Flooring Porter

Flooring Porter Trained by Gavin Cromwell in Navan, Co. Meath, Flooring Porter is a 7-year-old gelding, by leading National Hunt sire Yeats, who has the distinction of being the first horse since Big Buck’s, in 2012, to win back-to-back renewals of the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Foaled on May 12, 2015, Flooring Porter made his racecourse debut as a 4-year-old, already gelded, in a maiden hurdle at Cork in July, 2019. He opened his account with a comfortable 7-length win in a similar contest at Bellewstown in August, 2019, and also won on his handicap debut, when stepped up to 3 miles for the first time, back at Cork two starts later.

Having officially improved by 17lb, Flooring Porter made further progress when winning, albeit narrowly, at Gowran Park on his first start of the 2020/21 season. By December, 2020, he had officially improved by another 14lb, but still wasn’t finished. An easy 12-length defeat of The Bosses Oscar at Navan necessitated a further 14lb rise in the weights, but Flooring Porter proved that performance was no fluke by winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on his Grade 1 debut. So on to the Cheltenham Festival, where he made all the running to win, unchallenged, by 3¼ lengths.

Fast forward to 2021/22 and Flooring Porter made an inauspicious start to the season when falling at the second-last flight, when apparently going best, in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan in November. He was subsequently beaten 2 lengths by Klassical Dream in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and, consequently, started second favourite behind that rival in the Stayers’ Hurdle on his next start. Nevertheless, Flooring Porter jumped well, as he had the previous year, and once again made all the running to win by 2¾ lengths. Klassical Dream was soon beaten and faded to finish fifth, beaten 5 lengths.

Jamie Snowden

Jamie Snowden Nowadays, Jamie Snowden is an established trainer with over 200 winners to his name and, at the time of writing, is already enjoying his most successful season ever, numerically, with 43 winners from 171 runners, at a strike rate of 25%. A graduate from the point-to-point sphere, Snowden was, in his earlier days, a highly accomplished amateur rider. In fact, as ‘Mr. J. Snowden’ and ‘Capt. J. Snowden’, during a brief career in the King’s Royal Hussars, he won the Grand Military Gold Cup and Royal Artillery Gold Cup, both at Sandown, four times apiece between 2002 and 2008.

Nevertheless, having served his apprenticeship as pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls and assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson, Snowden took out a public training licence in his own right at a rented yard in Ebbesbourne Wake, in rural Wiltshire, in 2008. In his first three seasons, he saddled just 15 winners in total, but his move to Folly House in Lambourn in 2011 paid immediate dividends. His very first runner from his new yard, Knighton Combe, was a convincing winner of the Listed English Summer National at Uttoxeter on June 26, 2011.

Snowden still has just a solitary Cheltenham Festival winner, Present View in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase in 2014, to his name, but Listed wins for Pacify and The bannerkingrebel in the latter part of 2019, not to mention a wide-margin victory for Hogan’s Height in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree, provide plenty of cause for optimism. Novice hurdler Kiltealy Briggs has already won two of his four starts over obstacles and finished a creditable third in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, so could be another to keep an eye on. Either way, Jamie Snowden looks likely to continue his progress through the training ranks for a good while yet.

Corbiere

Corbiere We all have ‘favourites’. Whether it’s a favourite song, or colour or dare I say it even a person. Of course in the sport of kings that translates to a favourite jockey, trainer, owner, you get the idea. What elevates one above another is a question with a thousand possible answers. In racing it may well be a jockey that has managed to grind out a win for you that places them on a pedestal, or a trainer that’s generous with the level of detail in his pre and post race assessments, hopefully to your financial benefit down the line.

It’s a little harder, for me anyway, to hone in on what makes a horse one that I cheer on or remember fondly above all others. Grit? Determination? An underdog story? A legend of the sport, such as Red Rum? I do know though that I don’t tend to go for the obvious, much in the same way that some people suddenly support whoever’s top of the Premier League, whereas others would never dream of it. One stand out horse for me though, would have to be Grand National winner Corbiere.

Although not quite on a par with the legendary Red Rum, Corbiere was nevertheless one of the best Grand National horses of his generation. Named after a Jersey lighthouse, Corbiere will always be remembered as the horse that resulted in Jenny Pitman the first woman to saddle a Grand National winner. That’s heartening to know as we’re pondering 2020 Grand National tips to follows. What is, perhaps, less well remembered is that ‘Corky’, as he was affectionately known to his connections, did so under 11st 4lb, as an eight-year-old in his first season over fences, and making his first appearance at Aintree.

