Symonds and Drinkwater score in weather-scarred calendar
Those living in the river valleys of the Wye, Severn and Teme need no reminding how wet this winter has been. And if truth be told, there are plenty of Point-to-Point fixture secrtaries and clerks that have breathed a sigh of relief that lockdown 3 has prevented them from incurring set up costs on their tracks that would likely be ruined by weather conditions, floods, or maximum runner fields and fields trashed by exiting cars.
Consider this your starter for 10; how many of our courses in the West Midlands alone are near a river course? Time was when a stock winter image was of rowers sculling past the winning line at Worcester!
But the business of training racehorses goes on, whatever the weather, and after a fortnight with virtually no racing, it was Warwick that got the show back on the road on Monday, followed by Catterick and Carlisle yesterday. Today was Hereford and Wetherby's turn to shine in the continued heavy ground, and Tom Symonds got back to winning ways since the departure of assistant David Dennis in January, with a length winner in an otherwise unremarkable Mares Handicap Hurdle, from nine year old Royal Claret.
Tom's a Hereford lad through and through, growing up in the Golden Valley Pony Club. After spells with Michael Scudamore, Venetia Williams, then James Fanshawe in Newmarket, he cut his management teeth with Nicky Henderson in Lambourn for five years. His current base is the family farm near Ross-on-Wye, converted to accommodate a horse business alomgside traditional farming.
This is, of course, a key time for many trainers with hopes for the Cheltenham Festival or Aintree's big races 3 weeks after. And Tom is no different, seeing as his stable star, Song For Someone, picked up some big scalps in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December. This is by some distance the most valuable of the recognized Champion Hurdle trials, and perhaps the most competitive too, as Grade II status offers a weight concession to yoinger second season novices trying theier hand against the big boys.
Whilst pundits would have you believe that Honeysuckle is unbeatable in the Champion Hurdle, the old adage that you have to jump round to win has been amply proven in recent years by the likes of Buveur d'Air, and for that matter Goshen in last year's Triumph. So the 20-1 around a local horse is just a little more than a partisan bet for a horse from the parish!
Either way, Tom's 26 winners to date have already given him a personal best both in terms of volume of winners and prize money earned. I think we can expect a great deal more from this part of Herefordshire over the next few years.
Meanwhile, further north, a Worcestershire stable was asserting itself at Wetherby. Sam Drinkwater is well known to Pointing fans as a former rider and trainer. Winner of over 100 races under Rules and between the flags, Sam turned to training after a severe accident in 2016, starting in Point-to-Points and Hunter chases, and graduating to Rules racing last season with horses that could compete at the highest level. This season is already paying dividends, Nightboattoclyro being his 9th winner of the term so far.
It looks like another generation of young trainers is making their way in the sport we all love.