SOME Man is a horse whose early career followed an ever-familiar path.

A well-bred gelding, out of a sister to Denman no less, he was bought at the Land Rover Sale before going on to win his four-year-old maiden impressively at Portrush for Donnchadh Doyle.

He was duly entered in a Goffs Aintree Sale and, after walking around the parade ring on the eve of the Grand National, he sold for £165,000 to a high-profile buyer in Highflyer Bloodstock, for a high-profile owner in Grech & Parkin to go into training with a high-profile trainer in Paul Nicholls.

Needless to say, he was probably on more than one horses-to-follow list the following season.

Needless to say, it doesn’t always work out in this game. Some Man was unplaced on his first two novice hurdles for Nicholls. A broken pelvis and a wind operation later, he was well beaten on his comeback run at Fakenham. That was enough for his owners to pull stumps and he was sent to the Goffs UK Spring Horses-in-Training Sale that May.

It was here that David Christie first saw him up close. When he went down to his box, he found Rob James looking at the horse as well. James loved him. He rode him to win his maiden at Portrush and naturally tracked his career since. He didn’t think he’d be looking at him at a sale two years later.

Christie liked him as well. He always likes a horse with a story. In fact, he’d rarely buy a horse who doesn’t have a story behind him. He says that’s his Achilles’ heel. He has a weakness for that horse who has lost his way for one reason or another. Some Man had a story alright.

Christie said to James ‘We’ll go halves’, so they did, and the hammer dropped at just £5,500.

“He’s a very needy horse, very sensitive,” Christie says now. “He’s a worrier. Even as a young horse, the people close to him tell me that he box-walked and he wind-sucked and he weaved and he basically did all the things that a fretful horse does. Then he went over there (Paul Nicholls’s yard) and fractured his pelvis, and he just couldn’t stand being in a big yard.

“He was just completely gone mentally and physically when myself and Rob bought him at Doncaster. We were always concerned we might never get him back as a racehorse. He needed all my years of experience and basically everything I’ve learned from working with horses to get him back.”

Christie got Some Man back alright because, 10 point-to-point wins and two hunter chase wins later, he’s the best open horse around and will be crowned accordingly this season as seven of those wins have come this term, meaning he can’t be caught in the race for the champion pointer title.

Maybe his career hasn’t gone the way many had hoped it would but, make no mistake, he is an absolute star in Christie’s Derrylin base.

“For a horse like him to come back and repay me for all that attention and care and all that has gone into him is fantastic. It has been a pleasure just to see him running and being happy, but to win the champion point-to-pointer title is very, very special.

“To be honest, I never really had the intention of making Some Man into a champion point-to-pointer. All the time we were just slowly trying to build up his confidence, and we’ve been sparing on him. So I’m so proud of him this season because if you just look at the last five weeks, he’s run four times, on some tracks he would just not like at all, but he’s stood up to it physically and mentally and, you know, that is just a tremendous thing.

“An awful lot of credit goes to my son (David) because he rides him all the time and he’s taught him to settle and he’s done an awful lot of quiet work with him.”

I think the smaller man needs to be a lot more appreciated than he currently is, and looked after better, and held up as something people can be proud of

Blazed a trail

Some man is David Christie. Some season he’s had as well. Last Sunday, Some Man gave him his 320th point-to-point winner at Inchydoney. It was his 20th of the season, from just 45 runs between the flags, and he has blazed a trail on the track as well, with 12 winners from 71 runs between Ireland and Britain.

Of course the near defeats of Winged Leader and Vaucelet at Cheltenham and Punchestown were agonising. He still feels it now, recognising the need to win on the day and doesn’t necessarily accept the consoling comments of people telling him the pair will be back next year. Then again, he has perspective, and sees the bigger picture outside the racing bubble.

Vaucelet has looked a very smart horse for Christie this season \ Healy Racing

Christie is perhaps a more traditional point-to-point handler, having been involved in the sector all his life. He is synonymous for his exploits with top older horse pointers like Finoel, Arctic Copper, Bluefire, Royal Ranger, Top Twig, Maple Mons and Eddies Miracle, but he has had to adjust his strategy in recent years to evolve in a sector that has gone through a metamorphosis.

“We have sold horses that have won first time out in four-year-old races but we haven’t the riders here for that,” he explains. “You need to be very specialised for that and you need a team of very good riders around you which is why the lads in Wexford are so good at it. They have very big teams of very good riders to school horses every day. To take those handlers on in the sales ring and then at the races is near impossible.

“I have dealt with a lot of older horses in the past and sweetened them up. I do tend to get labelled that way, even though those type of horses only account for a fraction of our total winners, but I will automatically be drawn to that type of a horse and the challenge of bringing them back. That gives me more satisfaction than anything else with horses.

“For the last few years I’ve actually bought more five and six-year-olds and produced them as hunter chasers there and tried to make them into nice horses - that’s kind of what we’ve done with Winged Leader and Vaucelet.

“I’ve gone a completely different route and tried to produce my own horses - maybe a horse that finished fifth or sixth in a five-year-old maiden, and had one bit of good form earlier, and then he lost way a couple of runs later, that’s the horse I’m always looking for.

