Racing week: Order of Merit champion named

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  • A good week for . . .

    Cheltenham Festival World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever, who is the winner of the British Horseracing Board’s (BHB) Order of Merit for 2004/2005. The horse’s owner, trainer and stable team will receive £250,000 at a presentation in London on 16 May, when the BHB’s British Jump Racing Awards also take place.

    The Order of Merit initiative, which is in its first year, aims to encourage bigger fields during the national hunt season. Inglis Drever, trained by Howard Johnson, wrapped up the points by finishing second in the Scottish and Newcastle Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting this month.

    His owner Graham Wylie said: “I’m thrilled. Winning the order of merit has been the highlight of my season.”

    But a bad week for . . .

    Former racehorse owner Andy Beard, who faces a disciplinary enquiry after being charged with laying two of his horses to lose on Betfair. Beard admits laying both Moscow Mary and Middleton Gray to lose over the Christmas period of 2003 but claims that he was not aware that to do so was against the Jockey Club’s rules.

    This will be the third case relating to the rule that was introduced in September 2003 to prevent owners, trainers and stable staff from laying their own horses to lose. Beard could be banned from taking part in the sport for anything up to 10 years.

    Kempton turns to all-weather

    Kempton Park racecourse’s next Bank Holiday Monday meeting (2 May) will be the last before it closes to allow work to begin on the new floodlit all-weather track.

    The new course, the second in the UK to install floodlights, will reopen in 2006 for daytime and evening racing. Meanwhile, racing will transfer to other courses with
    Kempton’s most prestigious national hunt fixture, December’s King George meeting, to be held at Sandown Park.

    The move signals the end of turf flat racing at Kempton and has been criticised heavily in the racing press. But Julian Thick, Kempton’s managing director, said: “It’s the beginning of a new era.”

    Enforced rests for jockeys

    The Jockey Club has come up against serious opposition to its plans to trial regular enforced rest periods for jockeys during a three-month period this summer. The plan will require jockeys to take one day off after every 10 days of race riding, but jockeys claim they should be allowed to decide when and if they take time off.

    Backing for the Epsom Derby

    Vodaphone has extended its ongoing sponsorship of the Epsom Derby to last until 2007. The support of the telecommunications company will enable Epsom to offer a total prize fund of nearly £2.7 million pounds across its flagship two-day race meeting.

    Farewell to Sir Bengough

    The racing world has been effusive in its tributes to the late Sir Piers Bengough, who was the Queen’s representative at Ascot between 1982 and 1997. Bengough died at his Hertforshire home early this week, aged 75. Involved in racing since his youth, Bengough was a successful amateur jockey, owner, racecourse steward, Jockey Club steward and administrator during his career.

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