Mulholland doubles up as weather takes its toll on Christmas racing programme wherever you are
For the second year running, the mid winter Christmas fixture programme is getting the worst of a battle with the elements, with fixtures falling foul of wet and cold weather, including the notable Cheltenham New Year's Day meeting, always a calendar date for some 40,000 spectators.
However, Wiltshire's trainers have been adding to their totals in the meetings that have survived, including notably Neil Mulholland, who enjoyed a cross-card double at Taunton and Market Rasen today. Neither victory will set their trainer's pulse racing with thoughts of rapid improvement or Festival aspirations, but as any horseman will tell you, it's as difficult to place a horse to win rated 80 as 170. "Little fish are sweet," as the late Arthur Stephenson said of his Hexham winner as he eschewed a visit to Cheltenham to see The Thinker win his Gold Cup back in 1987.
Chinwag started the day well for the Conkwell Grange team, winning the unmemorable Thatchers Cider Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle comfortably at Taunton in the hands of Millie Wonnacott. Just over 2 hours later, Golden Emblem was equally disdainful of his rivals under Sam Twiston-Davies at Market Rasen in a Novices Handicap Hurdle. This was Chinwag's second win in four days, as he picked up a race as easily on Wincanton's Boxing Day card.
In fact, It brings the year to a more than satisfactory end for Mulholland, one of several trainers to support the recent Avon Vale Races at Larkhill in mid December. The yard has picked off four winners since Christmas, the other being at Doncaster yesterday, bringing the seasonal tally to 39.
It also draws to prominence another female rider making her mark in the jockeys' rankings. Millie Wonnacott (pictured) has worked for the Mulholland team since 2016, and this was her twelfth victory under Rules. The glass ceiling is disintegrating quite readily it would appear, with more and more young lady riders graduating to the top flight, as witnessed by Bryony Frost's King George victory on Boxing Day. Whilst few have acquired as much prominence as Bryony, the ranks of conditional riders include plenty of contemporaries to Millie, like Lilly Pinchin and Page Fuller.
In the north of the county, Highworth-based Sean Curran added to his National Hunt score when promising juvenile Talking About You kept on gamely to win the Listed Byerley Stud Mares Novices Hurdle at Taunton, allowing the dream of a tilt at the Festival Mares race to become a little closer.
The Pointing calendar's early steps have taken another stuttering step. With the abandonment of the Harkaway, washed away by the pre-Christmas torrent, the new Tier announcements have prohibited Larkhill's January 3rd meeting from accepting any owners or spectators, albeit that the meeting will continue. Further fixtures are sparse in January, which looks as well, given that our friend the virus seems to have us well in his sights presently. Barbury on February 7th is looking a realistic target for Pointing fans in Wessex to reconvene.