The flurry of open days at racing trainers yards in September heralds the imminent acceleration of the Jumps season.
West Country heavyweights like Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard have both hosted owners' days in the past fortnight, drawing attention equally to established stars like Clan des Obeaux, who will target the £1m bonus for winning the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase & Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, and youngsters recently acquired, who may graduate to the top flight over the next few years.
Wiltshire trainers are benefiting from keen interest in the sport. Neil King enjoyed his best season in 2018-19, winning 40 races and over £470,000 in prize money to make the Burderop yard made famous by Collier Bay's Champion Hurdle the most successful small yard in the UK.
Point-to-Point racing graduate King, whose move to the Marlborough Downs has proved a major catalyst to improved performance, successfully teamed up with media and punter favourite Bryony Frost last season to win 16 races together including Milansbar in the Warwick Classic Chase in January. The partnership is cemented for the forthcoming winter, with Neil taking second call on Bryony's services after Paul Nicholls.
Dorset trainer Colin Tizzard is another to have graduated from the Point-to-Point circuit, and is now vying for the very highest rank among British trainers. Although Cue Card has now retired, Gold Cup winner Native River, and emerging talent Lostintranslation, winner of this year's Mildmay Novices' Chase, look set to maintain a strong representation in the top staying chases, whilst the stable also hosts Reserve Tank and Elixir de Nutz, two of last season's highest rated novice hurdlers.
Of encouragement to owners and trainers of Point-to-Point horses is the sheer quality of stock at the top yards in the National Hunt game, with more highly-rated horses than ever before. The result of this influx of young horses into the professional ranks is a ready supply of experienced horses struggling to find a niche where they can win under Rules, which are now stepping back down into the Point-to-Point calendar.
A total of 167 fixtures will formulate the new season over 54 separate racedays. starting at Cottenham and new course Dunsmore in Devon on November 17 and concluding with the traditional getting out stakes at Umberleigh in Devon on June 13.
Larkhill's calendar will start with the Hursley Hambledon on December 1st, and include fixtures on January 5, 18, February 16, March 15, the Avon Vale on March 28 and April 11.