Jump racing enthusiasts have delighted this season in the emergence of Bryony Frost as a top flight rider. She’s yet another example of the steady stream of young jockeys, many of them girls, now making the grade from the grass roots of the sport in the Point-to-Point field. Here in the Cotswolds, we have our very own example in Lily Pinchin, 19, who works for Fergal O’Brien’s flourishing Naunton stable, dividing her time between racing under Rules and in Point-to-Points.
“We always had ponies as kids, and Dad grew up in Andoversford, so racing was always on my radar,” she explains over a coffee in the Hollow Bottom at Guiting Power, scion of racing pubs. “My parents have been enormously supportive, starting with pony races. My first ever ride was a 12 length winner at Cheltenham’s Pony Club day. If I won that far now, Fergal would have my guts for garters!” Magical Toffee was that pony’s name, and it sparked an ambition that is burning even brighter 10 years on. “Dear old Toffee,” Lily adds,” the following day he won a one day event, then we went to Wincanton and won again. It all looked too easy!”
Point-to-Point racing, and Andoversford in particular, holds a very special place for Lily. “The community of folk who race their horses at Point-to-Points are immensely supportive. Ray Owen for example, offered me rides all over England to get me going. I owe so many folk so much for helping me create a career out of a hobby.” And Lily is headed for Andoversford Races again this Spring for the course’s premier fixture on Sunday April 8th, featuring the Robert Hitchins Group Andoversford Grand Annual Chase. It’s the second richest programme in the sport’s UK calendar, worth nearly £5,000.
“I’ve had terrific success at Andoversford,” remarks Lily. “I don’t think I’ve been out of the frame there. Last year, I rode two winners and a second from three rides. There’s a really good atmosphere, it’s a lovely day out, the course is fair and I really enjoy riding there. This year, I have I’m Still Waiting lined up for the Maiden.” There’s quality racing too; recent Newbury Grade I winner Poetic Rhythm won her Maiden there in 2016 before graduating to racing proper.
Hardly surprising with that endorsement from the county’s leading young female rider, that the Andoversford fixture continues to grow in stature year on year, as new enterprises are added to the racing. Adam Henson opens the Happerly Food Heaven food hall there this spring, and local firm RE Resource Group sponsors a donkey derby in aid of the Cotswold Riding for the Disabled. With a hound parade, pony racing, loads of shops and a bar serving local ales, it sounds almost more like a country fair than a race meeting. “But that’s the appeal of Pointing!” explains our budding rider before skipping home to her parents, where she still lives. “The sport is fun, but the social side of meeting all my friends at the races also eggs me on to reach my goal of becoming a conditional jockey. And loads of folks turn up for a great family day out.”
With 12 winners under Rules and in Points already, including in last year’s Hunters Evening at Cheltenham, it looks like Lily’s set fair on her course. “You couldn’t keep me away,” she says.
It looks like Lily’s an Andoversford fan.
STOP PRESS: Racing abandoned due to Virus concerns
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)