Friday 8th June saw the "Celebrating 60 Years of the Horse and Hound Cup" meeting at Stratford-upon-Avon racecourse. The annual hunter chase evening is a highlight of the point-to-point calendar, with hotly contested championship finals on the card and a chance for the best in our sport to win serious prize money before the end of the season. We made our way to the local track with two contenders, both in with a chance.
First to run was small but mighty Changeofluck in the feature race of the evening, the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Novices' Hunters' Chase for the John Corbet cup. The £20,000 race is a novice championship final for horses that have not won a hunter chase or race under rules before the start of this season. Alan was hopeful that the longer trip of three and a half miles would be beneficial to the gelding, despite the slightly over-watered ground not being in his favour. The trainer also took the cheek-pieces off the horse as it was felt these perhaps distracted and hindered him on his previous outing at Fontwell. Zac Baker was back on board, and he dropped the horse in nicely, despite the gelding not showing the most encouraging signs of travelling well over the first two miles. Zac cajoled him and kept him on the better ground to keep him interested; Changeofluck then started putting in a more promising run approaching the final mile, making an eye-catching advance up the field. Our horse came to the final fence sat in 4th when the leader fell in front of him, leaving him nowhere to go. Luckily he is a clever and nimble horse who spectacularly jumped over the fallen horse on landing! Both horse and jockey were fine thankfully. Changeofluck ran on to finish a brilliant 3rd after a hardy performance. His owners Heather and Geoff Munn and Diana Clark, along with Alan, were delighted!
The final runner of the evening from Woodway was Sedgemoor Express in the Skinner's Ladies Open Championship Final. This was the third running of the race and the hottest yet, with a majority of the best Ladies' Open horses contending in the £10,000 race. Izzie Marshall was on board and jumped off in a prominent position, suiting the forward-going little horse. He jumped brilliantly and travelled very well holding the lead before being headed going to the final fence. Sedgemoor Express battled on but was beaten for the win, finishing 2nd by 13 lengths. The pocket rocket ran a fantastic race and this was a great result; connections were over the moon!
"This was the most competitive race I've ridden Sedgemoor Express in, but having schooled very well on Friday morning in the cheek-pieces I was excited for it to get underway! He took a keen hold and made the running all the way until the last fence. He galloped his rivals into the ground and didn't make a single jumping error. It was a shame to be overtaken heading to the last fence, however Roger (Sedgemoor Express) ran such a great race that I couldn't stop smiling afterwards!" Izzie Marshall
Although no winners Alan was very happy to come away from the evening with two high placings, some prize money and happy horses. Both Changeofluck and Sedgemoor Express ran well above their market expectations, priced at 25/1 and 16/1 respectively, which is a great achievement. It's great that point-to-point trainers are granted the opportunity to perform on the big stage at these hunter chase evenings, emphasizing the continuing expansion of our sport to a wider audience and attracting potential owners. We look forward to more racecourses holding meetings such as these in future!