Pictured is Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Sam Thomas (second from right) with other ‘jump boys’ (left to right) Jody Mogford, Colin Bolger, Alan O’Keefe and Dominic Elsworth at Desert Springs during a special three-day break arranged for the Newbury-based Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) by The Almanzora Group Ltd of Cheltenham.
Irish flat jockey Richard Hughes – son of successful National Hunt trainer Dessie Hughes and currently lying second in the leading jockey league – is among the latest to take a break from the turf to enjoy a stay in Europe’s only desert.
He and jockey Pat Dobbs are among a group following in the footsteps of seven other top jockeys – including this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sam Thomas – who have taken advantage of an exclusive new three-day break scheme. It was launched this year for the Newbury-based Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) by The Almanzora Group Ltd of Cheltenham. The firm offers a range of holidays, golf, spa and fitness breaks at Desert Springs, Europe’s only international award-winning luxury family resort and championship desert golf course in the Almanzora region of Almeria in south-east Spain.
Plans for the scheme, whereby jockeys enjoy free accommodation, were devised by Simon Coaker, director of golf at Desert Springs, and the PJA’s new chief executive, Josh Apiafi.
Mr Apiafi said this week: “I am delighted that members of the Professional Jockeys Association are utilising the amazing facilities at Desert Springs. Our jump jockeys are used to riding in wind and rain throughout the winter so a trip to Desert Springs and its great climate is well deserved. What’s more, I think they will be a few pounds lighter come Cheltenham in March next year!”
Jockey Sam Thomas, who rode Denman to victory in this year’s Gold Cup, described the golf course and the hospitality he and other ‘jump boys’ experienced at Desert Springs as “second to none.”
He said: “We had a fantastic time and the partnership between Desert Springs and the PJA is really appreciated by all the jockeys.”
During their stay, the jockeys played golf on the resort’s 72 par 18-hole USGA Indiana golf course designed by former Great Britain and Ireland Golf Team Captain Peter McEvoy.
Also available for their use were the fitness gym and pools as well as massages and other health treatments in the Day Spa. Tennis, mountain bike trail rides, a trim trail and jogging tracks are among other resort facilities.
Accommodation for the jockeys was provided in apartments at Desert Springs. Those who chose to eat out were able to choose between the resort’s international award-winning El Torrente Restaurant, The Crocodile Club restaurant and bar, or numerous tapas bars and restaurants in local villages.
Next year golfing members of the PJA are set to visit Desert Springs which has been selected as the venue for its annual Pro-Am – dubbed the ‘Jock-Am’ – golf tournament.
Background notes for editors:
Desert Springs is Europe’s only international award-winning luxury family resort and championship desert golf course in the Almanzora region of Almeria in south-east Spain.
The resort occupies more than 300 hectares (750 acres) on an elevated plateau over the Rio Almanzora, near the coast of the municipality of Cuevas del Almanzora.
The first phase of the resort – already up and running – includes the Indiana Desert Golf Course and Club House and its international award-winning El Torrente Restaurant, as well as the Crocodile Club family restaurant and bar, with its pools, sun lawns and sand play bunkers.
Also open is the Sierra Sports and Fitness Club which has facilities for tennis, paddle, gymnasium and football.
At the heart of Desert Springs is its 72 par 18-hole USGA Indiana golf course designed by former Great Britain and Ireland Golf Team Captain Peter McEvoy. He was inspired by the desert courses of Arizona and California.
The dramatic nature of the Desert Springs fairways, set in a landscape of cactus, rock and flowering desert, is said to have taken golf in Spain to a new level of excellence.
Golf Club joining fees for Non-resident Membership, for a family of up to four, are waived in the case of Almanzora Bay Group’s own property purchasers.
The club runs a year-round calendar of tournaments for members as well as open tournaments including The Indiana Masters, The Desert Classic and The Professional Challenge Cup. In March, 2007, it hosted – for the second time in three years – Europe’s most prestigious amateur tournament, the King’s Cup – the Copa Del Rey – which is the Spanish International Amateur Open.
From October 30 to November 1 this year (2008) the Sir Ian Botham Charity Golf Classic will be held at Desert Springs. Last year the event raised more than €60,000 for Leukaemia Research and the same charity is set to benefit this year. Sir ‘Beefy’ Botham will be joined by celebrities and professional sportsmen captaining their amateur teams competing for this year’s trophy.
The resort takes it name from the region’s desert microclimate which is unique in Europe. It has the warmest winter weather on the continent with an annual average of more than nine hours of daily sunshine and maximum daily temperatures of between 16°C (60°F) and 30°C (86°F) throughout the year. Annual rainfall is less than 200 mm. The Almanzora’s coastal waters are among the cleanest and warmest in Europe, attracting both fish and diving enthusiasts.
The Almanzora region is easy to reach, thanks to three international airports. The current journey time from Almeria International Airport to Desert Springs is around 50 minutes by road. Other international airports are at Murcia – 70 minutes by car on the new toll motorway direct to the Almanzora Valley (the toll is €11.5) – and Alicante which is less than two hours by road.
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