Chedworth amateur rider David Maxwell is one of a select breed of wealthy amateur riders who don't aspire to graduate to the professional ranks, but enjoy competing at the top level on their own horses. And boy, does David have some great horses to ride.
What's more, the Corinthian spirit of competition is alive and well between them all. The likes of Maxwell and Sam Waley-Cohen race against each other and the professional riders every week in between professional lives as leading entrepreneurs in London. Maxwell's chocolate and crimson colours have become a regular sight at racecourses all over the UK.
Winner of 40 races between the flags and a further 46 races under Rules, the 41 year old Maxwell is a virtually full-time amateur, combining a business in property with race-riding, mostly against jockeys at least 10 years his junior. Whilst the Rules horses are largely trained by Philip Hobbs, the pointers are mostly handled by Stanton keeper Kim Smyly, no slouch herself when it comes to winners, although David has also ridden for other stables too.
Today's valuable hurdle victory for French-bred Zizaneur at Auteuil marks more innovation for Philip Hobbs, but also a second win for a horse bought from France after a juvenile hurdle win at Dieppe 2 years ago, who has been more than vexing to the Sandhill team. Since switching stables in January 2019, he's run 9 times before today, been runner-up twice yet unseated 4 times, including most recently at Wetherby in the middle of October, when David broke a bone in his neck, forcing a leave of absence from the saddle, and the ceding of the ride to James Reveley, who was on board today.
Reveley, who has made such a success of moving to France to become among their leading riders, took the ride, and I'm sure was influential in advising Hobbs of the applicable races. Nor, however, is this a first for Philip Hobbs. I was at Craon in 2013 when his Balthazar King, a 5l Grand National runner-up to Pineau de Re, unknown to French racegoers, won the €60,000 Grand Steeplechase de Craon, under champion rider Dickie Johnson en route to a successful tilt at the November Glenfarclas Cross Country at Cheltenham.
David's greatest triumph as a rider has arguably been the Grade 3 Prix Morgez at Auteuil in 2018 with Cat Tiger. And as anyone who has visited Auteuil and walked the course will testify, the fences take a bit of jumping. The open ditch on the back straight is out of the same family as the original Becher's Brook.
Then Maxwell stable now numbers around 20 horses across hurdles, chases and Pointing, so it may not come as a total surprise that David has now been Amateur Champion in each of the past 2 seasons, eclipsing the likes of Zac Baker, Alex Edwards and Sam Waley-Cohen. With the assistance of jockey coach David Crosse to finesse his riding style, he is strengthening his seat and his winner tally.
But whatever you may think of his style in the saddle, ignore a Maxwell-ridden horse at your peril. Last season, he achieved an improvement in his strike rate from 27% to 33%. Even the peerless AP McCoy only managed 24%!
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)