2017/18 Point-To-Point Season Review
What an incredible season it has been! With 7 months of racing, 25 different horses running and 4 bouts of snow, it is fair to say it has been a long, demanding season, but our best yet! Not only did Alan reach his 300th training success milestone, he also trained 33 horses to victory this season; smashing previous records. Of course, the season was not without a few levelers and low points, with Joe's back injury putting him out for the remainder of the season, which was a real blow, as well as a constant demand for staff throughout.
However, new achievements were made also. Izzie Marshall rode her first career double on Easter Saturday at Kimble, contributing to a treble for the Woodway yard, and making it 8 consecutive years that Alan has trained at least a double at the meeting! This year we had just the one hunter chase winner, but it was done in style, with Man Of Steel scoring his third consecutive victory at Cartmel and Dale Peters cajoling a classy performance from the gelding. On that note, the Hill team produced 6 doubles and one treble this season, with a memorable occassion being Sedgemoor Express and Broken Eagle, winning by 15 and 10 lengths respectively at the Fakenham point-to-point meeting. After over 3 years without stepping foot on a racecourse, Sedgemoor Express made his come back this season, with a win and two 2nds, one in the Skinner's Ladies Open Championship Final. We were lucky to train some talented horses this season, however not all possessed to most trainable attitude to start with. Hawkhurst joined to the yard in October as a slightly problematic individual, requiring one-on-one handling and quiet training. With patience and understanding the team managed to produce a horse that won 5 of his 7 runs this season, being 2nd the other twice.
Then there are the yard favourites who have all had their moment to shine on here, but we will never take their efforts and results for granted. Consigliere finished his final season by winning three of his four starts, two of which were area feature races, and 2nd in his other run. He retired in style, safely, sound and most importantly happy! He can't wait to take on the team chasing sphere! Stable star Ravethebrave did not disgrace himself in any way this season, with two wins, a 2nd and a 3rd from his four runs. Not bad for a 14 year old! The gelding ran as well as ever and up to his mark. There are already heated family discussions about who gets the joy of taking him autumn hunting! Start Royal recorded his 10th consecutive season of victories with the Hill yard, and scored his 28th career victory! What a servant. He is enjoying his summer holidays before next season!
We have also been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people as well as horses this year! Gareth Henderson enjoyed some competitive outings on his new maiden Desert Retreat before choosing to retire from the saddle due to family and business commitments, but continues as an enthusiastic owner. Noah Brazg made a promising start to his racing career, with 15 rides in his debut season and scoring his first win on his own Ballybough Gorta in front of a home crowd at Higham. Alan donned Noah the "lad of the future", which is impossible to disagree with after he has shown his pure dedication and rich appetite for success in the sport in just his first season; bring on the next! Pytchley Huntsman Dan Cherriman has ridden three horses in training at Woodway this season, with a total of 13 competitive rides and never finished out of the first five. He scored his second career victory on Stage One in the restricted at Peper Harow, which was his first on a horse trained at Woodway. We look forward to an exciting season ahead with the addition of his new horse Kashmir Peak.
As always the constant support from our owners, both old and new, is what allows us to continue training horses and winners. The Sunday Night Partnership enjoyed some great success in its debut season, with four winners and a Cheltenham runner! Jake and Caroline Exelby were incredibly patient waiting for the better ground with Broken Eagle, as we have learnt he will not cooperate if running on anything else! Along with Stewart and Hilda Nash, Michael Avery (The Jap) enjoyed their 11th consecutive calendar year of success with Start Royal, despite this year's victory requiring a little longer wait due to the strong competition in ladies opens. Rodney Mann had some fun with exciting horse Inmyday winning his maiden and looking competitive for next season, as well as Sharp Suit marking his 5th consecutive season with a victory. New owner Keith Loads started his career as an owner at Woodway as he means to go on with 10 winners!
Due to Joe's unfortunate injury causing him to be sidelined from mid-February, we relied on outside jockeys to step in. Alan is fortunate enough to be in the position where he can ask some of the best, meaning the likes of Gina Andrews, Zac Baker, Dale Peters, Jack Andrews, Johnny Bailey and James King, among others, rode our runners to victory, as well as often called upon Izzie Marshall. It is a huge advantage to have these experienced "professional amateurs" in the saddle, as not only do they follow instructions to every detail, they also provide invaluable post-race feedback. It is a great honour to aid these jockeys to success. Izzie Marshall was crowned South East Area Ladies Champion and was awarded the Hacking Perpetual Challenge Cup, as well as finishing joint runner-up in the National Championships on 11 wins; a phenomenal achievement in her first season no longer a novice jockey. Gina Andrews was awarded the title of Skinners National Ladies Champion for the 5th time, with Alan providing 7 of her wins. From 18 rides she had for Woodway this season, 17 finished in the first four, generating a 94% placed strike rate and 39% winning one! Jack, Dale and Zac all finished in the top 10 of the Fuller's Gentleman Riders Championship for the season, which is highly competitive.