“I never buy a horse who doesn’t have a story behind him. I have to have that story. I’ve been offered nice horses but they have no story and I don’t buy them. It’s a strange thing for me but that’s the way I operate.”

It’s okay looking after the Curragh at the weekend but where are the Grade 1 horses going to come out of if the point-to-points go away?


That type of strategy is a swim against an increasingly strong tide. On these pages two weeks ago, Eogháin Ward revealed some worrying 10-year statistics that correlated the number of active handlers with at least one hunter licence and the number of older horses in training.

Since May 2012, a tally of 2,242 older horses has dropped to 946 and there are only 378 handlers with a hunter certificate for an older horse now compared to 876 then. That has largely contributed to an overall drop in the number of active handlers with at least one hunter certificate, Ward wrote, from just over 1,000, 10 years ago to 467 this year.

It’s true that the standard in point-to-pointing has been raised significantly, which Christie says originated from a brilliant standard set from Derek O’Connor which raised the bar for all preceding riders and, of course, the sales success stories should be celebrated, but there is a warning from the Fermanagh handler that you cannot neglect the older horses section of point-to-pointing.

This cannot be an inevitable, business-fuelled march towards total commercialisation. That isn’t just a yearning for the traditional romance of point-to-pointing but a stark warning for the whole sector from Christie, who has seen more than most in his life in point-to-pointing.

“I do worry about the point-to-points,” he says. “I do worry about the smaller people and I do worry that the older horse sector is going by the way. The dynamic of the age group of people that goes to points and the type of people is changing, and you have this big emphasis now on the four and five-year-olds and I think the older horse section is struggling.

“I’ve said it during Covid and I’ll say it again now, you cannot have one section in point-to-points thrive and the other half not thrive. In other words you can’t have the four-year-old and five-year-olds selling and thriving and the older section not thrive because in actual fact, the people that own the older horses are the very people that are on the organising committees of point-to-points and once they get discouraged, you’ll find there’ll be less meetings on.

“The double whammy with the whole thing is the Brexit situation and the insurance and the green lobby which is against hunting. If we don’t get our act together we’re heading towards a situation where it’s going to get harder and harder to get point-to-points organised and insured.

“I just feel the authorities have to get in behind the point-to-point sector as much as they can, because it’s okay looking after the Curragh at the weekend but where are the Grade 1 horses going to come out of if the point-to-points go away?

Young people just aren’t coming into the industry, hence now you find a lot of older people like myself are still riding out

“I know what it’s like to survive in this game. I’ve competed against trainers and handlers all over Ireland and I’d call them my friends. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when so many of them are tired of it and I wouldn’t say they’d be happy to give up, but they would certainly be thinking about it and for me that’s a very worrying thing.

“I was talking to Robert and Mary Tyner the other week, and they’re just burned out, completely burned out. The amount of people that are in behind that floodgate is substantial. If the section isn’t nurtured, you’re going to lose half your sector in point-to-points and the whole thing could fall down then.”

Unique location

Christie’s location is unique in Ireland as he is the only trainer/handler based in Co Fermanagh. At least half of his owners are from south of the border but he says there is a good appetite for racing around him.

Like just about every trainer/handler in the country, he finds staffing has become a big problem. More recently, the cost of operating is hitting hard. It would have cost him £80 to fill the lorry full of diesel for his trip to Inchydoney last year, but last Sunday it was £150. And while the insurance crisis has receded for now, Christie says it hasn’t gone away and is a huge area for concern.

“I still think that is a huge worry because if there are only a handful of insurers, the cost of insuring these events is going to go just one way. Everybody is under pressure financially so, sooner or later, there comes a point where people say, ‘Well in actual fact, we just can’t pay this;” he explains.

“Aside from insurance, the staffing issue is going to finish a lot of operations off. Young people just aren’t coming into the industry, hence now you find a lot of older people like myself are still riding out when we thought we’d be standing looking at horses.

“Very few people want to work the hours and have to go racing and maybe not get back until 10pm. Why would you work a 60-hour week when you could work a 45-hour week for the same money or more?

“Again, the authorities have to help us out here. They can’t be blasé about this. I think they have to start treating the smaller people a lot better. I think the smaller man needs to be a lot more appreciated than he currently is, and looked after better, and held up as something people can be proud of. I think more people think they’re left out of the whole thing.”

The show goes on and it continued only last night at Stratford, where he ran Vaucelet and Ask D’Man on an all hunter chase card. In the coming weeks, he’s happy to be less busy, allowing him time to pursue other interests outside of racing, notably motorbike racing.

It will be all systems go once the days begin to shorten. Off the back of a brilliant season, Christie will be buoyed again, aiming towards his Gold Cup - the St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunter Chase at Cheltenham.

“I’ve got some of the best amateur riders around in Ireland,” he asserts. “If they were lighter they’d be the best professionals around too. Barry O’Neill and Rob James and Ben Harvey and Decky Lavery, and even Oran McGill rides for me the odd time up the North. That’s sort of my team of riders and it’s a huge thing.

“I was delighted to give Barry his 700th winner the other week. As I said, Derek O’Connor is the Tony McCoy of point-to-point, he set a big standard for others to get to and it has brought everyone forward. Barry is right up there now.”

David Christie has been right up there in the point-to-point ranks for a long time and, despite an increasingly tough environment, he is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.