The hunter chase season is under way and it is the time when some begin to dream of Cheltenham glory in March. The two most recent James’s Place Foxhunter Chases have seen some tremendous performances by horses from pointing yards, notably Barel Of Laughs (Phil Rowley) and Top Wood (Kelly Morgan).
That should give this year’s contenders plenty of hope and two horses from pointing yards have already caught my eye. Both are already qualified for the big race and could go well.
Hazel Hill won a ladies’ open race at Chaddesley in December before hosing up in a hunter chase at Warwick last week. As I’ve said, the Rowley yard have come close recently and I would love to see them win it.
Road To Rome has also got plenty of people talking. He’s won a maiden, restricted and intermediate pointing this season, before winning impressively in a hunter chase at Taunton, and following up at Ludlow eight days later.
Should he win the “big one” , I suspect the post-race interview with his trainer, Joe O’Shea, would make for great viewing. Another one on my radar is Haymount, trained by Tom Ellis. He’s yet to qualify for Cheltenham but he was impressive at Sheriff Hutton earlier this month. He’s one to keep an eye on if he gets in.
There will be plenty of challenges from professional yards and from over the Irish sea, but the big boys are there to be shot at and if you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the lottery.
‘They’re doing something right’
The blank weekend on the 19/20 January caused a few eyebrows to be raised as momentum had been building nicely. Surely there should be racing every weekend — weather permitting — at this time of the year?
Finally, a special mention for the Yorkshire area and Sheriff Hutton in particular. I visited for the first time in three years recently and was impressed.
They’re doing something right as the car park was full and there was a stack of runners. If any organisers elsewhere in the country are struggling, they could do worse than pick up the phone to ask for some advice.
It’s an obvious move and something I’ve long advocated — I’m sure the organisers would be happy to help.
Ref Horse & Hound; 31 January 2019