In recognition of the tricky environment facing amateur riders hoping to ride in the Aintree Foxhunter, this year named after former Aintree Chairman Rose Paterson, the racecourse has amended the qualification criteria to allow amateurs the maximum chance to get qualified.
This alteration will restrict eligibility to Category B Amateurs who have ridden in at least one steeple chase or hurdle race under the Rules of Racing and/or the Rules of Irish NH Committee between 1 November 2020 and 5 April 2021 inclusive. Of course, at present, amateur riders are not permitted to ride, and are having to sit out three of the most coveted races of the season at Cheltenham next week.
In addition to the scheduled hunter chases before closing on April 5, a further 5 amateur races will be scheduled from March 29 at Wincanton (Mar 29), Uttoxeter (Apr 1), Carlisle (Apr 3), Market Rasen (Apr 4) and Chepstow (Apr 5).
Meantime, fixture secretaries diligently planning for the return of Pointing on March 29 are discovering just how tortuous the process can be. Despite authorisation from BHA, fixtures remain at the whim of local authorities nervous to allow sport to start again. In the West Midlands, the Berkeley’s fixture at Woodford on Saturday April 25 has estimated the obstacles are too great to risk, and withdrawn, to be replaced by a fixture at Larkhill.
And there’s plenty of competition from professional trainers for the limited number of hunter chases scheduled even now. This week, the Maiden at Catterick was won by John O’Shea, but the open race at Leicester yesterday fell to Venetia Williams’ Tango de Juilley, owned by her stable staff. We can expect to see them mob-handed I suspect at Cheltenham’s Hunters’ Evening, when owners will be permitted once again for the two-miler. This was Venetia’s fifth consecutive winner from her last 5 runners. Next week’s Cheltenham Foxhunter is sadly dominated by horses trained by professionals.