Eventing has Badminton and Burghley. Showjumping has Hickstead and Bolesworth. Flat racing has Ascot and Newmarket. Jump racing has Cheltenham and Aintree.
I will offer no prizes for guessing which of the above are my favourites, but there tends to be so much hype nowadays around the pinnacle venues that some of the supporting “grassroots” meetings do not get the backing or recognition they deserve.
I say this with Cheltenham and Aintree now over and filed into the archives for another year. In a period when there seems to be a significant bias towards employing Irish-based riders for the big amateur races, it was refreshing, therefore, to see both Foxhunter Chases won by British-born and based jockeys.
The rides by Alex Edwards (Hazel Hill at Cheltenham) and Tabitha Worsley (Top Wood at Aintree) were nothing short of exemplary. They should go a long way to dispelling the myth that there is a class divide in the quality of riders somewhere in the middle of the Irish Sea. Better still, both winning horses have been seen running in point-to-points within the past two seasons.
Cause for concern
While these results can be seen as a success for our sport, one thing that continues to concern me is the low number of runners competing in point-to-points and hunter chases.
There are so many variables involved in racing that dictate how often, when and where a horse can run. It’s impossible to achieve competitive racing at each and every meeting around the country. But unless we react to the ongoing decline in horse numbers and field sizes, I fear that the medium-to-long-term prognosis for the sport is bleak.
Poorly supported races and meetings will be axed as uneconomic. Applying the basic principles of economics, low demand suggests over-supply.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 April 2019