After Oxfordshire trainer Alan Hill (pictured above) reached 400 point-to-point winners with Learntalot’s success at Dunsmore, he received a text from a man who played a key role.
This article first appeared in the Racing Post on Friday 10th November.
James Tudor, a former men’s champion and cousin of Jump jockey Jack, rode Hill’s first runner – Noble Deed, who fell at Cottenham in January 2006 – and winner, To The Top, who scored at Tweseldown a few weeks later. Hill has been to the top and carried out many noble deeds for the sport since, while retaining a modest view of his achievements.
When Tudor followed up his congratulations with ‘what’s your aim now?’, Hill replied, ‘To reach 401’.
He says: “Joe Turner [who trained in East Anglia] sent out more than 1,000 winners, which is one heck of a total, but I’ve been happy working at a strike rate of around 30 per cent. I would love to reach 500, which might be possible in three or four years.
“I was spoilt as a rider to win the Cheltenham and Aintree Foxhunters and it would be great to train the winner of one of those races, but it’s very competitive and I don’t think I’ve got a superstar hiding in my stable at the moment.”
Hill gained added pleasure in bringing up the fourth century with a horse carrying his own red colours with a yellow cap, and even better that his future daughter-in-law, Izzie Marshall, was holding the reins. Marshall is one of numerous people Hill and his wife Lawney have helped on their racing journey, memorably Olympic gold medal cyclist Victoria Pendleton, but also a Classic-winning trainer. Read Roger Varian’s biography on his website for confirmation that from the age of 13 “weekends and holidays were spent riding out for Alan and Lawney Hill”.
Hill has a slightly different take, saying: “Roger and Rowan Cope [former amateur rider] would be given 12 horses to muck out and in return they got to sit on an old pointer.” It clearly did not break Varian’s spirit.
In the curious order of things, one of Varian’s best horses could have a say in the Hill family’s list of winners. Varian’s St Leger winner Kingston Hill is sire of Kingston Blount, a four-year-old ‘project’ for Hill’s son Joe, who made his debut at Badbury Rings on Sunday.
Dice rolls for Jim
The season's curtain raiser at Dunsmore also saw victory for another of point-to-pointing’s good guys.
Jim Squires is chairman of the sport’s West Mercian area, covering a swathe of the country from Cheshire to Gloucestershire and entailing a mountain of work behind the scenes, in addition to being groundsman, fence builder or both at a number of courses on his patch. No Dice’s win in the restricted race, a victory designed by trainer Nicky Sheppard, was no more than he and his wife Judith deserved.
Jim Squires with wife Judith Healey and former champion jockey Alex Edwards
Well done Wales
Well done to the ROA-sponsored Welsh Horseracing Awards, a Flat and Jump gala which recognised point-to-pointing at its ceremony earlier this month.
Ellie Williams, whose dad Evan progressed through riding and training pointers to become a Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, and Osian Radford gained leading rider awards, while Luke Price took the top owner title. Bradley Gibbs gained a special achievement award for training and riding Premier Magic to land the Festival Hunters’ Chase at Cheltenham in March.
No less important was recognition that the sport has given a leg up to countless licenced trainers and professional jockeys, and an introduction to owners who now have horses running under Rules.