King claims amateur title at Stratford's feature hunter chase meeting
The race for the champion male amateur jumps rider crown went down to the final evening at Stratford with James King holding off the challenge of Sam Davies-Thomas by one winner.
Both riders drew a blank on their three rides at the feature hunter chase meeting with King totalling 15 victories during the campaign.
King, son of the Racing Post’s West Country correspondent Andrew, enjoyed two high-profile successes this season with victory aboard Dineur in the Foxhunters’ at Aintree and a Mandarin Chase triumph on Potters Cross at Newbury, although the final few weeks in the amateur title race have tested his nerves.
King, 21, said: “It’s been very tense in the last couple of weeks - Sam [Davies-Thomas] has been a great competitor. Thankfully I’ve come out on top but it could easily have gone the other way.
“I’ve had a great season altogether - the whole Bowen family, Neil Mulholland and my agent Dave Roberts have all been brilliant to me. It starts all again tomorrow so there’s no time to be complacent.”
The dilemma over whether to stay as an amateur or take out a conditional licence is one to mull over for King, who is yet to make a decision but sees positives to both sides.
King said: “I’ve gained a good grounding and ridden winners for some very good trainers, such as Neil Mulholland, Rebecca Curtis, Peter Bowen and Gary Moore so there is certainly a temptation to turn conditional but maybe the weight might just catch up with me in a couple of years. At the moment it’s not too bad but it’s always good to think long term.
“I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond and have to start all over again. It would be nice to get a few good, fancied festival rides as an amateur, but I’ve made no decision as of yet. I’ll speak to Neil and my father as they are very wise and we’ll take it from there.”
Although not riding at the meeting, Page Fuller was at the course to collect the female amateur jumps rider trophy, finishing three winners ahead of Emma Todd with 11 victories during the season.
Guy Brewer’s Young Hurricane landed the feature £25,000 Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters’ Chase on the evening under a fantastic ride from John Dawson, defeating Punchestown festival scorer Balnaslow by two lengths.
The Racing Post's West Country correspondent Andrew King reflects on son James' achievement . . .
The big decisions now lie ahead for James as he must now juggle with the pros and cons of leaving his amateur status behind and joining the professional ranks as a conditional.
Whichever route he chooses to try to advance his career, the past two seasons have been rollercoasters, with him first being crowned champion novice point-to-point rider last year and then champion amateur on Friday night.
He was hard pressed by Sam Davies-Thomas over the last six weeks or so, and it has to be said that Sam was very gracious in defeat. Both riders deserve a huge pat on the back following their protracted tussle. The pair perfectly illustrated the sportsmanship and camaraderie which exists in the amateur ranks.