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5th February 2024
Plus 9 windy and dry when driving in.
What a fabulous weekend of racing. The Dublin Festival was excellent and their coverage was spot on, although ITV post race captions did not let you know who owned or trained the winners. Willie Mullins won 9 races and all 8 grade ones!! As much as I admire and like Willie it cannot be good for Irish racing to have such dominance..
Sandown on Saturday was ruined by the death of Hermes Allen in the Grade one Scilly Isles Novice Chase.. A brilliant win for the outsider of the field Nickle Back, but so sad that such a good horse was fatally injured… Never have I been so relieved that I made the decision not to run Trelawne.. That ground would have been far too fast for him.. extraordinary how the ground can change so quickly in a week?
I was alerted to a very unhappy Sam Davies Thomas on his Pointing Podcast re my comments about amateur jockeys.. Sam was incensed that I felt that we don’t have any good amateur riders in this country..Yes of course we do, but not that many..
The great debate about how to get going as a rider in this country is one that comes to the fore today for me, as I will be spending much of my morning on a Zoom call in front of a Disciplinary Panel defending my decision to give Kai Lenihan a ride at Hereford on Gerard Mentor when he should have been on a conditional jockeys course in Newmarket..
It is incredibly hard to get these youngsters going and however hard it is for conditionals it is even harder if you wish to be an amateur.
Conditional jockeys once given a license are able to ride against professionals almost immediately, while Amateur jockeys have a Category A to start with, but then have to have had 20 completed rides in point to points or amateur races to qualify for a Category B.. Now that is hard unless you have a parent who is a trainer, or a parent who has loads of money and can afford to put their young rider on your own horses to gain experience.
Well known jockeys names who have come through the system that spring to mind are Sean and James Bowen, Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Bellamy Harry Bannister Conor Brace, Harry Cobden, Nico de Boinville, Alex Edwards, Bryony Frost, Jonjo O’Neill Jr, Charlie Deustch, Stan Sheppard, Max Kendrick, Brendan Powell, Luca Morgan.. Just to name a few..Even David Bass spent 3 years riding as an amateur to try and get going..All have come through the point to point field..BUT with the current state of pointing where are the ones coming through to fill those gaps when the current jockeys retire..
Sadly point to pointing is struggling with far less horses running in their races (nearly 50% in the last 5 years) and many point to point courses folding (our local one at Andoversford is just one).. They are expensive to put on and many don’t make any money, and frankly now it is almost as expensive to have a pointer in training as one with a professional trainer.. ..
Point to Pointing is in dire need of help or it will die a slow death, but this current amateur system of fulfilling your rides to be able to ride against pros needs overhauling as it is becoming harder every season.
I have a pointer in training for my young staff to learn on..
Lauren Keen-Hawkins has ridden a couple of winners for me (Inca Rose) and Phil Andrews (Dandy Dan) in points, but Lauren still needs another 3 rides before she is qualified to attend a Course in Newmarket to qualify for her Category B to ride against professionals.
I am helping Milly Jeory this year as she deserves a chance to shine (Inca Rose)..But neither girl would have any sort of chance unless I or the likes of Phil Andrews were prepared to help them..
Pointing had a dreadful disaster yesterday when Keagan Kirkby, who worked for Paul Nicholls died in race riding accident at Charing point to point..All our thoughs to his family and friends.
To finish. Happy birthday to my brother in law Michael and today would have been Jim Wilson's