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Thrilling finish as Davies-Thomas closes in on amateur rival King

Betfred Mandarin Chase, Newbury: James King scores a notable success against professionals on Potters Cross (nearside)
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James King faces an anxious week looking over his shoulder after seeing his long lead in the race to be champion male amateur rider over jumps whittled away while sidelined by injury.

King, 21-year-old son of the Racing Post's West Country correspondent Andrew, was seven winners clear when he broke a collarbone at Stratford at the end of April and had to sit and suffer while an unexpected threat emerged in the form of Sam Davies-Thomas.

Having yet to ride a winner since his return, his lead is down to one, and he is all too aware that Davies-Thomas is likely to have better opportunities on the hunter chase card at Stratford on Friday which closes the competition.

King, who is undecided about turning conditional, said on Monday: "I could do with a winner at Southwell tomorrow, where I've three rides for the boss [Neil Mulholland], or at Bangor on Thursday, because it's going to be difficult getting on fancied rides at Stratford.

"It would be great to be amateur champion, but whether I hold on or not it's been a great season. I'm already hands and heels champion, and I've won the Mandarin at Newbury on Potters Cross for Rebecca Curtis and the Fox Hunters' at Aintree on Dineur for Mickey Bowen."

Davies-Thomas qualified as a saddler before joining Dan Skelton as pupil assistant in November. He admits his title bid has come "out of the blue" and said if it fails it will not be the end of the world by a long chalk.

The 25-year-old explained: "I didn't set out with this in mind, but I had a good spell in hunter chases and all of a sudden the ball started rolling.

"I had a good few winners quickly while James was injured and it's just happened. I'm more of a point-to-point lad and have been for years. I'm too heavy to be a conditional."

Dineur and James King jump the Canal Turn on the way to victory in the Foxhunters'

Davies-Thomas has at least two mounts to look forward to at Stratford.

He said: "Master Workman has won his last two at Fakenham, which is a track he loves, but the Champion Hunters' Chase will be a completely different league and he won't be good enough. I'm also on last year's winner Decade Player in the two-miler, and hoping to get a few more.

"If it happens it happens and it would be great, but I've had a great season whatever."

Page Fuller, who works for Jamie Snowden, will be mighty hard to catch in the equivalent competition for female amateurs. She has had 11 winners, three more than closest pursuer Emma Todd.


Male amateurs standings

James King 15
Sam Davies-Thomas 14
Richard Patrick 11
John Dawson 8
Michael Legg 8

Female amateurs standings

Page Fuller 11
Emma Todd 8
Bryony Frost 7
Gina Andrews 6
Amie Waugh 6

 

It would be great to win it, but I'm already hands and heels champion and I've won the Mandarin and Foxhunters
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