The last two seasons have been decimated by Covid with only a handful of meetings taking place in the 12-month period between March 2020 and March 2021.
It seemed the sport faced insurmountable obstacles, but by the end of March this year things began returning to normal (albeit behind closed doors).
The Maisemore Park fixture in October 2020 took place during the height of the epidemic but set the tone for the future as it had to comply with the most stringent Covid regulations, and demonstrated the sports ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations.
Live Streaming has both its supporters and detractors but it has allowed people to participate (remotely) and donations have provided an income stream to offset set up costs.
Demand for this service is likely to diminish when things return to “normal”, because Point-to-Point Racing is a sport enjoyed by thousands each weekend, who appreciate its unique atmosphere.
Each season sees a battle between previous champions and usurpers, both equine and human, and this year’s results certainly indicate a change in the pecking order.
The restrictions placed on amateur jockeys during lockdown accelerated Alex Edwards (our leading rider for the last three seasons) decision to turn professional. His strike rate at the start of the campaign was such that he was well on his way to claiming a fourth successive award.
James King’s had not ridden a winner prior to lockdown but when racing recommenced in late March the tide turned and he surged past Edwards and is on the verge of claiming his first area title.
With just 5 weeks of the season remaining and Will Biddick side-lined with a broken ankle King has opened up a substantial lead in the race for the National Championship.
The standard of riding in the West Midlands benefits from the presence of Zac Baker and Tommie O’Brien and along with King, this trio are likely to dominate the Leading Jockey Award for years to come.
Hannah Lewis is a familiar figure around the West Midland and Welsh Border Area’s and she has finally got the rewards her talents deserve by taking her first West Ladies Championship, which has been achieved with help from Clive Bennett, Sam Jukes and Lucy Smith.
Her partner at their expanding Equestrian Services business based at Holdfast Stables near Upton-upon-Severn, Victoria Sollitt is currently vying for second position along with Alice Stevens.
Sollitt is favourite to land the Novice Riders Title after the early season exploits of Roc D’Aspis who ran two decent races at Chaddesley.
The Leading Male Novice Rider Award will be decided at Chaddesley on 31st May. Three riders Murray Dodd, George Daly and Tom Britten are tied at the top but they must be hoping that no one comes along to pip them at the post.
Mel Rowley replaces her husband as the Area’s Leading Trainer. Her name was on the Licence at the start of the season when the Morville yard ran up an impressive sequence of winners. She has subsequently acquired a licence to train under Rule’s so Phil assumed responsibility for the Pointers later in the season.
The runners up spot is likely to go to Jake Slatter who trains just two horses at Toddington but he went one better in the Small Trainer category which he took at the expense of Mary Vesty and Emma Alvis.
Judicious placing has allowed Slatter to claim several awards and his support for local meetings has been rewarded.
Rose Iland started the season as a Maiden and looks likely to finish the season as a Maiden, but three seconds and a third means that Jim Collett’s 7-year-old mare finished on 18 points to claim The Leading Mare, Leading Horse and Leading Novice Horse for his connections.
In the Leading Mare category, Rose Iland finished ahead of the Cheltenham Bumper winner The Player Queen and David Redvers promising If I Say, with Clive Bennetts Miss Seagreen and Shometheway finishing third.
Mathematically it is still possible for Wishing and Hoping to sneak past Collett’s mare in the Leading Horse Award, while Rose Iland has an insurmountable lead in the Novice Horse Awards.
As has become fashionable Novice Horses do not stay around the Point-to-Point scene for long so four runs in this grade allowed Rose Iland to secure the prize ahead of Latitude, The Player Queen, The Wrekin and Racing Snake.
Michaela Tallett always figures prominently in the race to be the Areas Leading Groom but she currently trails Laura Marsh by one.
The Three Counties Equine Hospital Novice Riders Award is selected from jockeys identified at each of the Areas meetings. Unfortunately, due to Covid, the sponsors have less riders to choose from but these include James Ward, George Daly, Beau Morgan, Toby Steel and Lauren Poole.
The Leading Owner/Trainer/Rider (Family) Award has gone to Christine Banks for the last two seasons, but she will have to relinquish that title this year. This contest is currently being contested by Sioned Whittle on Silent Man and Tom Britten and State of Origin, while Gold Mountain (Greasby), According to Harry (Dando) and Lieutenant Colonel (Leech) are also in the melting pot.
The Dairy Partnership West Midland Open Race Championship has achieved its aim and attracted some useful horses despite reduced opportunities. The table is currently headed by this year’s Dudley Cup winner Premier Magic who holds a narrow lead over Wishing and Hoping, with Roc D’Aspis close behind in third. There are a whole host of horses on 7 points who just have to win one of the two remaining races and share the £1000 prize.