Pointer Porlock Bay redeems a Festival week bereft of British success
This week has been a chastening experience for British owners and trainers, with the Irish rampant at the Festival. However, it's a mark of the growing strength of the British Point-to-Point scene that one of the few British wins was in the St James's Place Foxhunter, the most prestigious hunter chase in the UK calendar.
Porlock Bay, trained by the winning-most UK Point-to-Point rider Will Biddick in Somerset, prevailed by a short head over the might of the Irish, holding on by the shortest of margins in the week's closest finish. Previous winner of a Kimble Open in November, and runner up in the Stewart Tory Hunters Chase at Wincanton last month, Porlock Bay took close order with just under a circuit to run, hit the front two out, and held the advantage despite a sustained effort by last year's second Billaway, who filled the runner-up berth again, and Enda Bolger's Staker Wallace third.
Biddick would of course have been riding the winner himself, but for the ban on amateur riders at this year's Festival. If the horse heads to Aintree or concludes his season at Stratford in May, the talented amateur should be back in the plate, once amateurs are permitted to ride on March 29th, to add to his 500+ winners between the flags and under Rules.
Quite rarely for a Pointer, the winner is a French-bred. The precocious nature of French-bred horses has given them great success at the Festival over a sustained period, but not this year. Of the 28 races, just 4 have been French, and the same number of British-breds. This is a sport now dominated at every level by the Irish, whether in breeding the fastest horses, the riders, or even the trainers. After all, of the 4 British winners, it might be stretching a point to call Jonjo O'Neill an Englishman even if he has been in this country since he was 16!