FROM early in the 2004 point-to-point season, Tessa Clark of Threapwood had the North West Area Leading Lady Rider title firmly in her sights with five wins from 26 rides.
A combination of luck in the risky business of riding between the flags and her riding ability gave the champion a margin of 14 points in her sector.
Clark, 25, has ridden all her life and rode in the British junior eventing team in 1996 before changing her discipline to racing. Neighbour Richard Bevis, who trains in Threapwood, provided an initial ride on Charter For Hardware and an admirable second place to Carrie Ford, of Tarporley, in the Ladies' Race at Eaton Hall.
Keen to gain more experience, she spent a couple of summers riding on the east coast of America. 'It was brilliant, I was riding and schooling all day. Everyone has a chance over there,' she said.
Kidlaw provided the first winning ride in 1999 at Eaton Hall while Clark was working for trainer Nicky Henderson in Lambourn. Mainly riding out the youngsters, she also enjoyed working the more established stable stars such as Landing Light, Iris Royal and the evergreen Geos.
The 2003 season was a total wipeout for Clark following an accident when she was brought down in the Intermediate race at Eyton and suffered a broken collar bone. Subsequent prolonged complications then kept her out of action until last August.
Keen to build on a previous second place in the Novice Rider Championship class and back in action this season, she notched up two wins aboard Wandering Light, owned and trained by Richard Francis at Carden.
The gallant 15-year-old also provided a second place in a hunter chase at Towcester in May, when beaten by four lengths and conceding 4lbs in weight to the winner Mr Snowman.
Winning the Open Maiden at Alpraham with Mosscroft Jack produced a quick double. A further local success came at Eaton Hall a week later when Clark dictated the pace, partnering The Lord Roberts, to win the Restricted Race by 15 lengths.
Looking ahead, she hopes to get more outside rides next season, pointing out that she can ride only one horse in the Ladies and would like to compete in more maiden, restricted and intermediate events to give her greater scope to secure additional winners.
Meanwhile, she is working in the blood-stock industry in Newmarket and aims eventually to become an agent. This is an ideal location to have a few spins on the flat that may open a few more doors for rides. A return to Cheshire for the winter is planned for the next point-to-point season.
With a calmer approach and more balanced perspective following her injury, Clark wants to continue riding as much as she can and with a need to earn a living. One option is to break and pre-train horses from her home base.
Reaching a personal landmark with the regional ladies title this season, she has ambitions to win a hunter chase at her local track, Bangor-on-Dee, and emulate Carrie Ford with a win in the Foxhunters at Aintree.