REIGNING champions Will Biddick and Gina Andrews will spearhead Great Britain’s bid to maintain their unbeaten record in the Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Challenge at Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire on Friday, May 26.
Biddick, who is on course for a sixth consecutive title with 33 winners this term, leads the men’s team as Britain seek to make it five straight wins in the jockeys’ competition.
He is joined in the line-up by John Dawson, who has 23 winners this season, and Alex Edwards (22), with fourth-placed Evan David (21) getting the wildcard selection.
Andrews tops the ladies’ team, having taken a giant stride towards a fourth title with a fantastic five-timer at Mollington, near Banbury, on Monday, to move on to 22 winners for the season.
She is accompanied by Bryony Frost (11) and Claire Hardwick (10), with Tabitha Worsley (9), who stands in fourth, chosen as the wildcard.
Clare Hazell, chief executive of the Point-to-Point Authority, said: “Britain field an exceptionally strong group of riders, but they will need to be at their best to retain their title against a highly-talented Irish squad, which includes Cheltenham and Punchestown Festival winners.
“This year’s re-match is a great showpiece for the sport and should not be missed as the teams lock horns once more for this prestigious title.”
PPA board member Alan Hill, who is also on the organising committee, added: “I think the men’s and ladies are two really good teams with riders spread from all over Great Britain and that will create interest across the country.
“It is great that the Irish are sending such a strong team too.”
Biddick, who is one of only five men to have ridden 300 point-to-point winners in this country, holds the record for the number of wins in a season with 68 in the 2014-15 campaign.
The Somerset-based rider has also ridden 52 winners under National Hunt rules, including 33-1 shot Something Wells in the Freddie Williams Festival Plate at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival.
Yorkshire-based Dawson, from Great Ayton, has been shining on the northern circuit, while Edwards, who lives at Cressage in Shropshire, and David, from Barry in south Wales, have also been racking up the winners.
Andrews, who has ridden 168 winners in points plus 50 under rules, and Frost both posted their first Cheltenham Festival winners in March.
A thrilling finish saw Andrews, who is based at Marton, near Rugby, triumph on 40-1 outsider Domesday Book in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase.
And Frost, from Buckfastleigh in Devon, swooped late on 16-1 chance Pacha Du Polder to take the St James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase.
Claire Hardwick, who lives at Adelstrop in Gloucestershire, was national ladies’ runner-up last season, while Tabitha Worsley, from Copthorne in Sussex, is enjoying her best season to date.
Britain will face a strong Irish side with the men taking on two of the sport’s biggest names in Derek O’Connor and Jamie Codd plus Barry O’Neill and Noel McParlan.
Shauna Larkin, Lisa O’Neill, Liz Lalor and Maxine O’Sullivan make up the ladies’ team.
BICESTER OFFICE PARK ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE RACE PROGRAMME
Friday, May 26, 2017
4.00 Betfair Men’s Open
4.35 Goffs UK Anglo-Irish Club Members Conditions Race for Gentlemen Riders
5.10 Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Ladies Open
5.45 Tattersalls Ireland Anglo-Irish Four, Five & Six-Year-Olds Maiden Race for Gentlemen Riders
6.20 Connolly’s Red Mills Anglo-Irish Intermediate Race for Lady Riders
7.05 The Kingston Blount Racing Club Members Conditions Race for Novice Riders
ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE BACKGROUND
This will be the fifth year the challenge has taken place with Great Britain having won on the previous four occasions.
Britain took the inaugural contest in 2013 at Tattersalls in County Meath, before successfully defending their crown at Fairyhouse the following year.
A hat-trick of wins was completed when the jockeys’ challenge came to these shores for the first time in 2015 at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire.
And Britain made it a four-timer at Inch, near Tallow, in County Cork, last year.
The riders will compete in four races – two for men and two for women – twice the number of previous years.
As well as the four races in the Anglo-Irish Challenge there will be two supporting contests, with a 4pm start.
There will also be a party after racing with live music, a cash bar and food outlets.
With Kingston Blount also hosting the traditional Berks & Bucks And Staff College & RMAS Draghounds meeting on Sunday, May 28, it promises to be a busy weekend for the popular Oxfordshire track.
HOW THE ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE WORKS
The two teams consist of eight riders each – four men and four ladies. There are four races – two for men and two for ladies. The riders and horses will be drawn before each race. The points scoring system is: 1st 12pts, 2nd 8, 3rd 5, 4th 3. The team which accumulates the most points wins the challenge.
KINGSTON BLOUNT POINT-TO-POINT RACECOURSE
Kingston Blount Racecourse was founded in 1971 and now stages four point-to-point meetings each season – with that figure increased to five this term with the Anglo-Irish Challenge. It is an undulating course, with a steep climb after the 5th and the 13th fences in three-mile races and a downhill run before the 6th and 14th fences. It is very well cared for with watering available and the ground is rarely firm, even at later meetings. Car parking is good, with a downhill exit if wet. There is good viewing from the slope above the finish.
The course is located at Kingston Grove, Kingston Blount OX39 4SG, approximately eight miles NW of High Wycombe and well signposted off the B4009 towards Chinnor, leaving the M40 at J6. For safety reasons, it’s advised not to leave the M40 at J5 as the descent down Kingston Hill is both narrow and steep. For the same reason, it’s also advised against parking on Kingston Hill.
Admission to all meetings this season at Kingston Blount is £10 per person – under-18s go free. Entry to the reserved car park is £40 per car, subject to availability. Pedestrian entry is also £10. There is no longer any parking in the area over the road adjacent to the horsebox park.
For further information, please contact Kingston Blount Anglo-Irish Challenge media liaison officer Russell Smith 07866 953987 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org