Archive for July, 2021

The hottest handicap in the history of Hurst Park

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The hottest handicap in the history of Hurst Park

Hurst Park racecourse was situated in Molesey Hurst, Surrey, close to the River Thames. The Victoria Cup was first run there in 1901 over two miles, then over various distances, until establishing itself in 1908 as a handicap run over a straight seven furlongs.

History relates that four days after Emily Davison brought down the Kings horse in the 1913 Derby suffragettes were reported setting fire to the stands at Hurst Park, causing an estimated damage of £10,000. The delayed repairs followed by the outbreak of war, prevented racing at Hurst Park from 1916-1918.

Later, due to World War II, there was also no racing from 1941-1945, during which, it was used as a prisoner of war camp. However, in 1946, racing was back with recorded crowds of over 70,000 and the need to close the gates.

In 1948, with racing and the Classics back in full swing, My Babu, ridden by Charlie Smirke, won the 2,000 Guineas equalling the record time of 1 min. 35.6 secs, beating The Cobbler (Gordon Richards) by a head, (see below). Four lengths away, third, was Pride of India (Edgar Britt).

  A year later, on 21st May at Hurst Park, the three re opposed in the Victoria Cup (Handicap), over the straight 7 furlongs; My Babu with 9st 7lbs, The Cobbler 9st 5lb and Pride of India 8st 0lb.

The star packed field of 14 also included: Combined Operations (7y-9st-7lb), winner of the Diadem Stakes at Royal Ascot, Master Vote (6y-9st-4lb), twice winner of the Royal Hunt Cup and Fair Judgement (4y-8st-12lb), favourite when a two-length winner of the Lincolnshire Handicap from 42 rivals.

The betting was heavy, with The Cobbler, a recent winner at Newmarket, backed from 4-1 to 5-2 favourite. There was strong support, 5-1 from 6’s, for the lightly weighted Pride of India, thought by many the blot on the handicap; whereas My Babu, coming from a victory at Alexandra Park, was thought to need further and drifted from 4-1 to 7’s. At 100-8, there was good each-way support for Welsh Honey (5y-8st-6lb), a recent three-length winner over a mile at Newmarket.

The race underway on good ground, Brogue took them along, with Kety, Pride of India, Welsh Honey and Combined Operations close up. Two furlongs out The Cobbler rushed to the front, only to give way at the distance when passed by Welsh Honey, Pride of India and My Babu, the latter, striding out impressively to win by three lengths. Pride of India ran on well to be second, with Welsh Honey a head away third.

Without doubt, this was the hottest handicap in the history of Hurst Park.

The last days’ racing at Hurst Park was on 10th October 1962, after which it was sold for housing-development.

In 1963, the Victoria Cup was transferred to Ascot, though the fixture was temporarily moved to Newbury for one year in 1964, both races run over seven furlongs, as it remains at Ascot today.