Shire horses will compete in a world first when they appear as never before at Lingfield Park this weekend.
Saturday’s annual Countryside Raceday will see professional jump jockeys and horses from the neighbouring Hurst Green Shires compete in the The ShowerKing Flying Feathers Maiden Stakes (For Shires) over two furlongs in a bid to raise awareness of the threatened breed and raise money for the Countryside Alliance Foundation.
Jacquie Gardiner, of Hurst Green Shires, said the event has proved more popular than she ever imagined.
She added: “The event has attracted so much attention in such a short space of time we are still in shock really.
“However, we do believe that the event will show the diversity for the future of the horse. It is something that we have been doing at Hurst Green for a long time now – in the 21st century there has to be a place for it.
“We are not asking the horses to do anything that they are not capable of, in fact all of them have been in training and they just absolutely love it!”
It is expected around 8,000 spectators will witness the event on Saturday, with bookmakers taking bets at the course on the day.
David Ralley-Davies, Secretary of the Shire Horse Society, said: “This is a first for Shire horses and is an exciting event for the Countryside Alliance.
“More and more people are using Shires as riding horses, so it is a concept to embrace for the future success of the breed.”
Hurst Green has been training Shire horses for 13 years and encourages people to come along with their Shires each weekend to learn more about riding, showing and breeding.
“Shire horses are our passion and Hurst Green Shires is all about having fun. Saturday will be a new experience for us, but we are extremely excited and proud to be involved,” added Jacquie.
“The event will be over very quickly but the sound of eight Shires pounding down the track will be incredible. Unfortunately I can’t offer any tips at this stage as each time the horses have raced a different one has won it.”
Tickets for Lingfield Park’s Countryside Raceday, which also features seven thoroughbred races and a number of family fun activities, are on sale now with concessions available for those aged over 60, groups of 10 or more and students.
Accompanied children and young people aged under 18 are admitted free of charge to all race meetings at Lingfield Park.
Call 01342 834 800 or see www.lingfieldpark.co.uk for more details.