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English trainers plunder Scotland and are welcomed

Perth is Britain's most northerly racecourse, and for a majority of trainers based in the South or Midlands, the trip north just goes on and on, even as the scenery gets better and better. Small wonder then that the leading trainers at Perth are either based in the Borders or come from Ireland, where it can be quicker to hop off the ferry at Stranraer than to schlep up the M6 or M1 to Scotland.

The modern day re-invention of Perth as a destination racecourse came about largely at the instigation of the much-loved and dearly=missed Sam Morshead, born in Ireland of English parentage, but who made his name as a rider for the Rimells at Kinnersley alongside one Terry Biddlecombe. On his retirement from the saddle, Morshead took up the challenge at Perth, and made it so inviting for Southerners to come that trips to Perth became an event to savour. Fabulous Scottish hospitality, aligned to splendid prize money, made Perth a beacon of Scottish racing, and the tradition has been gloriously upheld by current Perth supremo, Hazel Peplinski, even despite the rigours of Covid. By all accounts, crowd numbers are heading back toward the norm.

Sam Morshead, former jockey to Fred & Mercy Rimell turned racecourse impressario
Sam Morshead, former jockey to Fred & Mercy Rimell turned racecourse impressario

The last two day fixture is a good guide to the success of that policy, where from our area of the Three Counties alone, Olly Murphy sent out 3 winners, and Ian Williams, one, from the 14 on offer.

Tactics have been rather different for Olly Murphy this season. In the first 3 months of the season, Murphy has sent out just 73 runners, against a peak in 2019 of 97, yet the winnings are only £40,000 short. It tells of a trainer growing into his role, more confident of his stable's ability to perform in higher grade races later in the season rather than grabbing what's on the shelf early on. Chosen races have been more selective, so whilst one horsebox may have travelled to Perth, it brought back each one of three runners a winner.

Yesterday's racing included a double in the opening novices hurdle for 4 year old Hooroo, winning a second time over course and distance after a successful visit here in May. The second leg of the double came in an amateur riders' handicap hurdle under top Point-to-Point rider James King, enjoying his 40th winner under Rules. Today's winner came courtesy of Vinnie's Getaway, an Irish maiden Point-to-Point winner, who enjoyed his first win over obstacles after winning his bumper at Stratford nearly 13 months ago.

Not to be done down, Ian Williams, more frequently seen at the best Flat fixtures in the summer months, and fresh from his success at Ascot last month, was in the Winner's Circle with Solar Impulse, a horse who has won 6 of his 10 successes since joining the Portway trainer 30 months ago. It looks like Warwickshire air suits him.

Expect more of Perth's loot to head south over the coming months, and treat this as a mark of the popularity of the course, which makes the isolated destination more than adequate compensation. Perth's great charms draw tourists from all over, and the equestrian links are very strong, as I can testify from working with the Blair International Horse Trials a while back. Who'd have thought 40,000 visitors would attend a castle in the middle of nowhere?

That's Scottish hospitality for you, and a great example for us all to follow.

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