•  ‘Provided the ground stays soft, it will be exciting to get Rhythm Master on the track. He did a piece of work on Saturday morning and I was very pleased. He looks fantastic and seems in a very good spot’ – trainer James Horton

By Andrew Atkinson

Thirsk Racecourse stages the first of 15 fixtures in 2022 on Saturday, April 9, with a seven-race programme, worth over £90,000 sponsored by local independent bookmaker Vickers.

The feature race is the 7 furlongs Join Our Bet Club At Vickers.Bet EBF Michael Foster Conditions Stakes, won last year by subsequent Group 3 winner Toro Strike.

Entries include James Horton trained Rhythm Master. Horton, who spent six and a half years as assistant trainer to Sir Michael Stoute, is overseeing a training refurbishment at historic Manor House Farm in Middleham, for owner John Dance and his wife Jess, scheduled to open in December or in the New Year.

Rhythm Master finished third in the G1 Prix Morny as a juvenile and was highly tried last year as a three-year-old by Richard Fahey, finishing fourth in the G3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“Rhythm Master came to us at the end of January and, provided the ground stays soft, it will be exciting to get him on the track,” said Horton, currently based at Brecongill Stables, owned by former trainer Sally Hall.

“He did a piece of work on Saturday morning and I was very pleased with him. He looks fantastic and seems in a very good spot.

“He was aimed quite high as a two-year-old and three-year-old and we think this race looks a good starting point, as we are still learning about him,” said Horton.

“It is fantastic to have a horse like him in our first season. With his rating, he will be able to compete at the big Saturday meetings and that is a huge asset,” added Horton.

The 10 entries include Safe Voyage, winner of G2 contests in 2020 for John Quinn, and Kevin Ryan’s Ayr Gold Cup hero Bielsa.

Mutasaabeq, who finished seventh in last season’s G1 2,000 Guineas, and has won three of his four starts over this distance for Charlie Hills.

G3 winner Brad The Brief is in line to have his first start for Hugo Palmer. Course winner Symbolize and Rhoscolyn, trained by Andrew Balding and David O’Meara, respectively.

Following the final race at 5pm, racegoers are encouraged to stay and watch the £1m Randox Aintree Grand National at 5.15pm on the big screens and across all of the site.

Darlington-based Vickers, founded 35 years ago by former jockey and trainer Ian Vickers, is now managed by his daughter Jo Vickers.

Jo oversaw the launch of www.vickers.bet in 2020, with the online business going from strength to strength, with over 18,000 registered customers.

“The shop in Darlington has been quiet because of the Covid-19 pandemic – even now it has not quite recovered – which is why we decided to go online.

“We have had brilliant support from our customers and pride ourselves on customer service – I would like to think that we are the best.

“We try to treat every customer as if they were in the shop. You can’t please absolutely everyone, but we give it a good go!,” said Jo.

Alongside regular Thirsk racecourse sponsorships, Vickers has a portfolio, comprising four jockeys, headed by former Flat champion Paul Hanagan, British Speedway rider Luke Crang and European Tour golfer Andrew Wilson.

Jo added: “We like to give back as much as we can because, at the end of the day, we are making a living from betting on these sports – plus it is nice get the branding out there!

“We have been fortunate to work with some lovely people through our sponsorships and it is something we are keen to continue going forward.”

Racegoers can win premier entry for two for Thirsk’s opening fixture as well as a £250 funded account, courtesy of Vickers. Full details of the competition can be found here https://bit.ly/36KVQZi

Caption: James Horton: Very pleased with Rhythm Master, who looks fantastic.