It has been a particularly busy couple of weeks at Fern Farm. Things are really stepping up with the pointers and if all goes to plan we’ll have our first runners in the middle of December. There has been a lot of coming and going with most National Hunt horses going back to their trainers and others already coming back for their winter break from racing. Looking back at events over the last couple of weeks, including the Point to Point Awards at Cheltenham, has really got me thinking about the links between NH racing and point to point.
For me personally, my links with a NH yard were what really propelled me forward as a p2p jockey, helping my fitness, gaining valuable experience from professionals and getting opportunities to ride good horses on a daily basis.
At the Point to Point Awards I looked around and amongst the many hardcore pointing people there were many NH professionals with a connection to our sport. Pointing can be and is, time and again, an excellent springboard for young jockeys. Many of today’s stars started out pointing – Jack Tudor, Ben Jones, Connor Brace, James Bowen, Bryony Frost and Page Fuller to name but a few. And that’s just the jockeys! Fran and Charlie Poste, Gina and Tom Ellis and Phil Rowley are all people who regularly produce a young horse to win a maiden before selling to a NH yard for a career under rules. This is a subject which can split opinion, those who are p2p through and through can pull the negatives from this saying it takes horses from our sport, but likewise we need to try to make a living and if selling a winner helps to pay for us to run and keep more horses in the sport then so be it.
At Cheltenham’s November meeting there were four winning performances that stood out to me in terms of the “link” between the sports. David Maxwell and Sam Lee, both riding as amateurs, rode winners. They will both be seen pointing in the coming weeks, how wonderful to have a sport where people can compete against professionals. The other two were Charlie Deutsch and Tom Bellamy, two professionals who rode pointing winners (on a personal level they are super lads) and have been seen on a p2p field supporting our sport in the last few years.
In my yard horses quite often arrive with a plan set in stone in terms of when it is going into training for NH, but sometimes the plan can change and they end up going down the pointing route and having a different start to their education. Some horses aren’t ready for “big school” and bar the obvious financial reward in prize money, a Point to Point Maiden/ Bumper win can be as equally satisfying and carry as much kudos as a win around Fontwell on a Monday.
Many of my NH owners and trainers who I break and train for are completely unaware of the quality and professionalism within pointing. I like to take every opportunity to advertise our sport and give them an insight into it, highlighting the number of horses who move between the two and the standards involved.
This is a subject I am very passionate about and will continue to work hard to advertise the quality in p2p and the links between our sport and National Hunt racing.