Dreams are made of this – Steve Davies & Garde Ville – June’s Equestrian Art International Hunterchase Highlight Winner
Images courtesy and copyright Marilyn Sweet – Sweet Photography and Tom Milburn
The 2017 – 2018 has been a dream season for our June Hunter Chase Highlight winner Steve Davies. A 45 year-old self-employed builder Steve started the campaign a veteran-novice rider with 4 Point to Point wins on the board. Thanks to a remarkable partnership with trainer Trish Rigby’s stable star Garde Ville he added 4 more wins between the flags and before rounding off the season with dual hunter chase success at Warwick and in the John Corbett at Stratford in June. Steve’s involvement in Pointing stretches back to his teens when he led up and rode on the gallops for John and Robin Williams – but it wasn’t till his mid 30s that he lined up in a race – despite a temporary “retirement” his zeal for the sport remained undiminished – and his sights are now set on next season. We spoke to him to find out more.
“I’d always fancied having a go and when I finally could afford it I did what I wanted to do and bought a horse it went on from there,” he explains.
Over three seasons he was placed several times before deciding to hang up his boots at end of 2010
“It was partly financial, I didn’t have horse and I thought it was time to finish – I was getting old!” he reasons, but it proved to be nothing more than a temporary leave of absence from the weighing room, “It just didn’t feel right when, I was still going to Point to Points watching others come out on horses, and it just didn’t feel the same not being involved. I thought I am missing it that much I need to do it again, and I am glad I did.”
More rides and more placings followed his return, then in 2017 came the game-changing offer of a ride on Trish Rigby’s Garde Ville
“Trish rang me up one Saturday and said “Have you got your licence? Have you got a ride at Bangor in the Maiden tomorrow?” I said “yes” and “no”. She said “I’ve got one for you to ride if you want to”. We had no idea of how good he’d be, Trish told me “I don’t know how fit he is, if he’s tired after a circuit pull him up – we were 20 lengths clear after the first circuit and just kept going he never seemed to fade!”
It was Steve’s 50thride and first winner, and set in train a remarkable alliance, whose combined efforts scored on 3 more occasions during that campaign.
Reunited for this Season, the partnership continued to flourish winning 4 times between the flags before contesting, and convincingly winning, a Hunter Chase at Warwick at the end of May – Steve’s first ride in a hunter chase
“At the end of last season I said to Trish that I didn’t have my Category A licence and that if she wanted to run in hunter chases she’d have no problem finding someone else to ride him. Trish is so genuine and stuck by me, she said that she’d wait for me to get mine.
I got it just about a week before Warwick then I had a bad fall at Eyton and got bad concussion – so a week after my first concussion test I was back for another – I had to go to London it was the only place they could fit me in in time for the Warwick Race.”
Further success followed 9 days later – victory in the prestigious John Corbett Hunter Chase at Stratford.
“We thought we had a good chance of a place at Stratford, and were hopeful of a good run but didn’t expect to win. With one to jump I was 3 lengths behind and I could see the horse in front was wandering around a bit tired, I thought if we get a good jump at the last we’ll beat him on the run in, then he fell – after that I didn’t look behind because I didn’t want to see how close the others were – I just kept pushing him home
It’s still sinking in, I never thought I’d get this far or do as well as I did. I’m not stylish, and I don’t ride horses everyday, I’m a self employed builder working Monday to Friday, hunting twice a week that’s my fitness really. I can’t believe that I’ve ridden in 2 hunter chases and won twice– but it’s definitely the horse not me! He’s a genuine horse that gives 100% – all the time – when you ride a good one you really appreciate it. His jumping is unbelievable he’ll take off outside the wings and he’ll gain 2 or 3 lengths at each one. All I have to do is steer him round to be honest, I’ve been fortunate to be on him.
One of the best things about Point to Pointing is that you don’t have to have a lot of money to have success. Trish and Keith were given the horse and they’ve improved it. You can go to the sales and not spend a fortune, horses often go a bit sour on the big yards and if you can get them interested and enjoying life again they’ll run better for you and that’s what they’ve done with Garde Ville – kept him happy.
I’m so pleased for Trish and Keith, they do it the old fashioned way, and if anyone loves it they love it, the horses mean a lot to them – to have the success they’ve had is wonderful for them.
I really enjoy the sport. I love horses to bits, and the social side is great, everyone is really friendly. We’re all racing against each other and when the tape goes down everyone’s for themselves, but we all look out for each other to and at the end it doesn’t matter who’s won we’re still together. Anywhere you go in the Point to Point world people talk to you because you’re part of it, it’s one big social network that a lot of the rural population are involved with.
I must have had 50 or 60 text messages saying well done the night of the Stratford race – lots of them from people I’d only spoken to 2 or 3 times. That’s what’s so good about the close-knit community people do look at what goes on, understand all the work that goes into it and if you have a bit of success they’re pleased for you.”
Reminded that he’d mooted a second retirement at the end of last season he said
“I’m glad I didn’t now. It was Trish who persuaded me to carry on – and she’s persuaded me to carry on again next season too. We’ll try and go to the hunter chase evening at Cheltenham. The horse would make an amazing schoolmaster for somebody but they’ll have to wait because I am not packing up yet!”