Small is beautiful for Sylvia

Sylvia Edmunds has a very good mare called Briery Star which has won four point to points.'Sylvia Edmunds and her partner John Busby have two horses.
Sylvia Edmunds has a very good mare called Briery Star which has won four point to points.'Sylvia Edmunds and her partner John Busby have two horses.

Meticulous care and planning is sowing seeds of success for a small Northamptonshire handler.

While the country’s point-to-point circuit will not be flooded with runners from Sylvia Edmunds’ College Farm stables at Weston near Moreton Pinkney, the adage of ‘small is beautiful’ seems an appropriate and snugly held fit.

Briery Star, a winner of four of her seven starts between the flags for Edmunds, and the former Milton Harris-trained hurdler Rare Malt comprise the entire equine team of a barely recognised training outpost in the south of the county.

Yet Edmunds and her partner of 16 years, John Busby, would not have it any other way. The ‘hands on’ approach allows them to operate at their own pace.

“We like paddling our own canoe,” said Edmunds who when asked the question ‘how long have you been training?’ can answer without thinking ‘forever and a day’.

However, there is a clock ticking in the background. It is one thing being down with the horses at 6am but Edmunds adds: “A couple of years ago I would go out and school them over a dozen fences without thinking but I won’t do that now. I am not so brave. We are lucky to have a girl named Katie Kirkpatrick who comes in every morning which allows us to work the pair together and that helps enormously.

“In the extremes of going we sometimes take the horses up the road to use Paul Cowley’s all weather or school them at Chris Loggin’s. They have both been very helpful.

“We wouldn’t want more than two to look after and if they were just running round to finish fifth or sixth I wouldn’t see the point. Last year we ran a mare called Present Of Flame – I always prefer mares – and we ended up selling her on to Phillip York. He was chasing the jockeys’ title and managed to win a couple on her at the end of the season on the better ground.

“My best horses have been Teeton Glaive who won nine, ridden by Stuart Morris. Joan Tice at Teeton bred her, although surprisingly it was us who added the ‘Teeton’ part. The Glaive came from the fact she was sired by Broadsword. We also had a good mare from Bridget Swire named Polly Flinders and Banbury Cake.”

In the days when giving a leg up to a girl jockey was hardly a done deal, Leicestershire girl Edmunds had her first ride at around 17 but a winner was harder to come by, eventually arriving at Dingley on a horse called Moidoires Son some three years or so later.

She said: “This was a horse I had which had been owned by the late Captain Brian Parry who was a bit like the Paul Barber of his day. In those days I even got to ride Grittar around his yard at Morcott.”

Luckily, the feedback from Briery Star has been a little more responsive since her days owned by Stuart Campbell and trained by Robert Walford.

It is hoped the same recipe of care and attention will work with more recent acquisition Rare Malt, placed three times on the flat when trained by Amy Weaver, before switching to Harris.

Briery Star, who is described by Edmunds as ‘a sharp but straightforward enough type’ with a tendency to sweat up before races, began with a second at Whitfield last February but followed up with two victories at the same course, also winning at Dingley.

This in addition to running second at Larkhill, and a fourth at Guilsborough’s Pytchley fixture.

This season has begun as promisingly with a third victory at Whitfield, so now the plan is to run at Ampton in Suffolk in nine days time while Rare Malt will make her debut at Larkhill the following weekend.

Sam Davies-Thomas, who works at Caroline Bailey’s county yard, took over the riding duties for this season’s victory with last year’s successful pilot, Jamie Goss, taking time out travelling abroad.