THE car parks were bursting to capacity for the Dartmoor meeting in the glorious setting of Flete Park. A record crowd saw cars having to queue on the surrounding approach roads as punters merged with picnickers on the hill side with not a blade of grass to spare.
It was a memorable day for teenage jockeys Hannah Welch and Pippa Glanville as the youngsters each rode their first point-to-point winner
Hannah set the ball rolling in the opening six-runner Hunt race, getting the useful ex-chaser Vertige Dore’s head in front in a tight finish from Great Gusto (Bryony Frost).
“I rode 46 pony race winners and have had about 16 rides in point-to-points,” said the 16-year-old winning jockey who is studying at King’s College, Taunton. The ex-David Pipe chaser Vertige Dore is currently leased to a syndicate called the Maharajah Group by Sammy Shepherd who was looking forward to her first race ride on the nine-year-old until getting injured in a schooling fall. Vertige Dore is trained locally by Sam Holdsworth who acts as clerk of the course at Flete Park.
Another successful Devon & Cornwall pony racing graduate, 17-year-old Pippa Glanville, steered home her first point-to-point winner in the two and a half miles Maiden riding her mother Lee’s Ambitious Pursuit. “That was amazing and I had a little smile crossing the line,” said Pippa who is studying A/S levels at Ivybridge school. The youngster has had her ups and downs already and was airlifted from Bratton Down in her first season after a fall last year.
Pippa’s parents Lawrence and Lee run a farm on the Flete Park estate and Ambitious Pursuit was bought privately recently through agent Katy Price after a few runs in Ireland.
Robbie Henderson had to play second fiddle in the Maiden on the favourite Madam Bee, but lifted his seasonal total to 21 thanks to a double with Kings Wood and Before The war.
Kings Wood jumped well and made all the running to win the four miles Mixed Open. This veteran stayer was making his seasonal debut in the colours of Robbie’s parents Guy and Sophie. “He is a spring horse and we will look for another stayers race,” commented Guy who trains the gelding at Shaftesbury, Dorset.
When asked if his instructions had been to make the running Guy said amusingly: “It is over to the jockey when the horse box ramp goes up. I just do the training”
Robbie Henderson looks a hot favourite to take his first Devon & Cornwall Area jockeys title and is also chasing Will Biddick hard for the National title. He achieved his double when the Ed Walker trained Before The War mastered Ned White (Tom Chanin) to win the Confined.
Glacial Oscar started favourite for the Henderson team in the Restricted but had to settle for the runner up spot as Tom Chanin went one better this time on Right Enough. Bought at Doncaster two years ago, this scopey grey was sent out by Robert Chanin for owners Reg and Mandy Hand. “He is a decent ground horse and works so well,” commented the trainer who is enjoying his most successful season. The former top Westcountry rider Mandy Hand, now retired, had done the road work on Right Enough but he proved to be, “a naughty boy on the roads,” in Mandy’s words which tested even her vast experience.
Tom Chanin’s other winning ride will not show in the record books. In his role as Master of the Brittania Beagles, Tom won the two furlongs flat race for Clydesdales run in aid of the Devon Air Ambulance service
Matt Hampton rode his eighth winner of the season on Whispering Wild in the three miles Open Maiden. Three of the seven runners charged at the final fence with a chance, but it was eight-year-old Whispering Wild who edged in front close home to beat Way Before Dawn and Stirling Bernie in a blanket finish. This race featured a remarkable recovery by Leanda Tickle who was virtually hanging off of the saddle when Way Before Dawn clouted the 10th fence.
The winner is trained by Michael Watson on behalf of the “Not So Innocent” partnership. I did not have the cheek to enquire about the origin of the syndicate’s name. Michael bought this sturdy gelding privately from Chris Dawson’s Northumberland stud and his belated seasonal debut was attributed to various problems including pulled muscles.
Annie Aces followed up her Kilworthy win by beating her sole opponent Ailanthus in the Intermediate under Michael Heard. “Annie Aces is tough and stays well,” said her trainer Gordon Chambers who handles the ex-Irish mare on behalf of owners Jenny Luscombe and Richard Candy
Westcountry Videos filmed the meeting, order on 01884 840403 or through the website later in the week at www.westcountryvideos.co.uk