand eventers around her - many of them in the Marlborough area: "Everything revolves around the New Zealand eventers. I love the closeness of the community - it's very comfortable." But the more there are over in Britain the harder she has to work - in May there were 26 New Zealand horses taking part in Tattersall's International Horse Trials three day event in Ireland - and running between the rings and the events and catching all the competitors at the right moment is quite a skill - and she covers quite a few miles each day.
Libby Law's classic photo of New Zealander Jesse Campbell & Amsterdam II"Mark Todd is my hero - and I love the New Zealand eventers." But she tells a story against herself about her first commissioned article shoot with Sir Mark: "I even left the lens cap on. Mark just smiled - a little."
Libby Law is an enthusiast for her photography and her specialty: "Each year I love what I am doing a bit more. I adore my work." Now she is in the least bothered by the world. She just smiles at life - and she smiles a lot!
[All marked photos are the copyright of Libby Law Photography.]