The traditional curtain fall of the season, at Umberleigh in early June since time immemorial, is set to change to Stratford's Hunters' evening at the end of May from 2023, a sensible collaboration that should bolster the sport's most prestigious set of hunter chases and the last of the three Foxhunter chases.
The Midlands once again proved itself top of the pops, producing the leading gentleman rider in James King, leading lady rider in Gina Andrews, and leading overall trainer in Tom Ellis.
James King, picking up a second consecutive title with an all-time record 62 winners, also rode a further 4 Hunter chase winners. Although he and Will Biddick were head to head at the peak of the season, a better supply of quick ground horses enabled James to assert last month, and the winning margin of 11 was comfortable in the end.
Gina Andrews, peerless among current leading lady riders, passed her own personal milestone in riding a 300th winner Pointing earlier in the season, but shows little sign of letting others in on the act. Her 48 winners is double that of her nearest pursuer, Izzie Marshall. Immy Robinson, daughter of Caroline, who carved her own slice of history winning the Christies' Foxhunter at Cheltenham on Eliogarty back in 1983, has also developed as a rider, notching 15 winners this term.
Among trainers, Fran Poste, Phil Rowley, James Ridley and James Owen have all been among the winners, without managing to land a blow on the sport's leader Tom Ellis. The Ellis winner machine topped out at 62 wins from 30 individual winners, headed up by Latenightpass' victory in the Aintree Foxhunter.
Fran and Charlie Poste, who have joined that select band of trainers developing young Pointers to progress into racing under Rules, continue to finesse their business model at Station Yard Racing, near Ettington, Warwickshire. A biggest ever 115 runners departed the starting gate this season, resulting in 25 winners. This 21% strike rate is on a par with the likes of Paul Nicholls under Rules, and certainly gives the select band of punters between the flagsd some surety in putting their money down.
Phil Rowley has been tracking a similar path with youngsters, and his 19 runners from 75 delivered a better strike rate of 25%, memorable among which was a treble at the Wheatland's Chaddesely fixture in May with Forest Chimes, Champagne Lilly and Galassian. Ben Bromley and Immy Robinson have picked up a majority of the rides.
James Ridley's 13 winners and James Owen's 11 put them firmly in the top rank too.
Among the smaller operators, Nick Pearce's 9 winners do him great credit, not least as he has to fit this around assisting Dan Skelton, which is no small task. Even more remarkable then that he can find time to manage the introduction of the new course at Shelfield Park, which was well received this March.
The sport has much to do over the summer in growing its ownership base, which dropped away during the Covid pandemic when owners couldn't run their horses at all, then were limited in their ability to invite friends which makes up sucha large part of the amateur division's attraction. There is sure to be more consolidation in the fixture list, which is also showing a demonstrable shift back toward the winter months, despite the obvious attractions of running Spring events.
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)