The first premier shows of the new season are always awkward to build for as there are no previous results to go on.
Being early, we [at the Aintree Pony Premier show] need to cater for new ponies and riders, as well as more established combinations.
The responsibility of a course-designer is to set good tracks that are up to height to obtain the correct result, particularly in qualifiers or second rounds, but the courses should not disillusion pony or rider for the rest of the season.
It is always more constructive to set lines that make riders think, rather than overface them.
The first track of the show here for newcomers ponies included a technical line, but it proved too much for some ponies in the winter JA classic.
I was disappointed to yield only two initial clears from 24 starters, so sadly a third ticket went unclaimed.
There were obviously new ponies and riders that are still getting used to each other, but the two who jumped clear produced classic rounds and read the lines perfectly.
It was encouraging we got more through to the jump-off in the second qualifier, which was a more technical course.
It set different tests with the oxers being more square, but overall everyone looked more confident.
Both winter JC qualifiers went according to plan with one third going through to the first jump and 50% contesting the final round. The standard in both qualifiers was very good and I was very pleased with both winners.
Overall, it was a very productive weekend in a nice, bright ring with good going and a great variety of materials to use.
Ref Horse & Hound; 24 January 2019