The brother and sister pair of Dave and Charly Prichard have both enjoyed an eventful past 12 months on the Continent, some way from their roots in south Wales, as they each try to make a career for themselves in the ultra-competitive world of National Hunt jockeyship.
Last year Dave became the first British winner of the Gentlemen’s League, a pan-European amateur jump jockeys’ competition founded in 2017, while his sister has recently become one of the most sought-after female conditional jockeys in France, riding three winners in a row during the new year period at the prestigious Pau meeting.
The siblings are the children of Ian and Tracey Prichard, from Pontypridd, near Cardiff, and owe their love of the sport to their parents, who have long trained point-to-pointers.
Dave, who at 28 is four years the older of the pair, took part in seven of the eight legs of the Gentlemen’s League, which kicked off in Cork in March and concluded in mid-November at Compiegne in France. Despite sitting out that finale, he still took the title by a comfortable margin ahead of the Swede, Elliot Ohgren.
Currently living in South Moulton in Devon and riding out for Nigel Hawke while he endeavours to get his new equine sales platform, Equivend, off the ground, he was once a conditional jockey for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, notching a dozen or so victories before things went quiet.
He then took the pragmatic decision to revert to amateur status prior to reaching the age threshold of 26, when such a move becomes prohibited.
“At that point I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to keep riding,” he admits. “But I’m loving it again now and in particular looking forward to riding my dad’s new horse, Young O’Leary, who I rode into second place on his British debut at Barbury Castle last month.
“Everyone was very sympathetic afterwards and it was a real thrill to take part”
“I had never ridden abroad before last year’s Gentlemen’s League, so I was really grateful to be selected to represent Britain. I suppose my highlight would have to be winning the Czech leg at Pardubice in October, the day before the course hosted the famous Velka Pardubicka.”
Not such a happy memory came at Le Lion d’Angers in May when, riding in a cross-country race that took place in front of a packed crowd 70 minutes before the track’s annual highlight – the four-and-a -half mile €100,000 Anjou-Loire Challenge – Prichard was in the lead when going the wrong side of a marker on a steep downhill section of the course with just three fences to jump.
Despite saving negligible ground in the manoeuvre, his mount, Absteme, was inevitably disqualified from his second-place finish.
The stewards took a draconian view of the incident, imposing a 45-day suspension on Prichard, largely on the grounds that he had continued in the race after taking the wrong course, though quite how the poor man was meant to know that he had gone wrong is anyone’s guess!
“I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to keep riding but I’m loving it again now”
The one small mercy Prichard had about the whole affair was that the Gentlemen’s League was about to enter a three-month midsummer break after this, its fourth leg, so the ban did not affect his title aspirations.
Looking back on the day now, Prichard remembers: “Before the meeting got under way I took a photo of the course map in the weighing room and then went out to walk round and it was like trying to figure out a maze! Then, when I met up with my trainer, she told me that the horse had to make the running and I thought to myself, ‘We could be in trouble here’.
“It was a disaster but, apart from the trainer, everyone was very sympathetic afterwards and it was a real thrill to take part. The variety of the cross-country obstacles was something that I’d never experienced before and there was a sense of achievement in just jumping round.”
A much-appreciated shoulder to cry on in the race aftermath was that of Charly, who had made the long drive from her base near the Atlantic coast yard of the nine-time champion jumps trainer, Guillaume Macaire, to support her big brother.
“It was just one of those things that could happen to anybody,” Charly says. “I just wish that I had been able to get there a bit earlier so that I could have walked the course with him.”
“I am very lucky to be associated with two of the top trainers”
Charly has plenty to be grateful to her brother for, most of all helping get her the job with Macaire (with whom Dave himself spent a couple of summers) a couple of years ago after she had returned early from a stint working in New Zealand.
She soon took to the French way of life and now speaks the language quite well and has her own house just three minutes drive from Macaire’s Royan Le Palmyre stable.
Despite having 20 point-to-point winners under her belt, riding opportunities did not come along straight away, even after her first two rides for Macaire, in 2017, were both successful. Her career was stalled for three months last winter when a broken ankle sustained in a schooling fall left her on the sidelines.
But after she engineered a meeting with David Cottin, the coming man among the ranks of France’s jump trainers, by offering to ride out for him last summer, she now has the backing of two of the nation’s biggest yards.
After success on Crack de Reve at Pau on January 9 took her record for Cottin to four wins from just eight rides, the Chantilly handler’s succinct assessment was: “Charly is a talented rider – she listens.”
Charly herself says: “I am very lucky to be associated with two of the top trainers and the 4lb female riding allowance, on top of my regular claim, is also a real help, as I can do 9st 2lb so I am never in trouble with the weight.
“I see myself staying in France for the foreseeable future and I’d just like to keep going as I am. If I could end up riding out my claim [by reaching 70 winners] that would be brilliant.”