A cold, blustery wind blowing across Dartmoor and some exciting finishes kept the crowd on their toes at Kilworthy. A total of 68 runners faced the starter in the seven races run on softish ground on the superb old turf.
The Mixed Open produced a desperately close finish with Natalie Parker forcing her mount Aiteen Thirtythree up to beat Double Bank and Kirkleigh in the final strides in a classy race. “He was so game and just stuck his neck out,” exclaimed the 21-year-old rider who now shares the lead for the Devon & Cornwall Novice Ladies’ title.
Ten-year-old Aiteen Thirtythree was given to Natalie’s parents by Paul Barber and Andy Stewart when the formerly smart chaser had lost interest under rules after his last run at Newbury last autumn. He looked a picture on his first run for the Parker’s West Somerset yard and was led in by Natalie’s sister Laura who had broken her arm in a fall at Milborne St Andrew last month. “We call him BFG which stands for Big, Friendly Giant in the yard,” smiled proud mother Tracy Parker.
There was an even closer finish to the 15-runner Restricted which saw the ex-Irish mare Annie Aces and Michael Heard collar the luckless Lord Samson (Darren Edwards) on the line to gain a short head verdict. The winner, making her English debut, is owned and trained by Devon & Cornwall area secretary and treasurer Gordon Chambers. “I got her last July after a phone call from Ireland. The Hennessy family had bred the mare in County Cork and she had won a Mares Maiden at Killeagh in 2012, but had sat in the field for a year.” Said Gordon.
Darren Edwards had just missed out on Lord Samson, but had the luxury of a peep round up the final hill when Bradley Brook sauntered clear for him in the Exeter racecourse Intermediate after Minella Fifty had fallen at the third last. “We bought him at the Derby sales in Ireland as a three-year-old and he needed a confidence booster last time at Badbury Rings after a bad fall at Chipley Park,” explained owner/ trainer Nicola Martin who forms the Bradley Partnership alongside John Simpson.
Bryony Frost is making a bold bid to retain her Area Ladies’ title and was partnering her sixth winner of the campaign when Cottage Acre stormed up the hill past three rivals to take the Confined. “I was told to hold him up for a late run,” laughed Bryony, who was wearing the colours of Sally White. The ex-Tom George chaser is now stabled with Karyn Heard at Boscastle.
Vicky Wade’s waiting tactics paid similar dividends in the Hunt race on Jennys Layla, who pounced on her front running sole rival Tres Bien after jumping the last. The winner runs for a syndicate of ten named the Layla Partnership, and is one of four horses trained near the course at Lydford by Pauline Geering. “We gallop on the moor. This mare is an angel to ride at home but not so in her box”, said Pauline.
The divided Open Maidens were well filled with 14 of the 17 entries turning out in the first section. Aah Bless led from the third last in this event but was outstayed up the hill by Maidstone Mercury and Ed Barrett. Ray Alford’s nine-year-old has been very lightly raced with just a couple of appearances in the last four years. “I haven’t really trained him for the last two years,” reported the owner/trainer.
Raffa became the only favourite to score during the afternoon in the second division of the Maiden. Home bred by Lucy Fielding-Johnson and trained by joint owner “Ces” Mitford-Slade at Norton Fitzwarren near Taunton, the Milan seven-year-old relished the test of stamina and spread eagled his 11 opponents to score by six lengths to give 23-year-old John Mathias his fourth winner of the weekend. “He was going so well I got there a bit too soon,” remarked the jockey.
Raffa’s dam Westbourne won a point to point at Holnicote for the same connections. “This is the first winner for my breeding operation – I have got loads more at home,” laughed Lucy.
Westcountry Videos filmed the meeting, order on 01884 840403 or through the website later in the week at www.westcountryvideos.co.uk