Paul Barker: A strong start to 2017 *H&H VIP*

  • We’re just getting going again after our horses’ winter break. The Aintree Elite show was our first major outing and as first ventures go, this meeting has given us a brilliant start to 2017.

    Aintree is a popular venue and always attracts good entries, and plenty of horses and riders here have enjoyed an ideal warm-up for the Sunshine tours.

    The centre is well situated on the motorway networks and has good facilities: nice bright rings, excellent stabling and ringside heating — which proved very welcome.

    Courses have been great, with quick changeovers and both the arena and warm-up surfaces were well looked after. There were some good new fences, and the Jockey Club combination looked extremely smart in the grand prix.

    With classes for newcomers horses up to 1.40m, I like the format of the show, but I always feel it’s a pity to have the bigger classes at the end of the day. It’s not so bad for riders staying on site, but for those with 1.40m horses, it makes it a long day. Because the first two classes were speed competitions, it seemed strange our first 1.40m jump-off class was the grand prix.

    I didn’t think this was the best preparation, but apparently changing the opening classes to one round instead of two attracted a lot more entries than last year.

    On the social side,with plenty of pubs and restaurants within walking distance of Aintree, we didn’t feel isolated.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 2 February 2017