As first-footings go, three winners at Catterick on New Year's Day was the most cheering of thresholds for one of the unluckiest jockeys of 2011. Last June, Wilson Renwick was concussed in a fall at Hexham. By the time he returned, his principal patron had reacted to a four-year disqualification – on various welfare charges – by retiring altogether. Luckily, as things turned out, auld acquaintance would not be forgotten.
When Howard Johnson's horses were dispersed, around 25 were acquired by another Co Durham trainer, John Wade. Renwick picked up the phone, pointing out that he had partnered many of them both at home and on the track. Wade asked him down to ride work, and has since divided his runners between Renwick and James Reveley.
At 30, Renwick knew his career was at a crossroads. "It was a bit like going back to being a claimer again," he said yesterday. "I've many years left in me yet, and was still lucky to have the backing of Tony and Rose Dobbin, so I was never tempted to call it a day. But it does make you worry. All you can do is get yourself around, work hard. And John Wade has been great to me. He has stuck me up on plenty that I hadn't ridden previously, as well."
His statistics may be those of a journeyman but the same could not be said, when given a chance, of his riding. In 2010, for instance, Renwick landed a famous victory at Kelso when seeing off Zaynar, a 1-14 favourite sent up from Lambourn for his Champion Hurdle preparation, on Quwetwo.
As a Borders lad himself, Renwick takes due pride in the flourishing Scottish scene. "If you look at racing as a whole, in this recession, you do feel Scotland is coping better," he said. "Obviously, Lucinda Russell has built up a strong stable, but there are other, smaller, yards that have never had so many horses. And the prize-money, even in midweek, can be amazing. A winner at Sedgefield works out at little more than an extra ride. But if you win one of these good prizes at Musselburgh or Perth, you really notice the difference in your cheque at the end of the month."
It was the rare coincidence of two meetings in the North that triggered Renwick's treble. Though offered mounts at Musselburgh, his agent urged Catterick instead and he came away with winners for three different trainers. "At the beginning of the season, with Howard losing his licence, I thought 15 winners wouldn't be a disaster," Renwick said. "I've now ridden 14 and the best of the season is still to come. If I can keep in one piece, I might break the 30 barrier – and once you do that, you can look to go up a level. Whatever happens, it was a great start to 2012."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Alben Star (Wolverhampton 5.45) Indulged by the handicapper after a long absence, and duly able to scrape into this grade off a rating just 1lb higher than when winning a nursery at Ayr. There were excuses on the Richard Fahey colt's only subsequent start and he can make up for lost time now.
Bagsy's Bridge (2.0 Bangor) Clearly on a good mark, easing clear at Wetherby on Boxing Day before losing concentration and being collared close home. Likely to be produced late this time.
One to watch
Gordonsville (Jim Goldie) can win again back over longer trips after rallying for fourth over Musselburgh's sharp two miles on New Year's Day.
Where the money's going
Finian's Rainbow remains in demand with the sponsors for the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot a fortnight tomorrow, now 2-1 from 9-4.