A title is at stake, but one contender has accepted she can do no more to fashion the outcome.
Yorkshire’s Rosie Howarth is joint-first in the Highflyer Bloodstock Novice Women’s Championship, which will be decided at Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire when the season ends there on Sunday. However, unlike fellow Yorkshire rider Natalya Irvine, who is based with Tom Ellis in Warwickshire and is also on three wins, and Georgie Benson, who has gained two victories, Howarth does not have a ride at the meeting. Irvine is booked to ride Blazing Tom who will face the Benson-ridden Barney Dwan in the ladies’ open race, while Benson can also call upon Knight Bachelor in the novice riders’ race.
Howarth, 24, says: “It’s quite annoying knowing I haven’t got a ride. Every horse in the novice riders’ race has someone booked to ride it. I don’t have any southern connections. It would be nice to share the title, but even better to win it outright.”
This time last year Howarth was on the verge of quitting the sport. She had ridden two winners on her own Major Ridge before he contracted colic while out at grass and died. She says: “It happened during the first lockdown, and I was so heartbroken I didn’t want to go on – then as soon as the point-to-point season restarted I realised I was going to miss it, so I bought two horses.
“Merrion Avenue was advertised on Jumping For Fun and Rossderrin came up on Facebook. I bought them both unseen.”
Rossderrin has won once since his purchase, while Merrion Avenue has scored twice, including a Skinner’s Ladies’ Open race, before finishing third in the same sponsor’s hunters’ chase final at Stratford. It seems Howarth’s decision to quit the milking parlour for racing is paying off.
Merrion Avenue and Rosie Howarth (photo - Tom Milburn)
Raised on a dairy farm in Pickering, North Yorkshire, she rode ponies as a child and milked cows in her teens before going to agricultural college. Through hunting she met Chris Barker, who at the time had a couple of pointers, and after completing a milking shift she would go along to ride his horses.
“He encouraged me to have a ride in a point,” says Howarth, “and in my first season I rode one of his maidens.”
That gave her the bug, she quit milking and went into racing, first with Lawrence Mullaney, then Roger Fell, and she now works part-time for Mick and David Easterby, training her horses after finishing work. She says: “I ride my horses around the farm – there’s plenty of grass – and I take them to Filey Beach near Scarborough, which is half an hour away.
“My parents don’t mind that I’ve gone into horses. They helped by buying me ponies when I was young but they were busy on the farm so I’d go off riding on my own. They knew I was a thrill seeker.”