NATIONAL Hunt enthusiasts in the far west of Wales were relieved at the return of racing last week with four local horses in action.

The coastal strip has gained quite a reputation with jockeys and trainers pulling off outstanding achievements.

A suspension of the sport was a particularly hard blow for Rebecca Curtis who trains at Fforest Farm, just outside Newport.

The trainer had a tremendous run of success some years ago that attracted the patronage of top owner JP McManus and now retired jockey Sir Tony McCoy only for matters to take a downward turn over the past two years with 60 or so boxes at the yard reduced to 20 with barely a handful of winners.

But at the Cheltenham Festival in March there were hopes of a return to the glory days when seven-year-old Lisnagar Oscar beat the hot favourite to win the three miles Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at odds of 50/1.

The horse dug deep to secure a first prize of £182,000 for a racing-mad syndicate of eight friends going by the name of ’Racing For Fun’.

After the stunning result the trainer said: “I hope I’ve proved I can do the job a bit and it would be nice if I was sent a few horses.

“I am rebuilding the yard and hope to get some nice young horses which I am desperate for."

Having represented Wales at junior level in show-jumping, her first job in racing was just 10 miles further south in the Yet Y Rhug stable of top National Hunt trainer Peter Bowen at Little Newcastle.

She then worked in the United States of America before returning to Wales and training on her father’s dairy farm.

From humble beginnings, Peter Bowen and wife Karen built a top class racing stable with their three sons Mickey, Sean and James all involved in National Hunt.

Sean, now aged 22, who is attached to trainer Paul Nicholls OBE at Ditcheat in Somerset, is rated one of the top riders in the country while 18-year-old James who became the youngest ever jockey to win the Welsh Grand National, is with champion trainer Nicky Henderson.

Mickey (25) is a shrewd trainer who saddled the winner of the Foxhunters Chase at Aintree.

The success enjoyed by the Bowens was preceded many years ago by jockeys who put this neck of the woods firmly on the National Hunt map.

The first to make his mark was the late Geraint Davies, of Cardigan, who rode for the late Roddy Armitage at East Ilsley near Lambourn, before his promising riding career was cut short by injury and he became a blacksmith in his home town.

His brother Hywel enjoyed a glittering 16-year career, riding Last Suspect to win the 1985 Grand National at odds of 50-1, and a total of 761 winners before retiring in 1994.

Another leading jockey was Carl Llewellyn, of Hundleton, near Pembroke, who rode two Grand National winners – Party Politics in 1992 and Earth Summit in 1998.

With the wait over for the return of the sport, four horses from the Bowen yard failed to reach the first three at Southwell but could have been in need of the runs.

A spokesman for the stable said “About 20 horses were brought in from the fields a few weeks ago to be prepared for racing.

“It’s great to be back,” he said.