ll eyes may be on the relaunch of Cheltenham's season tomorrow, but as Arthur Stephenson famously remarked when sticking to Hexham in favour of seeing The Thinker win the Gold Cup, "Little fish are sweet".
And so it proved today at Ludlow, when Forest of Dean trainer John O'Shea turned in his third winner of the new term with Just The Man in the Vera Davies Handicap Hurdle at Ludlow.
Just The Man is a Rooney cast-off, a five year old grey gelding who joined the O'Shea stable from Clive Cox in October of last year. Since then, he's tried his hand over obstacles and middle distances on the flat without success, but the penny dropped today to good effect, driven out to win going away, by Adam Wedge.
The O'Shea stable is self-confessedly more focused on the flat nowadays, with 13 winners since the start of the year, but the occasional jumper moves the soul. Just The Man may be no world beater off a rating of 111, but now he's proved he can end a race in front at the right moment, who knows what may incentivize him inside?
Meantime, the Tattersalls National Point-to-Point Awards for last season are handed out tonight, led by Men's Champion James King and Lady's Champion Rider Gina Andrews. Gina was also successful this afternoon at Ludlow for John Groucott in the Amateur Riders Chase. James clinched the title at Bratton Down in June although in reality, it was a done deal half way through the season, with a double that included Jason Warner's Los Alamos.
Leading Trainers are Tom Ellis in the category above 8 horses and Luke Price for the smaller stables. Luke, of course, trains several for Jason Warner, Master of the Cotswold Vale, secretary of their Point-to-Point back at Andoversford in 2022 and leading owner in 2020-21, but also very ill presently. There'll be plenty a glass raised in his honour and to his good health this evening.
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