With 16 wins under his belt, including back-to-back victories in the Bonhams Mens Open Championship at Cheltenham, the 12-year-old Doctor Kingsley is the leading point-to-pointer at trainer Pauline Harkin’s Banbury yard.
But the chestnut hasn’t always been tipped for success; Pauline bought him as a failed point-to-pointer for £500 — he had come nowhere in 13 starts — and gave him to her husband, Doug, to hunt as a Christmas present.
That union didn’t get off to the best of starts, though, when Doctor Kingsley refused at a small set of rails and tipped Doug out of the saddle.
Watch H&H’s video above to find out why Pauline persevered and how they transformed Doctor Kingsley into a winner.
Deciding where to run
There are 20 pointers in training at Blackgrounds Farm this season, and there is a race plan in place for each of them.
“I walk every course with a stick to assess the going and our horses never run on firm ground,” explains Doug, who abides by three rules. If any of these are not in place, the horse doesn’t race:
1. The horse has worn a heart monitor in training so that Pauline and Doug are certain they are 100% fit.
2. The jockey has schooled the horse over fences.
3. The ground suits the horse.
“We’re not scared to bring a horse home — there is always another day,” adds Doug.
Ones to watch
H&H tipped Sea Rock as one to watch in today’s point-to-point special, but the seven-year-old Velvet Cloud is also hotly tipped by Doug to win a maiden. The 15.3hh grey mare, by Cloudings, raced over hurdles this summer.
“I always worry that when horses are little they need higher revs to jump a fence, whereas the bigger ones just bowl along,” says Doug. “But Velvet Cloud has got a huge heart and she never fails to impress.”
Popaway, who is owned by the Rob, Roy, Henry and John Partnership, is significantly more experienced and the Harkins have big plans for the mare this time.
The nine-year-old had eight starts last season, winning five races and finishing second in the other three runs. Popaway’s record includes the Schloer Hunter Chase at Cheltenham, plus the Midlands Hunter Chase at Southwell, and she is qualified to run in the Aintree Foxhunters next year
Don’t miss H&H’s point-to-point special, on sale 27 November. Pauline and Doug reveal how they train their horses to jump like a winner; Jack Barber on taking over his grandfather Richard’s dynasty; a round up of the best fixtures in every area and how organisers are making their race days financially viable.