THE Westcountry point-to-point season entered its final few weeks on Sunday (May 18th) when the Dulverton West fixture became the first of three meetings to be held in late May and June at Bratton Down.
The scenic views across Exmoor are worth the trip alone, and this time there was the bonus of warm weather. The continuing dry spell also proved a bonus for horses with a preference for fast ground.
This was certainly the case in the 12-runner Restricted with five-year-old Minella Web finishing best of all up the final climb to snatch the race from Carheney River. The winner is a useful looking gelding, trained for Withypool based owner Rhoddy Harvey-Bailey by Kayley Woollacott, who said, “We bought him privately in Ireland where he had run a few times last year and gave him a break. He won at Badbury in February but disappointed since in the soft and he definitely needs this better ground.”
Robbie Henderson had cut the deficit in the race for the Men’s National Championship to five when winning on Minella Web, but title holder Will Biddick was soon in full stride. He restored his lead to six with a hard fought success on Sandra Maltby’s Willow Bird in the Open Maiden which attracted 14 runners. Biddick was content to wait on the Richard Barber trained mare before galvanising his mount for a strong run up the final hill to catch the unlucky O’Flo in the dying strides. A sturdy mare by Midnight Legend whose dam won four chases, Willow Bird was bought at Doncaster sales last May for £6,000 and was having only her third outing.
Gorteenwood was another to relish the drying ground, and was well backed before making virtually all the running to beat his 11 rivals in the Intermediate. His owners Tim and Sue Winzer were given the news as they landed back from holiday at Heathrow airport. “He must have top of the ground,” emphasised the gelding’s trainer Gordon Chambers. Michael Heard gave the winner a positive ride and just had enough in reserve to hold the strong finishing Dancing Olga. Gorteenwood is a tough sort. “He had a suspicion of a leg and missed last year,” reported the trainer.
Reliable Richie is developing into a useful stayer, and the six-year-old followed up his Cornish National win when just outstaying Right Enough in the Mixed Open over the extended four miles. “He could have gone round again. All he does is gallop,” reported jockey Darren Edwards to the winner’s owner/trainer Reuben Chapman.
Aiteen Thirtythree retained his unbeaten record this season with his fourth consecutive success under his young jockey Natalie Parker in the Bob Pittard Memorial PPORA Conditions race. The winner was chased home by another classy performer in Gone to Lunch (Laura Scott) – an excellent advert for keeping former National Hunt horses going in a second career. Owner Tracey Parker has obvious pride in her gift horse Aiteen Thirtythree. “He has been in training since last June and will have his shoes off and go in the field now,” she reported.
Another young rider to shine was Chester Williams, who strengthened his hand for the Devon & Cornwall area novice riders’ title when getting Babeny Bridge home in the Confined. The winner had stalked leader Ned White until the last and had to be ridden out to hold the late flourish of What Er Say (Josh Guerriero). “I am in the middle of my A/S exams at West Buckland School and have another exam tomorrow,” said the 16-year-old who certainly passed his race riding test here on Babeny Bridge.
Westcountry Videos filmed the meeting, order on 01884 840403 or through the website later in the week at www.westcountryvideos.co.uk
The following (professional and amateur) photographers were at the meeting: Baths Photographic (Marcus Bath), Brian Armstrong, David Strange, Fox Photography, Helen Stoneman, Sportography (Mark Johnson), Tim Holt, Turfpix (Tracy Roberts)