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18 Oct 2019

Withhold has earned the chance to take on Stradivarius but ground a concern, says in-form Watson

Newbury Racecourse Ambassador Jason Watson reflects on the biggest moment of his career so far and looks forward to Qipco British Champions Day

Winning the Fillies’ Mile on Quadrilateral last week was the biggest achievement of my career. 

To win a Group 1 in my first season with Roger Charlton for the stable in Germany was brilliant, but then to go and win my first ever Group 1 in Britain for my new boss and for Prince Khalid was unbelievable.

It was a moment I will never forget and definitely the highlight of my career so far.

Watching the race a lot of people thought Quadrilateral was in trouble and had come under a lot of pressure. We were in a bit of trouble but all that was in my mind was that it was only her third race and her previous run was in a conditions race, albeit one of the better ones of the season.

So it was a big step up going to Newmarket on ground that probably didn’t suit her and on a track that is very testing for a horse to deal with. In Group 1 company it was a massive ask.

The way Quadrilateral finished up the hill was very impressive. I again felt I hadn’t quite got to the bottom of her, purely because she is still learning. I had to get quite animated on her, to educate her and keep her up to her job because she wasn’t quite sure how to handle conditions.

Quadrilateral is a genuine Classic hope. In my opinion I made a mistake by going to the rail. A lot of horses wouldn’t go through that gap and it was slowly closing on us, but she had the class,  speed and genuineness to take it on and go through it. Once through I was confident we were going to pick up and win the race.

She won very impressively, has come out of the race very well and all being well she will have a good winter off and come back a lot better next year.

Winning the Cesarewitch the day after was a very pleasant surprise. Stratum hadn’t won since his victory at Newbury last year. We were unsure he would deal with the ground but when you ride for Willie Mullins you expect to sit on a fit, tough horse and we got a dream run through.

On Champions Day last year I was collecting my trophy for winning the Flat apprentice title at Ascot where I had one ride in the Balmoral Handicap.

This time I have three, two in Group 1 races. It is great that I have managed to pick up such decent rides.

Withhold takes on the champion stayer Stradivarius in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, which is going to be a big task, but my other concern will be the ground being a little too much on the soft side for him.

He has done nothing wrong this year, firstly winning the Marsh Cup at Newbury, before winning so impressively last time at Newmarket that this was the obvious place to send him next.

It is not an overly big field and we don’t have a bad draw. With him it is all about getting into a rhythm. He obviously hasn’t come up against opposition like this before, but he is within his rights to be in the race.

The ground is not going to favour a lot of horses so it will be whoever can deal with it best. I hope I am wrong and that he will be fine with the ground. I know for one thing, he is tough, genuine and has plenty of class.

I am very fortunate to have picked up such a great ride as Veracious in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. She has improved a lot. The last day she got beat by a previous 1,000 Guineas winner and before that had won the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes.

She has run well at Ascot before when the ground was soft, even though she may prefer slightly better going. I think she is possibly a big price. She is more than capable of running in races like this and I hope she can run a big race.

Saltonstall, who I ride in the Balmoral Handicap, has won big handicaps in Ireland and shown improvement. He can deal with softer ground and it looks like we are drawn on the best side.

These big handicaps, in ground like it is going to be, can throw up shock results so it is whoever relishes conditions the most. Hopefully he can be that horse.

Notice Board

19 Mar 2020

The Lodge at Newbury Racecourse will temporarily close during the COVID-19 pandemic from Thursday 19th March 2020. Following the suspension of racing until the end of April, as well as reduced demand for rooms, for operational and commercial reasons, the 36-bedroom hotel will temporarily close and its re-opening date to be kept under review as the situation evolves.

Unfortunately but understandably, since the end of February, we are experiencing a high number of cancellations and since racing has been suspended until the end of April, we feel the decision to temporarily and voluntarily close the hotel from 19th March 2020 is the right one. Our sincere thanks go to all the staff, suppliers and the local community who have been very supportive and we look forward to reopening our doors very soon.

23 May 2019

Getting to know Simon Tonge, Hospitality Sales Manager

When did you start work at Newbury Racecourse?

I started working at Newbury in February 2015 and my first raceday was Betfair Super Saturday 2015 which was when AP McCoy announced his retirement after riding his 200th winner of that season.

What did you do prior to working here?

Prior to joining Newbury Racecourse, I had been at university at the University of the West of England studying Business Studies. Having been born and bred in Cheltenham, I developed a passion for horse racing and upon completing my degree, sought to get into the racing industry.

What was your first job here?

My first role at Newbury was as a Sales Executive with a specific focus around our raceday restaurants. My responsibilities included converting incoming enquiries, building relationships with our existing clients and finding new clients to come and enjoy the hospitality options we have. In addition to these responsibilities, I would work closely with our operations and catering teams to ensure we delivered memorable days within the restaurants for our guests.

What is your current job here?

My current role is Hospitality Sales Manager which sees myself head up the hospitality and dining team. I still spend a lot of time booking private suites and tables in the restaurants for our clients but I also spend time in the planning phase with things like forecasting with accounts and creating innovative packages and offerings with our catering team to ensure we offer a first class service to all hospitality and dining guests.

I am supported by a fantastic group in the sales team who all go the extra mile in ensuring our clients have amazing experiences from the moment they enquire. We have a brilliant team ethic and it is so rewarding when we have a big raceday with around 2,000 hospitality guests, who are all enjoying a great day because of the hard work we have put in beforehand.

What advice would you have for someone looking to get into a similar line of work?

My main piece of advice would be to be persistent and don’t be disheartened if you get turned down for roles. I had a handful of other racecourses interview myself when I had recently graduated and for one reason or another, didn’t take a chance on me. It can be easy to give up and settle for a role in an industry that you aren’t passionate for but I am glad I didn’t as I really enjoy working in an industry that I am passionate about.

I would certainly recommend trying to get as much experience as you can, whether that be while you are studying or as a casual member of staff just on racedays if you have other commitments, as racecourses are unique places to work and any exposure you can get to them will stand you in good stead for when you are looking to get into the industry.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I would say my favourite part of my job is building relationships, both with clients and with members of the team here. We have some incredible regular clients who I have known since I started and would class many of them as good friends now. Getting to visit them on racedays and to catch up with them is really enjoyable and I count myself lucky that we have such a great group of regular guests.

I have been lucky to make some great friends during my time here. We have a fantastic team currently but also many of my former colleagues remain close friends. I think that, especially during the summer months when we are racing every week, it is a testing job but to maintain the high standards we set ourselves, our team has to work closely together and rely on each other. This leads to us being a tight knit team and creates friendships between us all.

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