[N]o fewer than 10 Cumbria-based trainers have horses qualified for finals day of the new £125,000 Northern Lights race series at Carlisle.
The six-figure prize pot is up for grabs on Sunday December 3 with plenty of local interest in the series which is designed to promote jump racing in the north and provide greater opportunities for owners and trainers.
Each of the five finals at Carlisle carries prize money of £25,000 and follows 75 qualifying races held exclusively at northern racecourses.
Ahead of entries being announced on Monday (Nov 27), Cartmel’s James Moffatt leads the list of Cumbrian trainers with three horses available to enter.
Moffat is joined by Jonathan Haynes (Low Row), Maurice Barnes (Brampton), Barbara Butterworth (Bolton) and Dianne Sayer (Hackthorpe) who all have two qualifiers respectively.
George Bewley (Colby), John Dixon (Thursby,) Lisa Harrison (Aldoth), Kenneth Slack (Hilton) and Martin Todhunter (Orton) have one qualifier each.
The five categories are 3m handicap chase, 2½m handicap chase, 2m handicap hurdle, 3m handicap hurdle and 2½m mares handicap hurdle.
To qualify horses were required to have started in at least two series qualifiers and be placed in the first eight at least once.
Moffatt, who described the Northern Lights Series as “a great initiative”, has Amuse Me in the 2½m handicap chase and Fiosrach and Lough Kent in the 2m hurdle.
Among Haynes’ qualifiers is Mrs Grass, who won last month at Hexham. The 10-year-old could feature in either the mares series final or the 2m hurdle after qualifying for both.
Maurice Barnes is no stranger to Carlisle Racecourse as he is based just down the road in Brampton and has enjoyed much success at the course. He has Desert Island Dusk and Oishin both qualified for the 2m hurdle.
John Dixon’s Pistol – a two-time winner at Carlisle last year – is in good form having posted second in the final Northern Lights qualifier at Hexham last week. He is another who could be in the running for the 2m hurdle.
Outside of Cumbria, Grand National winning trainer Lucinda Russell leads the way with 10 qualifiers for finals day. Fellow Scottish trainer Nick Alexander has six qualifiers, while North Yorkshire’s Micky Hammond and Cheshire-based Donald McCain have five each.
Geraldine McKay, General Manager at Carlisle Racecourse, said: “The Northern Lights Series is a great initiative by the British Horseracing Authority and The Jockey Club.
“It’s brilliant to have a jumps series such as this to benefit northern based owners and trainers and promote racing in the north.
“We can’t wait for finals day which is the culmination of many months of qualifying races. We know many owners and trainers have specifically targeted horses at the series, so it should make for a fascinating and enthralling day’s racing.”
Tickets for the Northern Lights Series Final on Sunday December 3rd – which will include plenty of fun activities alongside the track for all the family – are £14 in advance (£17 on the day). It is free admission for all-under-18s when accompanied by a full-paying adult. Gates open at 10.20am. First race is 12.20pm. Last Race is 3.30pm.