‘I’ve loved this sport for as long as I can remember’: Gina Andrews makes point-to-point history

  • Point-to-point highlights from the three meetings that took place over the festive period (28 December–2 January).

    Gina Andrews makes history, while another thrilling finish ends in a dead heat and a young jockey breaks her duck on her second ride.

    Thurlow, Horseheath, Cambs

    EIGHT-TIME champion Gina Andrews rang in the New Year by smashing the record to become British point-to-pointing’s winning-most lady rider of all-time.

    Her milestone 304th victory came aboard the £800 chance buy Fumet D’Oudairies, fittingly known as “Champ” (pictured above), in the ladies’ open to pass Polly Gundry’s plus-10-year record of 303.

    To call this a fairytale would be to diminish what the 29-year-old has achieved. Records are neither set nor smashed on wishes alone. This was the culmination of years of work, matched by her talent as a competitor and a horsewoman.

    “I’ve loved this sport for as long as I can remember, going pointing with Dad when I was a kid,” said Gina, who secured victory and the record by 10 lengths, before going on to scoop winner 305 in the restricted with Mammoth.

    “It’s just all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s not a job really anymore, it’s my life.”

    The pint-sized rising seven-year-old, trained by Gina’s husband and three-time champion point-to-point trainer Tom Ellis, has now partnered all three of the Andrews siblings in victory.

    This was Gina’s first start on the D’Oudes Partnership’s gelding, mainly seen with her brother Jack, before he turned conditional, and who also won with their sister Bridget when Covid rules meant hunter chases had to be contested by professional jockeys.

    She added the main feeling was that of “relief” when she crossed the line.

    “I didn’t really get myself wound up about it, but it’s just nice that it’s done with now,” said Gina. “I think relief more because of the horse I was riding, as Jack’s ridden him [almost] his entire career so far. It was nice to be able to do it on him. We call him Champ and he is a little champ. He’s a bit of a freak really. He’s very small and he’s just very good.”

    East Anglia has been formative in Gina’s success, from pony racing to her first pointing win on her first start, aged 16, and one week at the now defunct Cottenham nearly 14 years ago.

    “I’ve ridden in East Anglia my entire career really, and probably ridden most of my winners in [this region], so it was nice to be able to do this here at my favourite course,” she said, adding she “couldn’t do it without” the team at home.

    “I’ve been at it a long time now, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved and I’m very proud of what me and my husband have achieved. We started off with seven or eight horses and now we’ve got 50. We’ve built it up together and have a great team behind us.

    “I just hope I can keep setting the bar higher – make sure that no one’s going to beat me anytime soon!”

    Other results included three wins from three pointing starts by Kaproyale, for trainer Francesca Poste and reigning men’s champion James King, while Alan Hill looks to have an exciting prospect on his hands in the seven-year-old former Irish hurdler Coolagh Park. The Cranfield Family’s gelding, piloted by Izzie Marshall, crossed the finish line 50 lengths ahead of his nearest challenger in the maiden conditions.

    Double Magic

    Harkaway Club, Chaddesley Corbett, Worcs

    Bradley Gibbs and Premier Magic

    Bradley Gibbs and Premier Magic (nearside)

    ON-FORM Bradley Gibbs rode and trained a double for owner Julian Sherriff, taking the restricted with Fier Jaguen, before seizing victory in the men’s open with Premier Magic by a length over Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Porlock Bay.

    “We knew we were up against it coming here against Porlock Bay, but from day one this season, Magic just seems to have improved and improved,” he said.

    “I know we were coming here with the risk of getting beat, but the way he’s been feeling at home, I was very confident.”

    Gina Andrews rode a quick-fire double for Tom Ellis in the veteran conditions 9yo&up (Al Shahir) and ladies’ open on Dubai Quest, equalling Polly Gundry’s record on the second of her wins, which she then surpassed at Horseheath.

    “I’m very privileged to be able to ride such lovely horses,” she said.

    Dead-heat thriller

    Southfield Theatre (left) and Master Dancer (middle) dead-heat

    Southfield Theatre (left) and Master Dancer (middle) in the dead-heat finish

    Larkhill Racing Club, Larkhill, Wilts

    LARKHILL proved the stage for Master Dancer and Southfield Theatre (2 January) to deliver a thriller of a performance with a dead-heat in the ladies’ open.

    The 11/1-shot outsider Master Dancer, ridden by Lauren Reed (claiming 5lb) for boss Stuart Sampson, could not be split from the great campaigner Southfield Theatre (Lily Bradstock), who officially turned 14 the previous day.

    “I bumped into Darren Edwards while walking the course and he said, ‘Don’t chase up the hill, just sit and wait; if you use your energy getting up the hill, you’ll never get home,’” said Lauren, who took his advice, flew the fences in the home straight and snuck through a gap at the last. “Lily’s and mine were both as game as anything.”

    Trainer/rider Myles Osborne enjoyed his first victory in the saddle with a men’s open win aboard one of the season’s stars, Moratorium.

    This was the third British pointing win under Myles’ guidance for the former Gordon Elliott-trained Irish hurdler, bought at Goffs UK horses-in-training sale in September.

    “It was a massive thrill,” said Myles, who rides out for Ben Pauling and trains his string of four pointers in his lunch break.

    “When he hits the front, he doesn’t do an awful lot, so it didn’t actually look as good as it probably felt for me. It felt like he was always doing enough. I was so delighted when I crossed the line, not just for me, for everyone else that helps me and for Dad. It meant an awful lot.”

    The next aim is qualification to potentially target the key hunters’ chases at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals, with Punchestown also a possible aim.

    “He’s quite an easy chap on a day-to-day basis,” added Myles. “He knows how good he is. He comes across to me and to any other person as a bit of a grumpy old man, but he absolutely adores my partner Celine [de la Haye]. He’s got quite a special bond with her. But he’s very straightforward, very easy and he’s an absolute joy to have at the place.”

    First win…: ‘I have been counting down the days’

    Olive Nicholls and Virak (nearside)

    OLIVE NICHOLLS scored her first win on her second ride just weeks after turning 16.

    Olive partnered the popular veteran Virak, trained by Sam Loxton, to a close-fought win in the novice riders by a 1½ lengths over Doc Carver and Rebecca Pugh at the Harkaway Club meeting at Chaddesley Corbett, Worcestershire (28 December).

    “Natalie Parker, who normally rides him, had a quick talk to me before I got on. She said that he stays and stays and will get me out of trouble,” said Olive, who was riding for owners Clive Hitchings and her dad, champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

    Olive’s winters are now shaping up to be as busy as her summers, with an exciting string of both pointers and eventers.

    “I pony raced when I was about nine or 10 and to be honest, I started [that] a bit too early. I only wanted to jump, so I didn’t really enjoy [pony racing] as much as I sort of thought I would,” she said. “I’ve been eventing since then and have been counting down the days until I could get out pointing over jumps.”

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