Avon Vale Bell tolls for Alex
As meeting after meeting falls prey to this wet winter, Alex Bell is aiming Ni Sin Mo Ainm at Easter Saturday's Avon Vale Races and the Goodman Nash Mixed Open, the feature race on the seven race programme. The 10 year old has launched Alex on to the Point-to-Point scene with 4 wins to date at Open level.
"He's the perfect Novice ride,"says Alex. "I bought him out of Neil Mulholland's yard, and I've now been racing him three seasons. He's won four Opens, including most recently at the Albrighton at Chaddesley Corbett in February. I couldn't have wished for a better introduction to race-riding."
Alex is the latest in a growing line of lady jockeys proving that gender counts for very little when riding steeplechasers. Bryony Frost has carried the torch for the fairer sex this winter, but increasingly, as last week's Festival illustrated, the best lady riders can compete alongside the menfolk without difficulty. On the Pointing circuit, where women riders are more common, a whole national series is dedicated to them. Referring to this, Alex continued, "We're qualified for the Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Final at Stratford on June 8th, but I'd like another tilt at Cheltenham. We ran a great race in the Timico Final last May behind Barel of Laughs, but we're aiming for the GX Land Rovers race that is over 2m 4f which may be less competitive."
Ni Sin Mo Ainm has come into his own since dropping in class to the amateur ranks. Winner of five of his 22 races to date, he has performed out of his skin in Point-to-Point racing, notching up scalps over the likes of Templebradem, Posh Totty and Well Mett, none of them slouches, including an Open at that most competitive of racecourses - Barbury - last February.
But first up is a first visit to Larkhill and to the Avon Vale Races. "This will be my first ride at Larkhill. It's a big galloping track, and has more fences each circuit than any other in the UK. We should run really well there, and a win would ensure I lose my claim this year,"added Alex.
Like so many aspiring riders, Alex couldn't keep away from racing. Brought up in Devon, she initially ride out for Jimmy Frost, but then moved further east to "do a proper job", as she remarks engagingly. After 10 years in the real world, the tug of racing proved too strong once more, and after a spell at Neil Mulholland's near Bath, she took a role as work rider for Oliver Sherwood at Rhonehurst in Upper Lambourn. She now lives in Wiltshire and spends her time between Lambourn and Andy Turnell's old yard near Wroughton, where Ni Sin Mo Ainm is trained.
So what is it about Pointing, and the Avon Vale Races in particular, that lured Alex back from the real world of commerce and industry. "The atmosphere is great, "she says. "It's a very friendly sport; it has a magic to it. When you're riding, it's just you and the horse together, but when you come in after an race, there's something unique and special about the moment. There's just no better feeling"
Amen to that.