The race is over for Folkestone after 114 years
RACING was united by sadness at Folkestone yesterday as the Kent circuit shut its doors after 114 years of racing.
A crowd of just under 2,500 gathered to bid a sombre farewell, which was close to the number attracted to Hereford's final meeting on Sunday.
This number was higher than recalled for the most popular meeting of the calendar, the United Hunts Cup evening in the spring, and former clerk of the course Geoff Stickels remarked he had "never seen it so busy".
The action was typically low grade, as it is during both the Flat and National Hunt seasons, but not all racing can be of Cheltenham Festival standard and jockeys and trainers praised the quality of the track itself.
The final event to be staged for the foreseeable future was the "Save The Last Race" For Eastwell Manor Handicap Chase and it produced a most fitting winner in Quartz Du Montceau.
Some spectators displayed a banner reading 'Folkestone Racecourse Rest In Anger' but there was a rousing cheer both when the tape went down and with a circuit remaining.
It provided an engrossing finish, with Marc Goldstein driving Quartz Du Montceau just half a length ahead of Mr Valentino after a gruelling three miles and a furlong.
The winner is trained not too far away in East Sussex by Diana Grissell, who said: "We had our first winner here in 1976.
"It's a very special place and it's appropriate we've won the last race, although I hope it's not the last race.
"Folkestone has been very lucky for me as I rode winners here, my children rode winners here and the owner, Stevie Hicks, rode his first winner here, too.
"He spotted this race at the start of the season."
Sam Twiston-Davies summed up feelings after winning on Quapriland in the Cheltfest Non Runner Free Bet Only At BetVictor Handicap Chase.
The mare had recently been moved around Gloucestershire to the jockey's father, Nigel, after her owner and trainer, Althea Barclay, suffered an accident.
"Unfortunately Mrs Barclay broke her pelvis when she was up a ladder pruning some roses, and we've only had the horse about a month," said Twiston-Davies jnr.
"It's a real shame to lose Folkestone. It's a Monday-to-Friday course, one that pays your bills.
"The racecard still has a picture on the cover of Mrs Barclay's horse Gerrard winning here a few years ago, so she always wants someone to take a racecard back for her.
"It's very special to be part of it."
Warren Greatrex was just behind Gary Moore in the standings as Folkestone's top jumps trainer and has sent some of his better prospects across from Lambourn in the past.
"I've have about a 40pc strike rate here since I started, so it's been lucky for me," he said.
"I like my horses to be ridden prominently and it's a fair track where there seem to be very few hard luck stories here.
"There still seems to be talk that it might come back, and I hope that's the case."