The 2017/18 Point-to-Point season tested everyone’s perseverance but despite those challenges it proved a very successful year for West Midlands representatives with Phil Rowley, Alex Edwards and Alice Stevens all winning National recognition for their achievements.
The attendance of owners/trainers/riders/officials/volunteers and enthusiasts ensured our own Awards event at Cheltenham Racecourse on 30th June was a sell out and enable them to celebrate with the individual Award winners.
With Rhys Jenkins as M.C. and Matt Shepperd presenting the prizes the evening proved a major success with multiple auction lots helping to swell the coffers which meant an immediate donation of £500 was made to Ed Bailey, Ed Henderson, Zac Baker and Hugh Nugent who swopped four legs for two wheels by cycling to all 26 Irish racecourses to raise money for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and Mind, the mental health charity. Further donations can be made via: –https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?pageId=930107
The Fisher German Award for the Leading Gentleman Rider went to Alex Edwards who was following up his 2017 success. He looks set to follow in the footsteps of Julian Pritchard and Mark Wall by becoming a multiple winner of this prestigious Award. He was chased home by James King and Tommie O’Brien.
Alex Edwards receives the Fisher German sponsored Leading Male Rider Award from Matt Shepperd
Ally Stirling has ridden in the Area for a number of years but her previous RQC’s have precluded her from qualifying for the Fisher German sponsored Ladies Championship.
That changed this year and she took an early lead and saw off the challenges of Abbi Banks, her sister Josephine and Emma Yardley. Her intention was to retire from race riding at the end of the season so has gone out at the top.
Ally Stirling goes out on a high by taking the Fisher German sponsored Ladies Championship
Carpet Gallop sponsored both Novice Riders prizes this season. The Men’s version went to Max Comley who hit the front following an accumulation of points at the Cotswold Vale Farmers meeting and saw him hold on from Tom Britten and George Daly.
Max also announced his decision to retire from race riding after battling with weight problems. His statement sums up the sport. “It’s been great fun and I’ve made some amazing friends and met some inspirational people along the way”.
Max Comley receives his Carpet Gallop sponsor Award for the Leading Male Novice Rider
The Ladies prize went to Emma Yardley for the second season in succession, but she had to see off strong challenges from Alice Stevens and Lucy Hammond. The highlight of the season for Yardley was Foxcub’s success at Cheltenham.
Emma Yardley picks up her Carpet Gallop prize for the Leading Lady Novice Rider
Phil Rowley was always in a good position to land his first National Trainers Title and the Morville handler did well to hold off Alan Hill’s late surge. Rowley has shown the ability to rejuvenate the careers of ex-chasers as well as providing vital education to youngsters making their racecourse appearances. Rowley won the Cheltenham Racecourse Leading Trainer title back in 2013 but this year faced stiff opposition from Sam Jukes, Diana Ralph and Jason Warner.
Phil Rowley receives the Cheltenham Racecourse Leading Trainer Award, which will sit alongside the National Award he picks up in November
A solitary success in a Croome Maiden in May was sufficient for Graham and David Fishers Dina Maker to take the Leading Mares award at the expense of Cecile de Volanges and Maybe Plenty.
David Fisher receives the Leading Mare Award following the exploits of Dina Maker
Jason Warner’s Brookthorpe Taylor started the season as a Maiden but continued to rack up points throughout the season but in the end just had a point to spare over Well Mett as they vied to become the Area’s Leading Horse, while Battle Dust, Findlays Find and Marcle Ridge were all snapping at their heels.
Jason Warner (centre) on his way on where he collected the Leading Horse Award with Brookthorpe Taylor
For most of the season it looked as though Ballyriver Boy would end up as the Leading Novice Horse, but he had to give way to Clive Bennetts Marcle Ridge who took the title following two victories at Chaddesley Corbett in May.
Christine Banks won the Small Trainer Award for a second year thanks to the exploits of Well Mett and Round Robin, with Jake Slatter a worthy runner up, and she also took the Leading Owner/Trainer/Rider Title with Well Mett.
Christine Banks picked up two awards – the small trainer and leading owner/trainer/rider trophy
Trainer Kim Smyly is responsible for the turn out of the horses at her Stanton yard. This year she gained 6 individual Awards in the area which enabled her to hold the late challenge of Michaela Tallett who has won this title several times in the past.
The Elm School provides prizes for Novice Riders at each area meetings, with the winners then eligible for the Annual Award. As always, there were some worthy contenders for this prize which eventually went to Lucy Hammond, who had to overcome considerable difficulties before gaining her riders licence. She rode her first winner on Shuker at Andoversford in April.
Lucy Hammond picks up the Elm School Novice Riders Award
The Dairy Partnership West Midland Open Race Championship went right down to the wire. Battle Dust led for a majority of the season and looked to have the prize in safe keeping but success for Wes Hardin at the final Chaddesley meeting resulted in the prize being shared between these two worthy recipients.
Top picture – Phil Rowley and Bohemia Houghton share the Dairy Partnerships West Midland Open Race Championship
2nd picture – Belinda Palfrey (2nd right) pictured on her way in where she received the Area Achievement Award on behalf of the Clifton on Teme who succeeded in getting their Point-to-Point up and running within a short period of time
3rd picture – the driving forces behind the West Midlands Area – Nickie Shepperd, Jim Squires and Tania Taylor
4th picture – This is how to celebrate winning!
All pictures courtesy of Graham Fisher and Tania Taylor