Britain’s national champion riders, trainers and owners were at The Belfry Hotel on Saturday night to celebrate their triumphs from the 2016/17 season.
At an event compèred by Luke Harvey thoughts were also of the new season, which starts on Sunday with a meeting at Bishops Court, near Ottery St May in Devon.
Fuller’s six-times men’s champion, Will Biddick, revealed he has lost none of his drive for titles, although he admitted it would be harder following Jack Barber’s switch to racing under Rules. “To be honest, it’s given me a kick up the backside,” said Biddick, who is aiming to ride for a number of yards, “and hoping I can keep everyone happy”.
James Bowen, Lucy Mager and Izzie Marshall were all honoured for their novice titles, while Jack Barber and Dean Summersby received Foran Equine-sponsored trainers’ titles. Summersby’s wife, Emma, had bravely opted to join her husband despite the sad loss of her mother, Linda – an important cog in their Devon yard’s operation – at the age of just 62 earlier in the week.
Looking ahead Summersby hopes to kick-start the season at Wadebridge on December 10, when he aims to run his young-horse open champion Chosen Lucky, possibly in the novice riders’ race under Ben Carver. The trainer also has high hopes for a couple of newcomers to the yard – Noble Promise and Clondaw Bunny.
Tim Underwood picked up a cheque for £500 from the Jockey Club as part of his prize for owning (and training) the maiden mares’ championship winner Cheltenham Mati. Underwood, who is based near Newbury, was also the leading owner, and he arrived in a Subaru Forester, his prize for one year following Cheltenham Mati’s Subaru Championship win. He said: “My goal last year was 20 winners, and we reached 18, so not at all bad. My goal this time is 25. “Cheltenham Mati is bigger and stronger than last year – and she’s tough. We’ll probably start at the second Barbury Castle meeting.”
Sam Davies-Thomas and Paul Nicholls gained leading hunter chase rider and trainer awards respectively, Alex Edwards and Bryony Frost gained mementoes for taking second in the senior title races, and trainer Tommy Morgan joined Lough Inch’s owner, Liz Harris, on stage to celebrate the horse’s eight wins and Connolly’s RED MILLS champion pointer title.
Harris was first and last on the dance floor, too!