Cambridgeshire handler Sarah Humphrey got her Jump season tally off the mark when 8 year old Railway Muice notched his first handicap chase since at Market Rasen yesterday. The impeccably-bred son of Yeats was striking for the first time since joining the yard earlier this month from Kilbeggan-based Paul Flynn.
That's one from one among Sarah's chase runners, although her runners over the smaller obstacles haven't been troubling the judge to the same degree.
The lower ranks of the Jumps game includes plenty of handlers like Sarah, whose overall competence to train is not in question, but whose owners don't run to the more spectacular excesses of the public bloodstock auctions. Keenly purchased, or cast-offs from large stables discarding remaindered stock provide the occasional gem that generates winners for these small handlers.
That Sarah achieved 24 winners 10 seasons ago tells you that with application, there are races to be won here following this strategy, but patience is key. Not just in seeking out the rightly-priced horse, but also in sweetening up horses that have often become disenchanted with racing after life in a large impersonal yard.
The Humphrey outfit, spawned from a life in equestrianism, followed by a spell training Point-to-Pointers for husband, Tony, has grown into a dual - purpose yard in Thurlow country, at West Wratting, not far from Six Mile Bottom. And a 22% strike rate between the flags is solid proof those horsemanship skills have been successfully applied.
With Tony long retired, it is son William whose is riding winners. Five Pointing winners in the 2018-19 season have been an excellent launchpad into the flat. Four winners this year, whilst riding for 22 different trainers have offered him good experience, and the Humphrey yard a go-to rider for its sparing forays into the flat.
Meantime, the ease of Railway Muice's victory in the admittedly modest quality Harvest Gold Handicap Chase at Market Rasen suggest that the next National Hunt strike may not be far away. For a yard that eschews the summer months of the sport, this is a timely fillip after the best part of sim months winnerless.
Newmarket trainer Martin Smith doubled his score for the season at Uttoxeter yesterday afternoon when Nick Schofield ran out a 2 1/4l winner of the 3m 2f handicap chase on Friends Don't Ask.
The winner looked to have something in hand over runner-up Montanna, from Peter Bowen's yard in South Wales.
Newmarket has a dearth of Jumps trainers presently. The flagbearer last season was Lucy Wadham, with Pam Sly in hot pursuit. But with Nick Littmoden having upped sticks to Metz in France, Jumps handlers are thin on the ground. Welcome then to Martin, whose two steeplechase winners this summer have come from just 5 runners, a very creditable 40% strike rate over the larger obstacles.
Meanwhile, East Anglia continues to provide more than its own fair share of up and coming horses, riders and trainers from the Point-to-Point scene. Whilst stalwarts like John and Mel Sharp will admit they've been around too long to mention, youngsters like Will Featherstone, established riders and trainers like Bradley and Nigel Penfold all contribute toward a rich interest in the sport.
The trend toward early season fixtures continues. The East Anglian season will begin in the absence of Cottenham with the Waveney Harriers fixture at Higham on Sunday November 21st and the Thurlow on New Year's Eve.
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