News

POINT-TO-POINT FOCUS - CARL EVANS

  • Posted: Friday, 22nd June 2018
  • Author: Carl Evans
  • Photo: Carl Evans

A chance to catch the final Racing Post P2P focus of the season...

After six years of domination by Will Biddick the Fuller's men's championship will gain a new name when the British point-to-point season closes tomorrow.

Alex Edwards, 28, a former Flat apprentice jockey whose brother Lee is a professional Jump jockey, will take the crown having ridden 42 winners, currently 10 more than the outgoing champion. At tomorrow's Umberleigh finale Edwards has one ride, on talented Rockinrolldixie, although his mount refused to race last time out. It could be an ignominious, or rather special, note to end on.

The new champion, who rides predominantly for Phil Rowley's Shropshire stable, says: "I'm thrilled to win the title, but the real buzz came through the winter when I was focussing on riding winners and staying in the title race. Phil and I agreed that if we could manage one or two winners each weekend we had a chance."

Rowley has won the Foran Equine title for yards with eight or more horses, his 38 winners being five more than the current total of former champion Alan Hill, and both he and his jockey describe Barel Of Laughs as their season's highlight. The 12-year-old was third in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase before winning the Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup.

The season has not been all gloom for Biddick, who landed a first major hunters' chase win, courtesy of Caid Du Berlais at Punchestown. His overall total of pointing wins is now 26 behind Richard Burton's British record of 414.

Gina Andrews' position as the best woman rider (if not the best of either sex) in this period is underlined by her fifth win in the Skinner's women's championship. Her 23 victories has carried her to within two of a double century in points.

The 2017/18 season will be remembered for several distinct elements, but for many it was simply 'the elements'. Several heavy snowfalls, with copious rain as back-up, produced months of heavy going, postponements and abandonments.

It was also the season in which the record price for a British pointer at a public sale was broken, that honour going to four-year-old Larkhill winner Interconnected, offered by pinhooker Tom Lacey, who sold his horse for £220,000 to clients of Nicky Henderson.

The business of buying a store horse before training it to run in points, hopefully win and then be sold, is now catching light in Britain, with a tranche of people focussing upon it as a key part of their involvement in the sport. A total of 125 four-year-olds gained certificates to race in UK points, up from 89 the previous season.

If that 40 per cent increase is maintained it might not be long before races for four-year-olds only are introduced, or races for four- and five-year-olds are reintroduced. That would remove the current need for weights of 10st and 10st 7lb to be carried by four-year-olds against older horses.

A recent Owners' & Riders' Association forum on the sport demonstrated the strength of feeling against such weights, with a number of speakers claiming they alienate amateur riders who battle with the scales to ride at traditional pointing weights, let alone such featherweights.

Connor Brace, 16, the new male novice champion is about to follow his fellow Welshmen, Sean and James Bowen, from that title win into the professional ranks. Page Fuller, who has been riding in points since 2011 – the same year Bryony Frost made her debut – and Lorcan Williams, are two more pointing graduates joining the professionals. Watch out for Jack Tudor, who turned 16 last month, and could well be the next Welsh tyro to make his mark.

Brace's mount, William Money, is the Connolly's Red Mills champion pointer having gained seven wins which helped his rider's grandfather, David, to become the leading owner.

Just one national title remains to be decided – the novice women's award. Alice Stevens and Isabel Williams are tied on eight winners and could share the title, but while Stevens heads to Umberleigh to ride for Fran Nimmo's stable, Williams has opted to take a long-planned holiday.

Her father, Evan, British men's champion in 2002, said: "Isabel never thought she would be in this position, so booked the holiday. We met Alice last weekend [when both women rode a winner at Dingley] and she rode quite beautifully. If she rides another winner it will be no disgrace for Isabel to finish second." (Alice did indeed ride another winner on the final day of the season to take the title, pictured below)