Racing historian Chris Pitt has just finished chronicling the history of Worcester Racecourse for his new book, ‘Pitchcroft: 300 Years of Racing in Worcester’. It tells of the famous – and infamous – horses and riders that have graced Worcester over the course of three centuries.
Worcester held Flat racing until 1966 and saw all the top riders in its day, from Fred Archer and Steve Donoghue to Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott. Richards rode his 2,000th winner at Worcester, broke the number of wins by a British jockey there and came within an ace of beating Fred Archer’s record total of wins in a season.
Great horses like Halloween, Mandarin, Tingle Creek, Silver Buck and Wayward Lad. Champion jockeys such as Mellor, Biddlecombe, Francome, Scudamore and McCoy. They’re all here. And a century before them, the country’s best chasers did battle in the Worcester Grand Annual, a race once ranked second to the Grand National in terms of importance – and one that is being revived this year for the first time since 1933.
Pitchcroft has witnessed Vincent O’Brien plunder a £200 Flat race with a future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner; a man staring in disbelief at a 12-inch TV screen as the horse he trains wins the Grand National; and a world-record 229 runners contesting an eight-race card. And contrary to popular belief, Worcester is the proper home of Britain’s first sponsored steeplechase.
Alongside the racing heritage it presents a social history from Worcester’s long and colouful past. Tales of early aviation, championship bare-knuckle fights, the last battle of the English Civil War, and Sir Edward Elgar (an annual member) marking his race card in the paddock.
Pitchcroft: 300 Years of Racing in Worcester costs £13.99 + £2.00 p&p and is available from: Pitchcroft 300, Porters Hill, Droitwich, WR9 0AN.
Copies are also available from Worcester Racecourse.