Hackwood Park appoint Richard Langley as new head groundsman
Hackwood Park racecourse has appointed Richard Langley, head groundsman at Brighton, to succeed Bill Welling as Clerk of the Course. Langley, 40 in February, has been involved in turf management for 17 years and has been in charge at Brighton since 2010.
Most recently Langley was Clerk of the Course at Tweseldown, which has been forced to close due to lack of finance. 'That was a shock,' said Langley, 'so when I was approached to look after Hackwood I was delighted to accept.'
There will be no conflict of interest for Langley since Brighton stages only flat racing. 'The two Hackwood fixtures are in March and early April, which is a quiet time for track maintenance at Brighton. I went to the Hampshire Hunt meeting at Hackwood Park last year and I can see that I will inherit a well prepared professional looking racetrack.'
Bill Welling, who has improved the Basingstoke course immeasurably over the last three or four years, need to spend more time on his own farming interests, but he will be available to back up the new Clerk of the Course.
Langley farmed in the midlands until 1996, supplementing that with part time work at Wolverhampton racecourse. He then became fully involved with the National Hunt and point-to-point course at Wolverhampton.
Moving south to Kempton Park, which has both jumping and flat racing in 2003, Langley was made redundant six years later. 'Luckily for me, the vacancy at Brighton cropped up - and even better there was accommodation on the premises to go with the job.'
In principle I will visit Hackwood seven days prior to each meeting to give provisional going reports and check things over, then return the day before racing as well as raceday itself,' said Langley. Additional visits will be made as necessary - 'the journey from Brighton is less than two hours and at this time of year I am freely available if there should be emergencies such as frost or flooding - or perhaps a drought!'
There has been no stock at Hackwood Park for nearly two years and the grass has been managed in the meantime by a neighbouring farmer.
'Tweseldown was a top clas point-to-point course, and I aim to follow Bill Welling in producing Hackwood Park to the same high standard,' said Langley, 'I am looking forward to the first meeting on 17 March.'
Hackwood Park Meetings are on 17 March and 1 April. Other Sandhurst Area meetings are at Barbury Castle on 17 February and 24 March (Vine & Craven and Tedworth). Kingston Blount on 20 April (Kimblewick) and Larkhill 28 April (Hursley Hambledon)
2013 SEASON PREVIEW
by Robin Gray
The point-to-point season opened at the end of November 2012 with half a dozen meetings to be held before Christmas, but action in the Sandhurst Area is delayed until 17 February when the Vine & Craven's first meeting is at Barbury Castle.
The demise of Tweseldown is the reason for this late start. The loss of the Church Crookham track which had staged racing for well over 100 years is due to lack of finance. Major groundworks and replacement of several fences would have cost £20,000 and although Tweseldown was always well supported by owners and trainers it struggled to attract the paying public.
'I rode my first winner there in 1995,' said local Champion rider Philip York, 'I hardly missed a meeting. Tweseldown was one of the best courses in the country and trainers all over the south of England are going to miss it. It is a sad ending for a course which in its heyday staged five or six meetings every year.'
York, who trains near Guildford, has 25 horses to run 'between the flags'. He will ride most of them himself in an effort to better his score of 280 winners over obstacles.
'There are one or two owner/ridden horses in the yard, but I have high hopes of one I will ride, Freddies Return, unbeaten in his eight races.' The horse missed last season with a leg problem but the 13 year old is now sound and fit to do himself justice – he runs at Charing on 27 January.
Stable companion Island Wood who ran at the season's first meeting at Cottenham will go to Chaddesley Corbett just after Christmas and York will be disappointed if this horse does not earn his keep before the season ends.
Victoria Collins, training near Alton, has nine to run this time and will have her first runner at Larkhill on 6 January. This will probably be ten year old Indian Pipedream. 'He was a bit sour when he arrived here,' said Victoria, 'but the change of environment and routine together with a few days hunting, has freshened him up. He needs to enjoy his work and seems to be a happy horse at the moment anyway.'
Victoria also mentioned Qrackers, who used to be conditioned by champion trainer Paul Nicholls. 'He is only an eight year old but is well up to open race standard so he will be competing against the best!'
One Sandhurst Area trainer is already off the mark. Penny Lownds, based at Hursley, has only the one horse to run, and Pavillon Bleu scored for her in the hands of promising novice rider Louis Muspratt at Barbury Castle last Sunday (9 December).
'Pavillon Bleu beat his 11 rivals by 12 lengths and more at Barbury and will certainly improve for the race,' said Penny. 'I am not certain when he will run again but probably in another novice riders race to help Louis towards the championship for his category. Cottenham stages the ideal race on 30 December.
Sandhurst Area Meetings 2013
Vine & Craven, Barbury Castle - Sunday 17 February
Hampshire Hunt - Hackwood Park - Sunday 17 March
Tedworth - Barbury Castle - Sunday 24 March
Vine & Craven - Hackwood Park - Easter Monday 1 April
Kimblewick - Kingston Blount - Saturday 20 April
Hursely Hambledon - Larkhill - Sunday April 28 April