Point-to-Point Focus - with guest editor Robert Waley-Cohen

  • Posted: Thursday, 6th June 2019
  • Photo: Carl Evans

A chance to catch up on the latest, which first appeared in the Racing Post on Friday, May 31.

We've had such fun in this sport over the years, but what has kept me involved and led me to so many roles in National Hunt racing, began when taken as a child to point-to-points in the West Country at Holnicote and Bratton Down, writes Robert Waley-Cohen.

Those afternoons planted a continuing passion to be part of it.

Though no great race rider I graduated from point-to-points to ride at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree. I rode in Aintree's Foxhunters Chase three times, the first time in 1977 when the winner was ridden by Nicky Henderson. Nicky claims his greatest achievement was to train Sun Lion to win at Warwick with me on board.

My son Sam started as an amateur rider in his mid-teens with a ride at Mollington in Oxfordshire. He won that day and this year, 20 years later, rode a winner there on our home-bred The Jaffna Queen. Who could guess that Sam's Mollington success all those years ago would lead to him riding Long Run to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and, so far, no fewer than six winners over the Grand National fences plus a further 14 Class 1 races? They include this year's Classic Chase at Warwick, which he won on Impulsive Star. James Bowen, who rode the runner-up, wasn't born when Sam won his first race.

Since giving up riding in 1983 I've had the most enormous fun owning and training horses from our home in Warwickshire, helped, since 2004, by Katie Humphrey. There have been so many great days, but Irilut winning the 2007 Lady Dudley Cup, the greatest point-to-point Classic, will always be a highlight, as is home-bred Roulez Cool's victory in the 2010 Champion Hunters' Chase at Stratford. Sam will be riding Wonderful Charm in that race today in an attempt to win it for the third time.

My favourite day came in 2014, when all four horses we trained at Upton Viva won at the Warwickshire point-to-point. One was 13-year-old Oscar Time, who hadn't run for 14 months, but won two hunter chases in the next 21 days before landing the Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree that December.

The four years that we ran Katarino from Upton Viva aged 10 to 13 after his return from 'retirement' were truly memorable. He was the champion four-year-old hurdler in the 1999-2000 season when trained by Nicky, but injury stopped him racing two years later. After trying eventing he came home to lead our youngsters, but was so well we decided to run him again.

He subsequently ran just six times in four years, but came first in all his three point-to-points and twice won the Aintree Foxhunters Chase. In his final race he was second there again. It was wonderful to win the two Foxhunters, but especially the second time, as he had not run since his first win 12 months earlier. His later years were enjoyed in our fields at home.

Being able to participate continues to give us huge pleasure. I am sure others will be as captivated by point-to pointing as I was, and will go on to make their own contribution as owner, trainer, official or jockey.