Alan finished 2nd in the Foran Equine Trainers Championship, the national title, for the 3rd time, just 5 wins behind top trainer Philip Rowley who trained 38 winners. He was also hailed South Midlands Area Champion Trainer for the 9th time, this season winning by more than 70 points! 77% of runners representing Woodway this season finished in the first 4 and a 28% winning strike rate was established. Another amazing statistic made from this season; on 12 out of 13 consecutive weekends that we had runners, from the months of March to June, we brought home an average of two winners a weekend! The champagne supply in Aston Rowant was in high demand!
This doesn't happen by accident. Not only is the success due to Alan's expertise in fitness, race choice, schooling focused training, jockey partnership and horse selection upon purchase, but also sheer hard work and dedication from the whole team. In what felt like an endless winter with a visit from the beast from the east just as we thought spring was on the way, large amounts of pressure were put on not only Alan to produce fit runners, but also the staff to keep the show on the road and horses having to train in horizontal snow storms. This could not have been done single-handedly with all credit to our fantastic team keeping the show on the road, led by head girl Leanne, who never missed a days work despite acquiring a broken ankle and having to walk around in a large boot! The team was not just exercising the horses but shovelling snow to create paths and allow use of the walkers, defrosting hose pipes and carting dozens of buckets of water from tap to stable, Alan himself spending countless hours harrowing the gallops between lots and life-saving Lawney bringing out the bacon butties to keep us warm and full! In the happy May days with doubles trained and champagne sipped we remember these tough times that make it all worth it. Not one of our horses couldn't make a fixture due to lack of fitness or being unable to get there in the depths of the dark winter; a real credit to our team. Organisers all over the country struggled, with numerous fixtures falling victim to the elements and forcing abandonment. Many were able to reschedule also, with great efforts from the committees. We would like to thank organisers across the country for their hard work on making this possible.
We now look to a new season, commencing in under five months time, and have already began the rebuilding process, with some new horses purchased and in pre-training. After a summer holiday we like to take as many horses as possible out autumn hunting before the season starts, especially the youngsters to gain experience. This also allows the team to enjoy bonding with the horses and commonly provides some entertainment! Well done team Woodway; everyone's input is vital, from the farrier, vets, physio's and feed merchants, to the schooling and exercising jockeys, to the yard girls and lads and lorry drivers, but most importantly the horses. To continue to break records year in, year out and produce some of the finest horses in the country doesn't happen by mistake, it is a huge team effort that Alan is forever grateful for. It is going to be extremely difficult and demands some incredibly hard work to even attempt to recreate the records and achievements made this season, but we're not a team to shy away from high demands...so consider the challenge accepted!
We would also like to remember good friend Richard Woolacott. Unfortunately he lost his battles with mental illness early this year and left us. Not only former Gentleman Rider Champion and a talented trainer, he was a father of three and a dear friend to so many in the racing world. We raise a drink to you Richard.
Zac Baker along with fellow jockeys Ed Henderson and Ed Bailey have embarked on a monumental challenge to cycle the 1442km linking the 26 Irish racecourses in 11 days in aid of The Injured Jockeys Fund and Mind. The money raised will enable the charities to continue to help those suffering in the nature Richard did.
Just quickly I would personally like to congratulate my dad on his amazing achievements this season. I have never met anyone that works harder than him, considering 7 hours topping Kingston Blount racecourse a relaxing Sunday! If he is ever sat still he is looking through the entries or on the phone to owners whilst on a train to London for a point-to-point committee meeting and ordering crop spray! No task is too challenging, with multiple runners at numerous racecourses across the country on a single weekend not out of the ordinary. He ensures each and every horse is not only fit and well but most importantly happy, and constructs individual training plans for any of those showing signs of slightly souring, often then ridden by him personally (with the beloved dogs). We are all kept up to date with these rides thanks to his one of a kind videos which have become a sensation in their own right. Statistics speak for themselves and season aims are continually surpassed, but the pride I take in being Alan Hill's daughter cannot be quantified. This is not due to his success, but in his approach to life. It's easy to be happy for others when everything is going well for you, but he is the first to shake the hand of his victorious rival, always keen to support those up-and-coming in the sport and not one to bring up his own achievements. You will never meet a more apt description of a "grafter" than my dad, and I think it's fair to say you will also struggle to find a better "celebrator" than him! Saying this, none of it would be possible without my mother standing next to him. Not only is she his number 1 supporter, but also has a yard of her own to train amidst the chaos! At times life can get on top of us all (we're only human!) but she is our constant and voice of reason. With the months of September to June a blur of team chasing, hunting and point-to-pointing you'd think Alan may take the opportunity to relax over summer, but there is little chance of that with harvest commencing in July, however Lawney has talked him into a long weekend away at some stage, which he has unwillingly agreed to! Hopefully she'll confiscate the looseleaf!
Finally (I'm amazed you're still reading!) we would like to say thank you to those who have followed Team Hill over the season. It has been great fun and should you want to look into the options of being more involved, whether it be owning a racehorse, joining a syndicate or becoming part of the team please don't hesitate to contact us!
Here's to next season!