Dymock-based Lucy Smith keeps hitting the bar with her Irish nine year old Pointer/hunter chaser, and so it was again today at Stratford, as Gottagottagetaway had no answer to another Gloucestershire novice in Fergal O'Brien's I'm Wiser Now in the point-to-point.co.uk Novices Hunters' Chase.
There were more folk in the paddock to see this race than almost all the other races put together, illustrating the pent-up appetite for Point-to-Point racing to return at the end of the month. And in truth, it was a pretty eventful race, even before flagfall.
13/8 favourite Golden Tabouggan, trained by Julie Wadland, sweated up in the preliminairies and was taken to post early by Alex Edwards. Even so, he did a very successful job of winding up the rest of the field, even to the extent of kicking smart maiden pointer Maitre Express, owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, which was withdrawn with a sore shoulder. The starter was glad to have them away.
Golden Tabouggan made the early running with Tom Barton, and Lightonthemountain, Gottagottagetaway was well placed in mid division by Paul O'Brien, but took closer order as runners began to fall away from 4 out. Three out he'd gone second, but was outpaced as they rounded the turn toward the final fence, where I'm Wiser Now took the inner berth to overtake long time leader Golden Tabouggan and go on to win by 5 1/2l. Gottagottagetaway was 1/2l back in third.
The nine year old seems destined always to fill the minor berths. In four runs this season, he's never finished out of the frame, but there's always one too good in front. One can't help but feel that when Point-to-Point racing returns on March 29, an opportunity will arise if the fields start thinning out. At the moment, no-one quite knows how many horses will remain to fill the 50 or so fixtures scheduled to mid June.
Lucy however, is no stranger to the sport, having understudied Sam Jukes for some time. With Jukes now tilting at the professional game, Lucy has taken on the pointers at the Dymock yard that has sent out so many Clive Bennett winners in recent years. And you can't improve on the yard's 100% record in Point-to-Points this season - 1 from 1 at the Avon Vale last December, before lockdown 3 forced a switch to Hunter chases.
Adrian Wintle is the archetypal farmer's son who enjoyed a successful career in Point-to-Points and became a trainer to diversify the farm. The family farm, based in the loop of the Severn near Westbury-on-Severn mixes arable with 150 sheep and 50 or so racehorses running under both codes.
Born into a horsey family, it was virtually an inevitability he would pursue a career among thoroughbreds. His uncle David was a shrewd trainer who over 20 years trained close on 200 winners, and a master in laying a horse out for a long-priced success. Brother-in-law Chris Broad also trained, but latterly is better known as agent to some of the top jockeys on the circuit.
Adrian began his amateur career in Point-to-Points in the early 90's, riding locally. And it was at Maisemore in the mid-nineties where he rode a double that a fresh opportunity arose. Terry Biddlecombe was Judge that day, and espied a new talent on the block. The result was an offer to join Henrietta Knight as stable amateur which provided a wealth of new opportunity, additional rides and connections.
Some 200 or so winners later, having eschewed the opportunity to turn conditional as he was too heavy, Adrian retired from riding after breaking his back in a fall at Maisemore. Yet for all that, the local track next to the Severn remains his favourite.
Training was a logical next step after rehab, first with a permit, latterly with a full public licence since 2011. But whilst his heart might be in Jumping, the maths of training require a focus on the Flat.
Put simply, " It's easier to find a cheap Flat horse," remarks Adrian. Last year, their 86 runners in largely unremarkable races around the less fashionable flat tracks of the UK resulted in 13 winners, a highly respectable 16% strike rate. Over 50% of last year's Flat runners reached the frame.
But finding winners, whatever the level, is never easy. Inexpensive cast-offs from the big yards make for great fairy tale stories, but they don't happen often enough generally to pay the bills. There have been successes though; a £3k purchase - far less than you'd pay for a Pointer nowadays - has now won over £50,000 in prize money over 3 years, whilst a meat money horse is now a five time winner.
There is a viable business to be made with lowly rated horses from 55-80, given the lower overheads of training on the family property. "Dad's now in his eighties, so I am taking a closer interest in the farm business," adds Adrian. "But racing is our passion". He's in good company with partner Louise, minding the family full-time, comprising Pippa (9) and Leo (3). Both are already on the horsey treadmill, with ponies around the farm.
Are there highlights, I ask? Of course, one wouldn't expect any less. On the riding front, riding round Aintree three times was a big thrill, even if only finishing the once; there was a treble at Bredwardine in May 2008 comprising Sparklinspirit in the Men's Open, Ole Maestro in the Open Maiden, and St Reverien in the Confined, the latter for Andy Hobbs, source of nearly half his winners between the flags; and of course, winning the John Corbett Cup at Stratford on Philtre for Helen Needham were all big moments.
But the greatest satisfaction has come since retirement. A first ever winner took a season or two to materialise, but when it came, courtesy of Silver Coaster in a novices handicap chase in August 2012, ridden by great friend Dickie Johnson, it was the start of a growing stream of winners under both codes.
Flat handicapper Kenstone is another favourite. Winner of 6 of his 55 races, including a sparkling 2017, when he ran 12 times, winning at Chelmsford twice, Thirsk and Chester, improving his mark from 52 to 87 en route.
Today's winner at Chepstow, a belated first Jumps winner this term, is another example. Baratineur, a French-bred 10 year old was notching a third career win from 33 runs.
Wintle is a well-recognized name in racing circles around Gloucestershire, and for that matter beyond. And it looks like in Adrian, the Wintle reputation is set to continue through another generation.
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