Catch up on the latest point-to-point focus that appeared in the Racing Post on Friday 1 February
Philip Rowley's telling pause makes me realise I am onto something.
"So you have decided to apply for a full licence," I say to the man who last season became Britain's Foran Equine champion point-to-point trainer. "No," is the reply, "but Mel might – she's done all the exams, whereas I didn't fancy going back to school."
Rowley's wife will be applying for a licence later this year, and why not when she has been such a key part of the yard's success. In ten years it has become one of the most powerful in the country, not to mention enjoying good results with young horses in the sales ring and getting the gig for breaking and pre-training many Jump stars. Sprinter Sacre, Khyber Kim and, more recently, La Bague Au Roi, all learned lessons in the Rowleys' school, often with Mel instructing.
Playing down the suggestion she has ambitions to be the next Jenny Pitman, Mel says: "I'll be doing it to give us more opportunities to run young horses we buy with a view to selling on. Phil is established as the point-to-point trainer, so it made sense for him to remain in that role."
It has been a frustrating season to date for the Rowleys, who with four winners have barely broken into a trot, but there have been some comforts. Levasseur, second at Chaddesley Corbett in December, converted from a €22,000 store into a £58,000 horse-in-training when offered at Doncaster last month, while Hazel Hill's impressive Warwick hunter chase win has put him into the mix for the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Festival.
Six-year-old Salvatore's defeat of Rob The Getaway at Thorpe Lodge was an eye-catching result which marks him down as a hunter chase winner of the future. He could run at Brocklesby a week tomorrow, but this weekend could be a turning point in the yard's season. Now Ben returns to his happy hunting ground at Cottenham tomorrow, while Sunday could bring riches at Chaddesley Corbett and Barbury Racecourse. Hazel Hill warms up for the Foxhunter at the first-named venue under Fuller's champion Alex Edwards, while Noel George – now the yard's unofficial second rider – will partner Rowley horses in each division of the JRL Group Flat race at Barbury. They are among a ruck of youngsters about to race for the Shropshire yard.
Rowley saddled now-retired Barel Of Laughs to finish third in the two most recent Foxhunter Chases, and when asked about Hazel Hill he says: "Work them together and you would not split them, but Hazel Hill has another gear, and that's what you need up that hill."
Of the slow start to the season he says: "It's been frustrating, but I'm more concerned for Alex, and I've told him to go and get other rides if he feels they have a better chance."
Having visited Rowley's yard my advice to Edwards would be to sit tight, but it is certain he does not need telling.