Harris and Mulholland are thriving as Barbury falters
Milton Harris is rapidly becoming defined by the steady stream of precocious juvenile hurdlers that he produces each season that go on to improve each winter. After all, it was one such that gave him his first Grade I hurdle victory at Aintree last Spring when Knight Salute concluded a stellar season in the Jewson 4 Year Old Anniversary Hurdle.
Knight Salute won five of his six races last season, accumulating over £160,000 in prize money for his owners, and thrills every month. It was only at Cheltenham that his star waned, but he is attractively priced at 50/1 to upset Honeysuckle in next year's Unibet Champion Hurdle.
It's clear from results to date since the summer campaign began that Harris is continuing the same formula. Three and four year old hurdlers dominate, led by Macuna, who added a third victory of the season to date at Stratford on Sunday last, to make it 3 from 4 over hurdles since May. You won't find anything but modest juvenile races during the summer months, but they still have to be won, and Macuna has shrugged off penalties to keep improving and putting a pair of clean heels between her and her opposition.
To date, the Warminster handler has run 30 horses, of which 7 have produced 12 winners between them. Harris is unlikely to be troubling championship leaders Fergal O'Brien (33 winners and £281,000) and David Pipe (20 winners and £245,000), but you can be sure he'll have more firepower to send out as summer turns to autumn.
At the other end of the county, Neil Mulholland continues to cement his place in Jump racing's top 10. His 17 winners so far put him in sixth place with £160,000, just behind Dan Skelton, whilst Alan King, best seen through the prism of the Flat at this time of year, will be seeking to improve on his 16th position and 11 winners when (or if) the ground eases.
Meantime, Pointing has been dealt a blow by the loss of Barbury as a venue for next season. The venue has hosted point-to-points for over a century, latterly including the Tedworth, Vine & Craven and International fixtures. The estate reported, “The decision to cease point-to-point racing at Barbury is a result of the current highly challenging economic environment. The course has been operating at a loss for a number of years, which has been compounded by the cancellation of meetings during the Covid pandemic and a significant reduction in sponsorship revenues. Against this backdrop, surging inflation has also substantially raised the costs of maintaining the course and the required multi-year capital investment programme. These factors have resulted in a continuation of point-to-point racing at Barbury becoming no longer viable in the current climate.
“No firm decision has been taken on the long-term future of the point-to-point course.”
This is not to infer that the individual fixtures may not reappear elsewhere, but the news will only cement in others' minds the huge operational challenges in running a Point-to-Point racecourse, especially one serving up midwinter fixtures. Don't rule out Barbury just yet though; this story has yet to conclude.