AS work continues apace on Jack Berry House, currently being constructed in Old Malton by the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, the multi-million pound rehabilitation centre for riders has received a major boost.

Leading bookmakers Betfred have adopted the eagerly awaited facility as their official charity for 2014. Betfred plan to hold a raceday for Jack Berry House, while a fund-raising dinner is also under consideration and the bookmaker’s staff will be encouraged to hold their own sponsored events.

Fred Done, the chairman of Betfred, said; “In my opinion, Jack Berry is a legend and I hope we can help him reach his goal of building this fantastic facility in the north of England. Jockeys are the bravest sportsmen and women out there and they are putting their lives on the line every day. I’m proud to support Jack Berry House.”

Berry was understandably over the moon at the news. “I am delighted Betfred have picked us as their official charity and I would personally like to thank Fred Done. His support and that of the whole Betfred team means a lot.”

The IJF is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the £3.1m project, for which more than £2m has already been raised and ring-fenced, is due to be completed in November.

Thirsk’s opening meeting of the season last Saturday supported the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and did its bit to raise funds and awareness of Jack Berry House, which will largely treat jockeys in the north, with southern riders catered for at Lambourn by the IJF’s original state-of-the-art facility, Oaksey House.

The general public can support Jack Berry House by purchasing a brick on which a person or horse’s name can be placed for a donation of £50. But time is running out to take part in this novel fund-raising effort.

Berry explained; “The human names are to be put into a wall of fame while those of the horses are to be laid on the pathway for everyone to see. It’s the final chance for people to be involved as the cut-off date for the bricks is April 30th.

Saturday’s Thirsk meeting extended the purple patch of first-season trainer Mark Walford. The Sheriff Hutton handler was on the mark with Flexible Flyer to gain his fourth win from his last nine runners.

In the saddle was Jason Hart, last season’s Ryedale-based champion apprentice, who has made a flying start to the new campaign. He has ridden six winners from his first 30 mounts.


• COCKNEY SPARROW produced a performance to savour at Ayr last Saturday when winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle for trainer John Quinn and providing Highfield's talented conditional rider Dean Pratt with the outstanding highlight of his career.

Pratt, who has had less than 20 rides this season, and who was riding his fourth winner, taking his career tally to 13, produced Cockney Sparrow with a devastating late run to clinch the near £40,000 Group 2 prize by more than two lengths at the line.

A trip to the Punchestown Festival for the Grade 1 mares’ hurdle is now on the cards for Cockney Sparrow, whose career, like that of her rider, goes for from strength to strength.


• GRAHAM GRAY, for so long a familiar face associated with the John Quinn stable, where he worked as travelling head-lad, has taken up a job with racecourse stables’ security. Instead of being at Ayr on Saturday with Cockney Sparrow, which would have been likely, Gray was on duty in his new role at Thirsk. “I enjoyed my job, but when this opportunity came up, it was too good to miss,” said Gray, who was a successful jump jockey earlier in his racing career. We wish him well in his role.


• PETER NIVEN may have been out of luck with stable star Clever Cookie, who finished unplaced behind Cockney Sparrow in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, but the Ryedale trainer had, at least, visited the winners’ enclosure the previous evening.

Niven was on the mark at Wolverhampton with Pinotage, who received a canny ride by James Sullivan. “Things need to drop right for him and he needs a good gallop,” explained Niven. “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Pinotage is likely to have a switch of codes before too long. “I’ve got some summer jumping in mind for him,” added Niven of his three-times Flat winner, who has yet to score over hurdles in six previous attempts.

It was a good night for Norton-based Sullivan. He also scored a last-to-first success on veteran sprinter Red Cape, trained at Stillington by Ruth Carr.


• RACHEL RICHARDSON bagged the biggest win of her career and helped her boss Tim Easterby to a tremendous double at Pontefract on Monday.

Richardson, a former amateur rider, who joined the apprentice ranks a couple of years ago, won the feature race on the card – a £20,000 sprint handicap – on Fast Shot, bringing the gelding with a perfectly-timed late run to gain a half-length success at 7-1.

“I told Rachel to get some cover and ride him with plenty of confidence,” said Easterby. “She did exactly what she was told and has improved a lot. It was good.”

Easterby had earlier secured his first two-year-old winner of the campaign with Don’t Tell Annie, who made a stylish debut under David Allan.

“She’s a very quiet and sensible filly and is very professional,” said Easterby. “I had only worked her a couple of times at home, but you’d think she’s been doing it all her life.”

The Hilary Needler Trophy at Beverley next month or the Listed Marygate Stakes at York’s opening meeting are two races likely to come under the radar for Don’t Tell Annie, who represents a trainer in tremendous form. At Ayr on Saturday, Trustan Times finished an excellent third in the Scottish Grand National, a position he also occupied when racing over hurdles at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.


• GABRIAL'S KAKA may have finished just out of the placings in last month’s Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster, but the talented gelding gained handsome compensation at Newbury last Saturday by winning the Spring Cup and completing a double for Richard Fahey, initiated just minutes earlier at Thirsk by Farlow.

Partnered by Jamie Spencer in the well-known colours of Dr Marwan Koukash, Gabrial’s Kaka picked-up a first prize of more than £31,000 when beating 22 rivals and running out a clear-cut winner at Newbury to justify Fahey’s high opinion of the four-year-old.

Just five minutes earlier, Farlow had got home by a short-head under a powerful Tony Hamilton drive in Thirsk’s seven furlong handicap to reward backers who had supported the gelding down to 11-4 favouritism.”

This is a big week for the Fahey stable. Parbold and Sandiva, two Musley Bank three-year-olds with Classic aspirations, are set to put their talents on show at Newmarket.


•GARY LAVERY has enjoyed a weekend to remember. Not only did the conditional jockey ride a 20-1 winner for his boss Brian Ellison on It’s A Mans World on the first day of Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting, he followed-up on Sunday with a Wetherby success for John Wainwright on Sunday aboard 9-1 chance Exit To Freedom, who got home in a triple-photo finish.

Lavery, who only rode his first winner last August – on It’s A Mans World at Cartmel – now has five successes to his credit.


• FOR the first-ever time, racing will take place this week on Good Friday, the traditional date of the Middleham Open Day. The Open Day will still go ahead, but in opposition are valuable Flat meetings at Musselburgh and Lingfield, where a £1m programme – with a whole host of potential Ryedale runners – will be staged.