Following the drought of 2022 and losing our season opener to Firm ground, it was good to finally get racing on October 18th - though small fields displayed what had been an incredibly dry summer as the course took its time to reach Good ground, usually expected much earlier in the autumn on Haldon Hill.
Mid-October also saw the launch the new “West Country Weekend” featuring the Haldon Gold Cup worth £80,000 and for the first time in its history, the Haldon Gold Cup moved to a Friday with amazing success. ITV cameras were in Devon and we had a strong renewal of the 2m Chase which saw Greaneteen take the prize once again for Chris Giles and Paul Nicholls, shortly after the wonderful Cue Card paraded celebrating his 10th anniversary since winning the race. The supporting races, which made this raceday worth £177,785 in total prize money, were equally exciting with Thyme Hill taking the Future Stars Novices’ Chase ahead of his Kempton Christmas Festival success.
Mid November saw McFabulous to victory in the Brigadier Rayner Novices’ Chase and just a week later Good to Soft ground at the fore, saw field sizes return back to ‘normal’ levels. Despite the impacts of low-sun it was excellent to have the ITV cameras back on Haldon Hill for an extra Sunday programme on terrestrial television. In December, our second Class 2 Novices’ Chase worth £22,000 was won by Gelino Bello in a match which was no doubt a great learning curve for this classy novices’ ahead of next season.
Frost paused proceedings shortly in December and again in the New Year, but thankfully New Year’s Day was a superb start to 2023 with 73 runners despite testing Heavy ground. The Anthony Honeyball Blackjack Magic, on the winners rostrum twice this year already, has been one to add to the tracker.
As the snowdrops on Haldon Hill flourished, three fixtures in February were positive, with the highlight as usual being the Devon National Handicap Chase which was won by the Pipe Team and claimer Philip Armson. The Virgin Bet Super Sunday, a fixture worth £145,000 prize fund saw Luccia become a leading Cheltenham Festival contender for her decisive Listed victory at Exeter.
Onto Spring and the stayers’ races continued with a decisive win for Coolvalla for Chris Gordon. Novices’ Hunter Chase was exciting for the locals, seeing victory for Singapore Saga for local trainer J Heard, before Shantou Flyer had a decisive win for Olive Nicholls in our Open Hunters’ Chase. This season, 55 horses qualified for the Exeter Intermediate Series across eight sponsored point to point races in Devon and Cornwall. The final was a thrilling contest, and saw Matthew Hampton come to victory with King’s Quay, aptly named a month ahead of the Kings’ Coronation.