David Simpson: Cheltenham’s feel-good factor *H&H VIP*

Opinion

There is a feel-good factor around British point-to-pointing at the moment after a fabulous St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase, which was dominated by the home team.

When Hazel Hill strode up the famous Cheltenham hill last Friday afternoon, I suspect the whole of the pointing world was cheering. Having picked him out as “one to watch” back in January, I was delighted as he crossed the line in first place.

Trained by Phil Rowley and ridden by Alex Edwards — the current champion trainer and male rider — and owned by Diana Williams, Hazel Hill’s victory was one of the most impressive of the day.

It was also a deserved success for the Rowley team after they had come so close in the last two years. On a personal note, the Rowley and Williams families gave me tremendous support during my years working for former point-to-point sponsor AGA, so my delight wasn’t just about the winning slip in my wallet!

The clean sweep for the home team was completed by Shantou Flyer (Richard Hobson/David Maxwell) Top Wood (Kelly Morgan/Tabitha Worsley) and Road To Rome (Joe O’Shea/Sam Waley-Cohen), plus Libby Lawson (Don’t Do Mondays) also deserves a mention.

Those performances should give hope to everyone who dreams about winning the big one, and as I said back in January — if you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the lottery.

It was also wonderful to see some sparkling performances on the biggest stage from pointing graduates Bryony Frost, Lizzie Kelly and Bridget Andrews. All three are a great source of inspiration and I can imagine that there were a number of riders watching and thinking, “That could be me.”

Attracting owners

I enjoyed a sociable afternoon at Brafield-on-the-Green on Sunday, 17 March, chatting with many people.

Among other things, we discussed the challenges of attracting new owners to pointing and under Rules.

I’m a huge fan of syndicates and racing clubs and it’s definitely the way to go, with several people already doing it well in pointing. It’s working under Rules, and the success of the “Owners Group” at Cheltenham with Pentland Hills has generated plenty of headlines.

We have had a race-planning committee in recent seasons, so maybe it’s time to pull a group together to look at ways of attracting new owners, particularly via syndicates and racing clubs.

It would be a challenge to attract the 3,000 shareholders involved in Pentland Hills, but it’s certainly got to be worth exploring.

Ref Horse & Hound; 21 March 2019

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