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Kayley Woolacott targets race for former rider James McNeile

Kayley Woollacott is targeting the James McNeile Trophy for Veteran & Novice Riders at the Avon Vale Races meeting on Easter Saturday with Minella Half Century. It’s a tale of two tragedies that could yet have a bitter-sweet chapter still to come.

James McNeile, enthusiastic amateur rider from Bromham in Wiltshire, who took up race-riding in his fifties, had enjoyed success with horses trained by Richard and Kayley Woollacott, and purchased Minella Half Century in Spring 2016, only for colic to necessitate bypassing the whole of last season. James died during a racing fall at the corresponding meeting at Larkhill on April 1st 2017 before he’d been able to ride the horse in a race.

Tragedy meantime struck the Woollacott family when former Champion Point-to-Point rider turned trainer Richard Woollacott took his own life in January of this year, leaving a wife and children and a burgeoning training enterprise behind.

Peter McNeile, younger brother of James, explained, “James had several Pointers on the go, and most have either been sold or retired. The Woollacotts were tremendously supportive of James’s endeavours and embraced him as a member of the team. It would be a wonderful thing for us both to win the race in his memory on behalf of both our families.”

Minella Half Century returned to the racecourse at Buckfastleigh in mid-February, running well before lack of race fitness and the heavy ground put paid to any chance. A subsequent run in the Grand Military at Sandown should mean he is primed for his most important moment.

“He’s schooling well and shows plenty of zest for the game yet,” reported Kayley. “His form figures aren’t really a fair representation of his efforts to date. However, he should put in a good account for himself and the stable. Both James and Richard would have enjoyed plotting this together.”

Members of the James McNeile Fan Club, who have all subscribed £100 to underwrite the race for many years to come, will be in attendance to cheer on what would be the most popular winner of the day. “It’s great that so many folk have clubbed together to remember James, and it’s with added poignancy that we’ll remember Richard too this time around. It’s an unwelcome reminder that life is precious, but both would also have said that life is for living too,” continued Peter.

It looks like only one result will do.

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