UTTOXETER is gearing up for the biggest racing event of the year tomorrow - with several of the sports leading horses set to grace the town’s racecourse.
The 45th annual Midlands Grand National will see Uttoxeter’s population double when a predicted 18,000 punters head to the Wood Lane venue.
As the Post and Times went to print, several leading fancies were set to race at Cheltenham festival.
Kim Bailey-trained Harry Topper, whose joint owner, Tony Solomons, used to sponsor the Singer and Friedlander National Trial at Uttoxeter, is one of those horses.
Mr Bailey said: “Uttoxeter is a real option with the ground drying out at Cheltenham but we will have to wait and see.”
David Pipe, who has won the Midlands Grand National three years running, again has four horses entered in the race.
It is thought Junior will be his most likely contender as Goulanes, Our Father and No Secrets were all set to perform at Cheltenham yesterday.
Mr Pipe said: “It would be a real thrill to win this prestigious race again but it might cost Uttoxeter a lot with their offer of free admissions if I win again this year. I am ever-hopeful.”
Recent Eider winner Wyck Hill is not involved at Cheltenham and trainer David Bridgewater hopes his recent Eider winner, Wyck Hill, can run at Uttoxeter.
Racecourse chiefs are also hopeful Rebecca’s Choice, who came second in the Midlands Grand National last year, will be one of this year’s 45 entries.
Locally-owned West End Rocker is also fancied as a serious contender.
Aside from the racing, business in and around town is set for a welcome boost in trade on race day.
The racecourse itself will increase staffing levels tenfold to 400 and hotels in and around town are almost fully booked.
David Hunter, owner of Uttoxeter’s Indulgence Coffee Lounge, said: “The racecourse is great for the town.
“On such an event as the Midlands Grand National, they don’t just come for the event for a weekend, stay over, walk about the town and visit the independent retailers.
“You are aware of more people in town and a lot more spending.”
Jodie Inns, Uttoxeter’s Premier Inn team leader, said: “Saturdays are usually quiet, espcially if Alton Towers is shut, but, on March 15, we’re about 85 per cent full.
“This figure would, under normal circumstances, be between around 20 and 30 per cent.”
Uttoxeter Racecourse Executive Director David MacDonald said: “Preparations for this year’s race started late due to the weather but I am delighted to say we have managed to get the whole course looking pristine thanks to the efforts of so many staff.
“Advanced ticket sales are slightly up on last year and hospitality sales are up by 25% so we are delighted that once again we have managed to grow this magnificent fixture. With the weather expected to be fine we are hoping for a good walk up and I would stress to people that have not yet bought a ticket that they can arrive and pay on the day.”
Racing gets under way with the first of seven races at 2.05pm. Gates open at 11am.