When Royal Jake ran to victory at the Ledbury point-to-point meeting on Sunday, little did he know he was about to make a piece of the sport’s history. But his winning stride allowed his jockey, Julian Pritchard, to become the new all-time point-to-point champion.
Pritchard, from Eastnor, Herefordshire, started point-to-pointing 20 years ago and rode his first winner, Penshams Son, at a Cotswolds meeting on 30 March 1985, when he was just 17-years-old. He went on to notch up another 343 victories and, by Sunday, he was one down from the late David Turner, who held the record with 345 winners.
After a couple of disappointing runs, Pritchard matched Turner’s record when he landed the AJA Restricted Open Race with Clive Hitchings’ The Brooklet. Engaged in a head-to-head with Arctic Cherry at the last fence, The Brooklet, who is trained by Andy Hobbs, charged ahead on the run in to give Pritchard his 345th victory and put him on equal footing with Turner.
It only took the Herefordshire jockey one more race to top the winners’ list. Riding Charles Hitchings’ Royal Jake, he claimed his 346th victory and went into the record books in the Mixed Open, leaving the rest of the field to trail behind.
“[Royal Jake] did it very nicely, he jumped very well. He is quite a nice horse. My feeling at the time was I wasn’t confident about any other horse winning bar Royal Jake. Then The Brooklet won the Restricted…[and he paved the way],” says Pritchard. “I am very happy. It has been a lot of work, but it is worth it.”
Aptly, Pritchard gained his historic victory at his local course, Maisemore Park. This happened entirely by fluke, because the Ledbury Hunt meeting had originally been scheduled for Sunday 3 April and was moved to Sunday 17 due to flooding. The delay allowed Pritchard, who rode three winners at Ludlow on Sunday 12, to break the point-to-point record on home turf to the delight of the cheering crowds.
“It is nice it happened at my local point-to-point. It was as nice for me as for the friends who supported me,” he says.
Pritchard, however, has no intention of resting on his laurels. “Records are there to be broken,” he says. “I’ll carry on to try and set and greater record, try and ride more winners, and hopefully I’ll be successful.”