It's a wrap! West Country takes pride in its performers
West Country riders and trainers have acquitted themselves well this season, and remain prominent in the final Championship listings, re-inforcing the South-West as a centre of Jump racing excellence. Despite its racecourses not making the top rank, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset & Wiltshire continue to be the powerhouse behind the sport both at professional and amateur level.
Among trainers, 25 year old Chris Barber hails from a long tradition of racehorse ownership and training. His bloodline looks like something from Coolmore in racing terms. Grandson of the late Richard Barber, great nephew of Richard, Paul Nicholls' landlord and owner of star chaser See More Business, cousin of former trainer Jack... His pedigree is impeccable, and his 65 runners between the flags this season have resulted in 23 winners, a strike rate any trainer would be glad to achieve irrespective of rank. For those of you at our fixture at Larkhill back in December, this included a double in the restricted and Conditions races, not that we could see the cumulative 6 1/4l distances of The Big Sting and Envoye Special.
The Big Sting added to the season's tally at the Wilton in March, the Silverton at Dunsmore the following mponth, and at Vauterhill and Eggesford in May, whilst Envote Special didn't hit the back of the net again until the Four Burrow in March, then took in a 2m hunter chase at Cheltenham's evening fixture before seeing out the season on a winning note at Peper Harow in May.
Realistically, the top two spots in the Trainers' Championship sit with well-established performers unlikely to be unseated, but there is scope enough for Barber Jnr to improve again next autumn.
Sam Loxton and Neil McLean vied for the top of the Leading Trainer table for those with 7 horses or less. The outright winner with 11 winners was Hampshire's Jenny Gordon, but Sam Loxton only lost out on placed runners. His 28 runners again demonstrated a formidable strike rate, championed by the 3 wins of former Nicholls chaser Caid due Berlais, winner at Badbury Rings in February, Ston Easton in March and Cothelstone in April.
Third placed Neil McLean doubles up as assistant to Kayleigh Woolacott in north Devon. With 10 wins from 26 runners between the flags, his strike rate is equally impressive. With 6 individual winners, this was an outstanding performance, led by Sixteen Letters' 4 wins from November - May.
More superlatives have been aimed at Will Biddick than he may care to remember, but whilst he had to give way to Warwickshire's James King again in the Men's Riders' Championship, 51 winners remains an impressive second place tally. Don't rule him out of winning another championship before he finally hangs up his boots.
There are youngsters waiting to fill his shoes in Charlie Sprake, Novice Men's Championship winner with 14 winners, Hampshire's Freddy Gordon, and young Freddie Gingell, both with racing pedigrees to envy.
We await the renewal in late October with interest.
Meantime, one of our Wiltshire professional trainers is on fire just presently in case you hadn't noticed. Everything Seamus Mullins trains at the moment turns to gold. He may have just 5 winners on the chalkboard for the season to date, but he is on a hot run of four consecutive winners since June 10, which included a rare double at Market Rasen yesterday with Mahler's Promise in the Summer Plate Trial Chase and Whatcolouristhewind in a Mares Handicap Hurdle. The former may be an interesting candidate for Market Rasen's summer showpiece next month.
Not to be done down, Warminster's Milton Harris kept his end up with a Bumper winner in Ilanz, his 8th of the new term, and doubtless another of Milton's cheaply found foreign purchases.