Racing couple Emma and Will ready to go head to head at the first point to point of the new season

Racing couple Emma Todd and Will Milburn are ready for the first point to point of the new season
Racing couple Emma Todd and Will Milburn are ready for the first point to point of the new season
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Imagine the scene. You and your partner are competing in the same sport, furthermore you’re in the same event. You’re not the Brownlees.

Imagine the scene. You and your partner are competing in the same sport, furthermore you’re in the same event. You’re not the Brownlees.

Instead you are a couple that lives together, wants to be together – except for perhaps this next moment. Here’s how the commentary could have gone.

“And as they approach the last, Emma Todd, who has led for most of the race is still there, but coming up strongly on her inside, and this will go down well I’m sure at breakfast tomorrow, is boyfriend Will Milburn on Martha’s Benefit.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Will went on to eclipse Emma that day at the Point to Point meeting at Askham Bryan.

“I jumped upsides her at the last and just came and pipped her,” says Will. “You led nearly all the way,” he says to her with a degree of caution as a mark of self-preservation. It’s all in good humour.

“It didn’t go down very well at the time,” says Emma, trying hard to restrain a smile. “There’s always a bit of banter when that kind of thing happens.”

Unfortunately, there will be no opportunity for repetition at tomorrow’s Yorkshire Point to Point season opener at Michael Easterby’s Sheriff Hutton course, that once again plays host to the Yorkshire Area P to P Club meeting.

Emma is recuperating from having a plate fitted due to a broken collarbone she sustained in a fall at Alnwick on December 15. Will hopes to have one or two rides.

They’ll both be there. They wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s on their doorstep too. They live in Sheriff Hutton.

Will works at Mark Walford’s stables in the village. He and Emma met when he brought his pointer to Mark Walford’s gallops. At the time he was riding out for Tony Coyle in Malton and Emma was full-time at the stables, where she is now part-time.

“I’ll hopefully be riding Miss Charlton for Sarah Dent on Sunday,” says Will. “Even if I hadn’t a ride we’d still go. Emma and I will probably attend every meeting in Yorkshire.

“I usually have around half a dozen winners each season and set off with an aim of trying to better my previous season, but really I just like to enjoy it.

“I mainly do pointing. I have my amateur licence and can ride in hunter chases. I took it on so I could ride on the flat as well, never thinking I would be light enough to use it.

“On the off-chance there was one in an amateur race for Mick (Easterby). I rang him and David said I could ride it. It was my first flat race and it won. That season I got a few more rides and rode a winner for Mark.

“I was quite proud of myself getting those wins on the flat, but the weights got lower and lower and it got to the point where it wasn’t enjoyable.”

Emma can console herself immeasurably on that ‘pipped at the post’ race at Askham Bryan with her record that sees her with nearly 60 winners overall including pointing, under rules jumping and three on the flat.

“I rode quite a bit on the flat this year and had a couple of winners, some places and lots of really good rides including one at York.

“It was good fun in summer, but again like Will I can’t do the really low weights.”

Racing Post’s analysis details Emma as having had 20 winners in the past five years from 200 rides, but it is pointing that is her first love.

“I grew up in Beverley and enjoyed going to Beverley racecourse. It was when I was over in Southern Ireland that I realised I wanted to race point to point.

“I’d studied horse management at Bishop Burton College, had taken another course at the British Racing School at Newmarket and worked for racehorse trainers Caroline Bailey at Spratton, near Northampton, and Henrietta Knight at Wantage, near Oxford.

“While I was at Henrietta’s she sent me to Ireland. We were in Charleville, Co Cork and I saw point to pointing. I was hooked and wanted to have a go.

“It’s quite difficult getting a ride if you don’t have your own horse, unless you know the right people and I was quite lucky that I had a friend, Hannah, who let me borrow a horse – Jukebox.

“We finished fifth in a large field in my first race alongside other novice riders.

“I can’t remember a thing about the actual race, but I remember absolutely loving it.

“It was amazing. When I came back to Yorkshire, having got a full-time job with Mark, I saved up to buy my own pointer from the Walfords, who found me a really good horse, Madison de Vonnas. He was just perfect. I had him for two seasons.

“He used to like the quick ground, was very competitive and I had loads of placings with him, as well as my first winner on him.

“It was very special as it was my first also as jockey-owner-trainer. It was a hunt race at Easingwold about seven years ago.

“There were only three in the race, but I was absolutely capped because the horse he beat was meant to be a better horse than him.”

Will’s family is steeped in hunting and pointing. His mum has always worked with horses and presently looks after Super Lunar who Will hunts with every week-end.

“Super Lunar started pointing last year,” says Will. “He won his first race, at Askham Bryan, and was second in each of his three other runs.

“Emma and I have Six Aside (Yorkshire’s leading open horse in 2018, when Emma was second in the Yorkshire ladies championship) and I have Simplistic, which I own with my fellow stable lad Marcus Haigh who was second in last year’s men’s novice championship.”