When it comes to Jumps fixtures at Carlisle, the Pennine course is normally considered the private domain of Nicky Richards, whose Greystoke yard is just 15 miles distant. Nicky has enjoyed 19 winners from 74 runners in the past five seasons at the Cumbrian course, bettered only by the same number of winners from over twice the volume from Donald McCain.
So whilst Richards and McCain kept up their averages with a winner apiece today, it must have come as something of a shock to those gentle Cumbrian folk to repulse a Cotswold invasion this afternoon that plundered 3 of the 8 races. Victory for Jonjo O'Neill and Jonjo Jnr in the opening division of the Novices Hurdle will have come as no surprise; after half a lifetime training in Cumbria, Jonjo must have a soft spot for the galloping track with its long climb to the finish.
Yet snapping at his heels are two other Cotswold trainers making their presence felt on the season. Ben Pauling, whose Apple Rock won the handicap hurdle with a little in hand, took his tally to 8 for the season, whilst Charlie Longsdon, further along the Cotswold scarp into West Oxfordshire, scored a cross the card double with Castle Robin in Division 2 of the Novices Hurdle and at Ludlow with Peter's Portrait in the Handicap Chase.
Longsdon, now entering his 15th season training, has now won 14 from 85 this season, putting his strike rate back at the level he enjoyed during his most successful seasons between 2010 and 2014. It's a mark of just how competitive the top end of the sport is nowadays that it's so difficult to maintain your winning percentages.
Neighbour Kim Bailey kept up his impressive recent run of form with a further winner in Ludlow's Handicap Hurdle. That makes 6 winners from his last 14 runners. He must be looking forward to unleashing some merchandise at Cheltenham tomorrow and Saturday.
Meanwhile, Pointing yards in the Three Counties are relishing the prospect of the start of the racing season at Maisemore near Gloucester this Sunday. Local advice has been integrated into national guidelines from a variety of sources to provide strict protocols for racing to take place behind closed doors.
168 entries augurs well for the sport's constituents to have prepared well for a new season without being put off by something as trivial as a worldwide pandemic. Rigorous admission processes - largely alien to Pointing constituents and crowds - are in place to record all those attending. If you were considering attending, please don't. The sport is very much on trial this weekend to prove it can manage its participants successfully before welcoming back crowds safely sometime in the New Year.
Fingers and toes are tightly crossed that spectators will be permitted by the time Cocklebarrow comes around in January. Keep watching this space.