After a fortnight of behind closed doors Jump racing in the UK, trainers based in Gloucestershire are outperforming their peers in making up for lost time on the winners' chalkboard. After 7 fixtures, and a splendid 64 races, 11 have returned successfully to the county.
Jump racing during the summer can rarely be described as of the highest quality, but owners' patience in retaining horses in training through lockdown when a date for a restart was so uncertain is very commendable. And whilst the prizes are of modest reward, in part due to the season, and largely due to the contraction in racecourse finances through the cessation and loss of spectator revenue, trainers are proving that races are very winnable at any time of year.
Fergal O'Brien is leading the charge - at least in numbers of winners - with 4 on the board already, but others have also kept pace. Two each for Ben Pauling - not traditionally in the vanguard of summer jumping - and Jonjo O'Neill, reflect an appetite among all those involved in the sport to run their charges whilst they can. Field sizes, as a result, have been well above average, and spectators, were there any, would have been treated to great value.
Graeme McPherson, who travelled to Newton Abbot on July 7, Kim Bailey (former Clerk of the Course at Andoversford) at Bangor on Sunday and Martin Keighley today are three others to get off the mark in the season's first fortnight. Jonjo's runners have both been ridden by Jonjo Junior, a healthy advertisement of his talent for the sport's biggest owner, now seeking another first rider after Barry Geraghty's retirement on Saturday.
The concentration of horses within the county boundary makes this a wonderful place to enjoy steeplechasing. Keep it up the home team; we're all rooting for your success!
Fixture 2021 Cancelled
Look out for 2022 dates later in the summer
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)