Five winners for trainers based within Gloucestershire at today's two National Hunt fixtures have underlined the wellbeing of the yards surronding Andoversford with just a week before Cheltenham's opening fixture on October 23rd.
Carlisle is England's most northerly racecourse, but the long journey north was no impediment to the relentless winner machine that is Fergal O'Brien's Ravenswell yard. Novice Hurdle winner Stonar's Choice, and Bumper debutante Peking Rose provided winners for Conditional rider Max Kendrick and Paddy Brennan respectively. Max is a graduate from Pointing. His 139 rides between the flags from 2011-17 generated 22 winners. Half way through October, Fergal's strike rate is already on a par with the opening months; with a 32% strike rate, he's on course to better September's tally of 14 by some distance.
On the same cared, Martin Keighley's Sarasota Star was ridden out to an 8l maiden victory on his tenth outing in the Handicap Hurdle under Dickie Johnson.
Meanwhile, nearer to home, Wincanton is scaling up for a very different Badger Beer Chase day in the first week of November. Today's 7 race card saw winners for Tom George and Graeme McPherson, on a day when shortfalls of less than 3 lengths could have added a further 3 winners for Kim Bailey and Graeme.
Lilly Pinchin, whose parents run Gotherington Cross Land Rovers, sponsors of Intermediate races across the West Midlands Area, is really coming into her own as a Conditional rider, clocking up her fourth wonner of the term from just 22 rides, whilst Charlie Deutsch, who cut his teeth around the West & South Midlands Pointing venues before turning professional, got off the mark for the season for Somerset based Aleaxandra Dunn. Expect to see Charlie more regualrly when Venetia Williams breaks out of a trot as the ground softens.
The Point-to-Point season gets underway at Maisemore on Sunday week, and these are fraught times for fixture secretaries all over the UK as Pointing follows BHA guidance to run behind closed doors without spectators. An original fixture list in excess of 160 fixtures has already incurred well established casualties like Cottenham and the Tedworth on the same day in April as Andoversford. This is a worrying time for the sport, yet for all the doom and gloom, registered hunter certificates are holding up well. There's time enough for a second and third wave of virus to come and go and still allow for Andoversford to herald the spring with a celebration of all that is good about our sport.
Meantime, we ask you to keep the faith.
Sunday April 11 First race 2.15pm Subject to Covid restrictions
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)