Dartmoor’s racing Clydesdales will be back at Exeter Racecourse on November 20, when the track celebrate Devon Day.
This unusual race sees professional jockeys hop on board the gentle giants before urging them down the home straight in aid of the Devon Air Ambulance.
The race, which comes under starters’ orders at 12.20pm, is an annual highlight on Exeter’s calendar, with the gentle magnificence of these huge horses drawing cheers of admiration from the crowd.
Tom Parker, Siryl, Big Allan, Frankie Doodle, Midge, Salvo, Ecco and Solo have been in training on Dartmoor in readiness for the race which provides a breathtaking spectacle as their huge white faces and flying feathers come thundering down the home straight.
The horses belong to Tim Ancrum and Aileen Ware of Adventure Clydesdales, which specialises in providing riding holidays across Dartmoor. Tim said: “We’ve been having a lot of fun training the horses on Dartmoor, galloping them in closely set groups in readiness for the race. They find it all very exciting! This race is such a wonderful spectacle and so many people enjoy it. The horses will race over two furlongs again, and we hope they will provide a thrill for racegoers. The horses love it, and although they will never have the spark of a thoroughbred, they do get quite bouncy in anticipation for the race.”
Devon-born professional jockey and racecourse ambassador Nick Scholfield is hoping he has better luck than last year when he was unplaced on Big Al. He said: “It’s such great fun riding in the race. They may not be the fastest, but just being on board is brilliant, and you can’t help but smile, all the way down the home straight.”
Last year’s winner was James Best who rode Midge to victory. He said: “It’s absolutely brilliant taking part in the race and raising money for the Devon Air Ambulance. The build up before the race is brilliant, and there is so much camaraderie and good will.”
General manager Daniel Thompson said: “The Clydesdale race has proved a real phenomenon since we first introduced the race three years ago and we are delighted that once again we will be supporting the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.
“We have the support of local bookmakers ho will all be running a book so that people can bet, with every single penny donated to DAAT. We’ve also offered people the chance to buy a Clydesdale for the day and experience ‘racehorse’ ownership that is always a lot of fun. The race is so popular and draws a huge amount of interest from people who might not normally go racing. Seeing their white faces come charging down the home straight is an incredible site to behold.”
There are also seven main races on the card and an array of stands to enjoy celebrating Devon, including attractions for children such as ponies to pet and small animals to meet.
The seven race card is sponsored by Bathwick Tyres and the first race is off at 12.45. Devon residents are eligible for a £5 discount of they pre-book their tickets. A free bus service from Exeter St David (11.05) and Exeter Bus and Coach Station (11.20) is available, with the bus returning half an hour after the last race.
For more information visit www.exeter-racecourse.co.uk