Cleaning my racing gear for the final time in June is always tinged with sadness. After all, it is just under six months before it will get dirty again.
This season has seen magical highs and tragic lows. The death of James McNeile in a fall at Larkhill in April brings all else into perspective.
On a personal level, I can reflect positively. Despite breaking some ribs in February, I managed a haul of 25 winners — thanks in no small part to national leading trainer Dean Summersby (who had 18 winners from just six horses) and the national leading novice horse, Chosen Lucky (seven wins).
I had a great spin on Poole Master in the Aintree Fox Hunters’ and even bagged the inaugural ITM champion point-to-point bumper at Stratford earlier this month.
It was normal service for Will Biddick, Gina Andrew and Jack Barber, who took the respective national riders’ and trainers’ titles — huge well done guys. With Jack shortly taking out his professional licence under Rules this could make the championships in 2017/18 very interesting.
A number of newcomers graced the changing room, many graduating from the increasingly popular pony racing circuit. The revelation of the season was undoubtedly James Bowen, who notched a remarkable 30 winners.
I have seen many good young riders emerge but none more promising than James.
Point-to-pointing has long been recognised as the grassroots of National Hunt racing. This year, two young starlets will take their amateur experiences to the professional stage and I wish both Jack Barber and James Bowen the best of luck for the future.
For the rest of us, roll on November.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 22 June 2017