The point-to-point 2020/21 national champions have been crowned in “possibly the most exciting season for years”.
Following 51 fixtures across 34 race days, held over a shortened season owing to the pandemic, several of the competitions were decided on the last day of the season.
James King took his first national title in the men’s championship although he did not have a winner until April and went on to an “astonishing hit rate” of 33 wins in 26 race days.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” James told H&H. “It’s an amazing achievement and it’s all thanks to my amazing owners and trainers for supporting me throughout the season.
“It’s been a strange season for everyone – very start-stop initially – but it was great to get a solid end to the season and it’s credit to everyone for persevering, especially the owners for continuing to pump money in when we’re in such uncertain times.”
A Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) spokesman said the ladies’ championship was “rather more predictable” as Gina Andrews took her eighth title – but added that this “does not happen by accident”.
“It‘s brilliant. I’m really pleased I’ve managed to win an eight championship which has equalled Polly Gundry’s record – I’m delighted to have done that,” Gina told H&H.
“It’s been a challenging year for everyone and I think we’ve been lucky to get as much racing on as we did. That’s credit to Peter Wright [PPA chief executive] and his team.
The novice championships went down to the wire as Ben Sutton claimed the men’s title with a treble on the final race day, while Natalya Irvine took the ladies’ title, finishing on a fourth consecutive victory on her parents’ Blazing Tom.
For the third year Tom Ellis, Gina’s husband, took the champion trainer title for yards with eight or more horses. Luke Price won the small trainers’ championship and the leading owner was Jason Warner.
The national champion horse was the Alan Hill-trained Sir Mangan with five victories, his last in the men’s open on the final meeting of the season with jockey Ben Sutton. Rose Illand, trained by Jake Slatter, took the mare title, and the Christopher Barber-trained Famous Clermont won the restricted championship.
Gina Andrews, who sustained multiple injuries in a nasty fall at Cheltenham in December, marked her return to racing with
Peter Wright told H&H the season had been a “real tribute” to the resilience of everyone in the sport.
“Our particular thanks to all the fixtures and owners who stuck with it, as well as the jockeys who remained so positive throughout,” he said.
“Obviously, it has been a difficult period to navigate but it has been worth the effort. The sport has proved that it can run safely, being an outdoor event based around vehicles which ensures everyone is well spread out. Since this follows equine flu and appalling weather problems, which have also been overcome, the sport looks set to continue to flourish in the coming years.”
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.