Hereford: Horse racing returns after four-year absence following closure

The Nicky Henderson-trained Rather Be, ridden by Andrew Tinkler, won the opening race as racing returned to Hereford for the first time in four years
Rather Be, ridden by Andrew Tinkler, won the opening two-mile novices' hurdle as racing returned to Hereford for the first time in four years

Horse racing has returned to Hereford after a near four-year absence from the National Hunt steeplechasing circuit.

The 245-year-old track was controversially closed by its owner, Arena Racing Company, in December 2012.

That followed a dispute with the local council over its lease, but a decision to reverse the closure was made in January 2016.

Herefordshire champion jump jockey Richard Johnson was due to have five rides on his home track.

But it was the Nicky Henderson-trained odds-on 1/2 favourite, Rather Be, who won the first race, ridden by Andrew Tinkler.

Johnson was fourth in the first race and then had to settle for second in the next, also won by the odds-on favourite, the Paul Nicholls-trained Coillte Lass, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.

In front of a crowd of 4,500, Twiston-Davies ended up riding a treble to take him to 68 winners for the season, 13 behind champion jockey Johnson.

In total, 64 horses were confirmed for the seven-race card, although 13 consequently proved to be non-runners.

The first recorded meeting at Hereford was in August 1771, after which there were 241 years of racing until it closed.

Analysis

Trevor Owens, BBC Hereford & Worcester

"ARC Racing and course officials could hardly have hoped for better as Hereford Racecourse reopened for business.

"A bright, sunny day, a very large crowd and support from some of the country's leading owners and jockeys.

"As the commentator announced the opening race was off and running, a huge cheer went up around the grandstands.

"There is no doubting it's been a good start to the new incarnation of Hereford, but officials here will now have to build on that in the coming months."

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