Having ridden through knee-deep mud for the majority of the winter, the recent sunshine and drying weather has been a welcome sight. It’s brought with it some positive stories in the world of point-to-pointing.
I was fortunate enough to pick up a spare ride at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and was pleased to be able to take a seat in the changing room among faces I would ordinarily not see until a weekend.
The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup is a race that, in recent years, has become dominated by our Irish counterparts taking up many of the available rides and leading chances. But it was encouraging to see more than 50% of the riders this year are frequently taking part in UK point-to-points.
While the winner Spring Heeled was Irish owned, trained and ridden, I have no doubt the home-based jockeys showcased their talents admirably and will ensure the prize stays closer to home in future years.
Further evidence of this was provided by Josh Newman’s win in the four-mile National Hunt Chase on the opening day. Like myself, Josh is a regular on the southern/West Country point-to-point circuit and is a case in point of a talented young English rider succeeding when given an opportunity. His win should give hope to others.
As I feared, we still fell some way short of the Irish in the Foxhunters, although a number of English horses ran with credit.
Although my mount Lucette Annie struggled to keep up on ground that had dried out to good, I felt the race lacked the quality of some of the most recent renewals and ultimately Tammys Hill won with a bit in hand.
Despite not being English, I do not begrudge them victory and this was a great family success for the Smyths, who bred, own, and rode the horse. With Aintree just around the corner, I hope we can at least keep some of the major race silverware this side of the Irish Sea.