Last week, Bath racecourse in the UK made headlines with a staggering 408 entries made for a seven-race card on Good Friday. This attracted over 75 different yards from all over the country, thanks to the track record purses of £200,000 on offer. The decision to invest heavily in the fixture was not missed by trainers who were more familiar with bemoaning rather than praising prize-money. This resulted in an unprecedented number of runners following 369 declarations for the Class 5 and 6 handicaps.
The meeting was a welcome boost for Bath, which had not staged a meeting since July 12 due to prolonged dry and warm weather conditions at a course without a watering system. This meant the track could not host its last nine scheduled meetings of 2022, and fixtures were transferred to other Arc tracks such as Southwell and Wolverhampton. The finals of the track’s annual Sprint and Stayers’ Series had to be held at Chepstow and Ffos Las as remedial works on the turf took place at Bath.
“Last summer, with the season curtailed, was challenging,” said Simon Tonge, Bath’s executive director. “Our grounds team have put a real shift in over the winter months to get the surface back. We’re really hopeful that owners, trainers, jockeys and paying customers will be really impressed with the surface on Friday.”
The Good Friday meeting was previously held at Bath in 2017 through to 2019. Still, the extended break at the back end of the 2022 season means the return of the bank holiday fixture was particularly welcome. The lure of Bath’s lucrative meeting attracted 78 different trainers or training partnerships. Cormac Farrell will have his first British Flat runner since February 2011, with the County Wexford-based trainer sending Dundalk regular Un Bacio Ancora for the Truespeed Home Broadband Fillies’ Handicap (2.15).
Jim Goldie, who has never saddled a runner at Bath in his 29-year training career, has chosen the track as the destination for the seasonal reappearances of Grand Canal (3.25), Epona Pas (4.35), and Cosa Sara (5.10), who will make the near 900-mile round trip from Uplawmoor, near Glasgow.
At Lingfield’s All-Weather Championships vase meeting on the same day, maximum fields were declared, with Arc putting up £395,000 at the Surrey venue, complementing the £1.05 million headline event of finals day at Newcastle.
Bath’s executive director, Simon Tonge, commented on the success of the meeting: “It’s really good to have the numbers we’ve got. It’s very exciting for the group with Lingfield and Newcastle as well. Arena have put a lot of money into the whole day, and we’re feeling the benefits from a runners’ perspective.”
He added, “We had it [the Good Friday meeting] in 2017 through to 2019, so it’s really good to get the meeting back after the extended break at the back end of last season.”
Maximum fields were declared for the Truespeed Business Broadband Handicap (3.25) at Bath, with 72 declared but the maximum field size for the 1m3½f event is 14, reflecting oversubscribed races across the card. With most connections opting to stand their ground at Wednesday’s declaration stage, 265 horses were unable to get a run. The oversubscribed races are a reflection of the significant investment in the fixture, which saw unprecedented numbers of runners following 369 declarations for the Class 5 and 6 handicaps.