Of course, Corbiere had also won the Welsh National at Chepstow and finished second in the Ritz Club National Hunt Handicap Chase en route to Aintree in 1983. That doesn’t in any way take away from the achievement of winning the National though. The chestnut gelding went on to run creditably on three of his four subsequent appearances in the Grand National. In 1984, he finished third behind Hallo Dandy, in 1985 he finished third, again, behind Last Suspect and, following an uncharacteristic fall at the fourth fence – considered one of the hardest fences to jump, along with Becher’s Brook – in 1986, he finished twelfth behind Maori Venture in 1987. A collection of efforts over the years that stand out from the crowd – and against top class opposition too.

However, it was certainly his performance under 23-year-old jockey Ben De Haan in 1983 that was to carve his name, indelibly, into Aintree folklore. A little one-paced, but a brilliant, enthusiastic jumper blessed with an abundance of stamina, Corbiere relished the prevailing soft going and was one of just four horses in contention turning for home. At the final fence, he held a three-length lead over Greasepaint, but then came with a strong late run inside the last hundred yards or so and, as they crossed the line, Corbiere had just three-quarters of a length to spare. Another Irish challenger, Yer Man, finished third, but fully 20 lengths behind the front pair.

In fact, many understandably hold a fondness for Corbiere. He even has his own postage stamp (putting him in fine company)  in Jersey, due to the aforementioned Lighthouse connection!

Point-to-point Racing

Point-to-point Racing Point-to-point racing, or ‘pointing’, is an amateur version of steeplechasing. Point-to-point races, historically known as hunt races, originated in the second half of the nineteenth century, as a means of keeping hunting horses fit outside of the main fox hunting season, which traditionally runs between November 1 and May 1. Much the same as steeplechasing, the name was derived from the fact that hunters raced, quite literally, from ‘point-to-point’ over open countryside and negotiated any natural obstacles they encountered along the way.

In response to the increased professionalism of steeplechasing in the latter part of the nineteenth century, point-to-point races were staged for for proper, certified hunters, ridden exclusively by amateur jockeys. Over time, such races came to be run on temporary oval circuits, laid out on working farmland, rather than between two points cross country. Nowadays, 110 point-to-point courses approved, but not licensed, by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) exist throughout the country.

The BHA oversees point-to-point racing, but delegates governance of the sport to the to the Point-to-Point Authority, whose directors include representatives of the Point-to-Point Owners & Riders Association, the Point-to-Point Secretaries Association and the Masters of Foxhounds Association.

At a local level, point-to-point fixtures are organised by a hunt, an approved club, society or association or the Armed Forces, subject to application and the payment of a fee to the Point-to-Point Authority.

 

Most point-to-point races are staged over distances of 2 miles 4 furlongs or 3 miles. However, ‘open’ and ‘conditions’ races, which are open to any horse, subject to restrictions and conditions, may be staged over longer distances, at the discretion of the course inspector. ‘Maiden’ races are restricted to horses that have yet to win a point-to-point steeplechase or any race under the Rules, while ‘Hunt Members’ races are restricted to horses owned by members of, or subscribers to, the hunt staging the fixture, or affiliated hunts.

Bryony Frost

Bryony Frost In recent months, Bryony Frost has made headlines as the plaintiff in a case brought by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) against fellow jockey Robert ‘Robbie’ Dunne after allegations of ‘bullying and harassment’. In December, 2021, an independent disciplinary panel at the BHA found Dunne guilty on four counts of conduct ‘prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing’ and banned him for 18 months, three of which were suspended.

However, in happier times, Frost, 26, has made a habit of breaking records since riding her first winner under Rules, Current Event, trained by Rose Loxton, in the Northern Area Point-To-Point Association Scottish Foxhunter Chase at Musselburgh in February 2015. Two years later, she won the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on Pacha Du Polder, trained by Paul Nicholls.

Frost became conditional jockey to Nicholls in the summer of 2017 and went on form a successful association with novice chaser Black Corton, on whom she would win six races that year, culminating in her first Grade 1 victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. In 2018/19, she rode 50 winners, more than enough to ride out her claim and win the conditional jockeys’ title. In March, 2019, she rode Frodon to victory in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, making her the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 race at the March showpiece.

Lo and behold, on Boxing Day, 2020, Frost was at it again, winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on the same horse to become the first female jockey to win that race, too. Coincidentally, she also brought up 175 career winners, making her the most successful female National Hunt jockey in British history.Whether she continues to flourish in the wake of the latest unseemly episode only time will tell but, for her sake, and the sake of horse racing in general, let’s hope so.