A total of 76 runners in seven races made for competitive racing with going described by jockeys as “near perfect” at Bratton Down.
The afternoon featured a first and last race training double for Ed Walker’s Ottery St Mary stable, and a treble for leading trainer Richard Barber, who had sent five runners from his Dorset yard.
Punter Friendly showed a clean pair of hooves to his fourteen opponents when living up to his name in the opening Restricted. Backed from 7-1 to 5-1, Ed Barretts ‘s mount surged clear of front running Bernshaw after jumping the last to score by four lengths.
“We bought him at Doncaster sales last August and he has grown up a lot. He had been wound up a bit in Ireland,” commented Sylvia Francome, who shares ownership with her husband Richard. The five-year-old looks a useful stayer in the making and was following up his recent Flete Park victory.
Thinkaboutthat just got the better of a prolonged battle with Supreme Duke to complete the Walker stable double in the Confined. This time Robbie Henderson was in the plate and just snatched a neck verdict over Supreme Duke with a late thrust. A progressive seven-year-old who was scoring his fourth successive win, the rangy gelding was acquired from his previous owner Mike Daniell last autumn on behalf of retired farmer Raymond Targett and his wife Evelyn (each into their 80’s if they don’t mind me saying).
Richard Barber saddled an exciting newcomer called V Neck to win his division of the Open Maiden before following up with Bellsinni Ron in the Mixed Open and Barneys Mate in the Novice Riders.
“A bit green,” was how winning jockey Will Biddick described V Neck, who sprinted clear up the hill after coming from well off the pace. The four-year-old, from the family of Hennessy Gold Cup winner Diamond Harry, cost owners Paul Nicholls and Ian Fogg €28,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby sale last June.
Bellsinni Ron cost a lot less than that when offered at Brightwells Cheltenham sales last month, but turned in a convincing staying performance in Richard Barber’s own colours to beat the useful Lucette Annie in the Mixed Open run over the extended four miles. Phine Banks was still in the lead on Horsham Lad when he ran out at the last, leaving Lucette Annie ahead. Jack Barber had been creeping ever closer however on his grandfather’s Dr Massini gelding who headed Lucette Annie on the brow of the hill to win by three lengths.
Barneys Mate, running for the Axe Valley Racing Club, completed the stable treble in the PPORA Novice Riders race run in memory of much missed bookmaker Bob Pittard. 23-year-old Martin McIntyre, who works in the Seaborough yard, maintained his lead for the National Novice Riders title and the Harley Racing Novice Riders award with a patient ride on Barneys Mate.
“The only danger was if he slipped round the bends,” remarked the jockey who now has nine successes to his credit this season. Thirteen-year-old Barneys Mate has now won 18 Point-to- Points plus three under rules and enjoys being turned out in a small paddock for a bit of relaxation.
17-year-old Joe Ponting combines riding with training and took the Intermediate on Robin Butterworth’s well backed Skating Home. “He was never really travelling but gave his all,” remarked Joe, based at Hillsley near Badminton.
In contrast the first division Maiden winner My Rebel travelled like a dream under Leanda Tickle who was partnering her fifth winner of the season. This six-year-old Milan gelding had caught the eye at Trebudannon on Easter Monday and produced a powerful staying performance to win unchallenged. He is trained by Becky Kennen for joint owners Tessa Lake and Alison Schwalm, and had been sourced from Jim Culloty in Ireland.