Contrasting fortunes for Wiltshire's finest
It's been an interesting month so far for Wiltshire's Jump trainers, and one of stark contrasts.
In the north of the county, Emma Lavelle has been enjoying a purple patch with yesterday's Fontwell winner Hardy Fella securing the yard its 26th winner of the term in the eclectic figure-of-eight configuration unique to the West Sussex venue.
A fruitful autumn has seen 15 winners chalked up with one every third day in October, a best-ever month since November 2013. But as this weekend's results at Cheltenham have shown, the competition at the top table is immense. Not only are the stables of Nicholls and Henderson moving into top gear, but there is a small matter of the Irish, who scored five times from the 19 races available. Room for middle-ranking stables is very limited without star performers.
Across the Marlborough downland two miles, Alan King also saw success over the weekend, but not from stable star Edwardstone, a well-beaten runner-up to Jonbon in the Schloer Chase. A double at Wetherby the previous day with handicap chaser Grandeur d'Ame and newcomer Favour And Fortune, now unbeaten in two runs over hurdles, brought smiles to the face of the Barbury maestro, and a tally very similar to his neighbour down the valley.
More success too in the south of the county, for Seamus Mullins. Handicapper Tommie Beau is gathering a cupboard full of "National" trophies. Not the big one at Aintree mind, but regional long distance chases. Yesterday he added Fontwell's Southern National to last month's Durham equivalent for owners Simon and Christine Prout. Miss Fedora made up a double for the likeable Wilsford handler in a mares' handicap hurdle later in the card, both ridden by Micheal Nolan. It's been a good weekend for the Mullins team. Loudspeaker hailed the wellbeing of the string in a novices' handicap chase at Doncaster the previous day bringing up the 13th winner of the season to date.
Twenty miles west, life is not so cheerful. Two runners for Milton Harris were withdrawn from Ludlow's November 9th fixture over an issue of qualification. BHA has since withdrawn his licence until a review process in January. Whilst doubts prevail over the future of the stable, owners have been quick to move their horses elsewhere. There seems little doubt that Harris can train; his 33 winners to date are testament to that, but doubts persist that "paperwork" is not always up to date. At any rate, the governing body has taken a view, and the stable has been forced to take a pause.