YET ANOTHER SEASON has come and gone and we were privileged in the DEVON & CORNWALL AREA to witness some thrilling racing. Our area is the largest in the country, and our season stretched from 1st December through to mid-June, when the Derby has come and gone and Royal Ascot is imminent. Just three of the scheduled 27 meetings were lost due to bad weather in this particularly wet winter and spring– all due to waterlogging.

Pride of place as far as the local horses are concerned goes to the Silverton qualified nine-year-old Byerley Bear. This sound jumping chestnut recorded six of his seven Open wins in the area, ridden to five of them by Leanda Tickle for owner Roger Knowles.

Byerley Bear is stabled with Robert Chanin who performed quite a feat in saddling seven winners from his first eight runners of the season. Welstonedruid looked a useful stayer in the making, and this sturdy six-year-old was also sent out from Chanin’s Thorverton yard to score four times before mid-March.

One of the most progressive pointers in the area was Bradley Brook who followed up wins at Kilworthy and Upcott Cross by winning the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate Hunter Chase Final under Darren Edwards.

That ultra game mare Lucette Annie was also partnered regularly by Darren Edwards, and took her career tally into double figures. Two of her three victories came at Upcott Cross in the soft ground she revels in.

Whenharrymetsally just edged out Lucette Annie for the area mares award. The six-year-old by King’s Theatre won three of her five races and looks a nice prospect for the future. Red Penny and Paper Lady were other well bred mares to catch the eye. These were just two of the winners saddled by Nikki Frost.

It was good to see the useful ex-chaser Aiteenthirtythree go through the campaign unbeaten. Two of the gelding’s four successes came in the area. His young rider Natalie Parker excelled when forcing her mother’s ten-year-old up in the last few strides to win the Lamerton Mixed Open.

Robbie Henderson was always chasing Will Biddick’s shadow for the National jockeys’ title (well done Will – at least you are Cornish !). Robbie’s 32 winners provided him with his best ever season, elevating him to his first Devon & Cornwall jockeys’ title. Darren Edwards and Will Biddick were his closest pursuers for  the area prize.

The majority of Henderson’s winners were saddled by Ed Walker. The East Devon qualified Level Spirit won four times for The Otter Club and Hameldown Tor’s consistency was rewarded with two late season wins in the same colours from Walker’s Ottery St Mary base. Blazing Whale was also sent out from the yard to win three times, culminating in a defeat of Ross Oliver’s star West Country mare Wee Fly in the Four Burrow Open at Trebudannon.

Wee Fly’s subsequent Members’ success at the next Trebudannon fixture proved to be her 18th and final victory as the mare was injured in a road accident shortly afterwards. This was quite a blow for her sporting owner/trainer Ross Oliver who has accumulated nearly 40 pointing wins between her and her half brother Let’s Fly.

Mister Moonax earned honourable retirement after his Flete Park four miles Ladies’ Open success, and another 14-year-old, Gone To Lunch, stayed on very gamely to win the Dulverton Farmers four miles event at Treborough Hill in March under a terrific ride from Laura Scott.

It is always heartening in the point-to-point world to see “small” stables enjoy their share of success. In this respect Reuben Chapman’s Reliable Richie lived up to his name. The Cornish eight-year-old proved that staying was his best subject with late season wins at Trebudannon and Bratton Down.

Kayley Woollacott enjoyed a  succesful season and produced winners on the first and last day of the season in Mr Bingley and Checkerboard. In addition Steeltown, Minella Web, King Kash and Devon General earned their keep from the Rose Ash yard, Devon General’s impressive win on Easter Monday at Trebudannon was a prelude to his 15 lengths bumper win at Stratford, with young jockey Jake Bament giving way to A P McCoy in the saddle.

Another recent bumper winner to emerge from the area was Julian Selby’s home bred Fivefortyfive who scored on his pointing debut at Wadebridge before landing a Uttoxeter bumper in mid-June.

Certain Flight has become a flagship performer from the Keith Cumings yard and gained the first of his five wins this season in the Tiverton Open. The yard excelled however with their younger horses and six-year-olds Thetalkinghorse, The Mexican Bandit and Whenharrymetsally all emerged as potential stars.

Master Hooper and Whispering Wild won races in the style of good staying types and Ambitious Pursuit, and Carheney River also look to have a future. Annie Aces was successful on both her starts, whilst Babeny Bridge came into the season with two unbeaten runs as a four-year-old and duly added three more victories to his CV.

The latter’s rider, 16-year-old Chester Williams, took the area novice riders’ award by a single point to thwart the late bid of David Noonan. Another 16-year-old, Megan Nicholls, was the area ladies’ novice champion. Her first point-to-point ride Gwanako was beaten at Wadebridge, but the later exploits of Current Event and Join Together took her ahead of Hannah Welch.

The early season injury to Jo Buck threw the Area Ladies’ title race wide open and Bryony Frost’s best ever season (12 winners) enabled the 19-year-old from Buckfastleigh to retain the title she won last year ahead of Leanda Tickle.

I would just like to pay tribute to the Devon & Cornwall Association bookmakers. The odds offered by the bookmakers who stand in our area is the envy of many other parts of the country. Point-to-pointing is set to resume at Black Forest Lodge on Sunday 30th November – see you there.