Pointing wraps up as dual purpose trainers prove their mettle at Ascot
The eyes of the racing world have largely been on Royal Ascot this week, but even as £6m was showered on the blue bloods of thoroughbred aristocracy in Berkshire, the summer jumps campaign has been continuing, and the last of the season's Point-to-Point fixtures saw the season out in fine style at Kingston Blount.
Two jumps trainers who have won themselves as strong a reputation on the Flat sent teams to Ascot this week. Ian Williams, son of West Country jumps trainer Bob Williams, carried off the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday with Reshoun, and a third in today's Queen Alexandra Stakes, the longest race in the UK's Flat calendar, with The Grand Vizir, whilst Alan King's attempt to repeat last year's magical treble in those same two races was thwarted, despite both Who Dares Wins and Coeur de Lion running super races. In the Queen Alexandra, a hurdler standout performance was that of four year old Green Book, a Chester handicap winner trained by Venetia Williams. Yes, you heard that right. In rare Ascot soft ground with which her horses are generally at their best, the Ben Curtis-ridden gelding was prominent throughout and finished an 8 1/4l fifth to Stratum, trained by Willie Mullins.
Meanwhile, during the week, our Wiltshire representatives have been largely quiet. But in a week with just 5 Jumps fixtures the length and breadth of Britain, Neil Mulholland got back to winning ways with his first winner for a fortnight when maiden hurdler No Fixed Charge proved his Irish Pointing form to break his duck at the third time of asking at Market Rasen on Friday.
The long and interrupted Pointing season also broke up for the summer at a terminus normally held at Umberleigh in Devon. This time around it was the Alan Hill - managed Kingston Blount that wrapped up the season, and the eponymous PPA board member had good reason to pat himself on the back for his industrious watering programme after saddling a treble with Sir Mangan (Men's Open), Festival Dawn (Maiden) and Normofthenorth (Conditions), two ridden by Ben Sutton, securing his first Novice rider championship.
The other championships were more predictable, not least in a season whose chief beneficiaries have been the professional livery and pre-training yards that define the sport's leaders. Leading trainer Tom Ellis wrapped up a third consecutive championship with a 30th winner at the fixture, whilst James King (33) and Gina Andrews (30) filled the leading gentleman and lady rider positions.
One great success of the last 12 months of Covid disruption has been a greatly improved fixture list, both under Rules and in Pointing, and it is to be hoped that this forward momentum to balance the volume of fixtures and their geographical spread will be continued.