Racing week: Jockey’s nurse wins Cheltenham award

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  • A nurse at Cheltenham Racecourse has become the first winner of The Outstanding Contribution made by a Lady to Jump Racing award. Heather Atkinson, the senior nurse at the Jockey’s Hospital in Cheltenham, was presented with the award in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham Festival on Ladies’ Day (15 March).

    Heather, who has worked at Cheltenham for over 30 years, was chosen from a competitive shortlist that included Henrietta Knight, Venetia Williams and Carrie Humble (founder of the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre). The judging panel was made up of Zara Phillips, Clare Balding and Gee Bradburne.

    “I am thrilled that Heather has been chosen as the first winner of this award. She is one of the few people who work here to pre-date my arrival, and generations of jockeys have benefited from her skill and her cheerful, calm and professional manner,” said Edward Gillespie, managing director of Cheltenham.

    A thrilled Heather Atkinson said: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed to have been chosen as the winner of this award. I was flattered and amazed to have been nominated but when I heard the shortlist I thought there was no chance that the judges would choose me.”

    • Read more about Heather’s 30 years caring for jockeys at Cheltenham in Talk Yourself Horse in H&H next Thursday, 22 March.

    Holy Roman Emperor retired

    In a shock move, the second favourite for racing’s 2,000 Guineas has been retired to stud — because his former stablemate appears to be infertile.

    Dual Group One winner Holy Roman Emperor, who is owned by the mighty Coolmore operation, worked well on the gallops last Saturday, but was retired just hours later to replace George Washington, last season’s 2,000 Guineas hero, at stud. Both are by top sire Danehill.

    Trainer Aidan O’Brien admitted to being “shell-shocked” by the news.

    Tests will be carried out on George Washington to discover whether he can ever be used for breeding.

    New racecourse hit by another setback

    The saga of Great Leighs rumbles on, with the opening date of Britain’s first new racecourse since 1927 being postponed yet again.

    It is now hoped that the Essex venue will stage its first meeting on Thursday, 21 June, although officials have told H&H this is an “aim rather than a guaranteed start”.

    The construction of the course has been hit by a series of delays. A dispute between the promoters and Essex County Council over rights of access first hindered progress.

    When this had been resolved, inspectors from the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) visited the site in December, but found large parts of it underwater and pushed back the 22 February opening date (news, 11 January).

    The situation had not improved when inspectors again visited Great Leighs last month, with heavy rain delaying the work further.

    Racing deal is reached

    Followinga dispute that has lasted for more than two years, the British Horseracing Board (BHB) and leading racing channel At The Races (ATR) have finally agreed to end their differences out of court.

    The announcement comes a month after the BHB won a Court of Appeal judgement against ATR over the use of pre-race data (H&H news, 8 February).

    After the judgement, ATR boss Matthew Imri revealed that a House of Lords appeal was likely, but this has now been shelved.

    Both groups refused to release details of the settlement, but a BHB spokesman confirmed that ATR will be allowed to continue using the pre-race data supplied by the BHB.

    Visit Horseandhound.co.uk to find out what happens in the Cheltenham Gold Cup later today, and read in-depth analysis of all the action from the Cheltenham Festival in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound (22 March, ’07)

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