Britain's champion male novice rider Ben Sutton is in Doncaster this week, undertaking a Category B test for amateur riders.
If passing the test the 21-year-old will be a step closer to riding in the St James's Place Festival Hunters' Chase and Randox Fox Hunters' Chase, and he will be able to compete against professional jockeys in races under Rules. It will be a big step up from last season, when he took the Highflyer Bloodstock novice riders' title on the final day of the season with a treble which carried him past leader Conor Houlihan.
Nine of Sutton's 11 wins during the season were gained in races restricted to novice riders, including three on Sir Mangan, who is owned by Sutton's father Nick and trained by Alan Hill in Oxfordshire. Add in two further victories in open and conditions races, and 13-year-old Sir Mangan's haul of five wins was enough to take the Connolly's RED MILLS National Champion Horse award.
Sutton (pictured above at the season's final meeting with his father) says: "Sir Mangan feels like a three-year-old and he shows no sign of wanting to retire. He owes us nothing, but he still loves it, and since coming back in from his summer holidays he just loves his work. We'll start him off in point-to-points and then look around for a hunters' chase."
Sir Mangan (Ben Sutton) on his way to victory at Kingston Blount
Eight-year-old Diplomate Sivola won three for the Sutton/Hill team last season, and Ben says: "He's a stayer who wants soft ground. We'll start him off in points, but will try to qualify him for Cheltenham, although that's a long way off."
Chameron was bought towards the end of the season, and won on his first start under Sutton when the pair lined up at Garthorpe. "We've kept him with Sam Loxton [in Somerset]," says Sutton, adding: " I'm looking forward to going down there to ride him out soon. He loves Larkhill and might go back there for another Coronation Cup. He's a good jumper, but he lost his confidence at Cheltenham last season and was backing off his fences a bit. Hopefully he's over that now."
The 120-rated handicap chaser Majestic Touch, who is coming back from time off with a tendon injury, has also joined Hill for Sutton to ride in points, while eight-year-old Renwick is in training with Philip Hobbs and could be a handy spin for the rider if that Category B test is gained.
Sutton worked full time at Hill's yard last season, but next week he moves to London aiming to gain business experience while continuing to ride out. He says: "I'm not going to be a professional jockey and need to build my CV up, but I plan to continue riding in races while I can.
"Once you have gained experience of riding in races it feels easier lining up against other novices with less experience, but I won't have that advantage this time. It will be tougher next season riding against the big boys."