Plenty of runners and plenty of punters meant the usual strong betting market at rain soaked Chipley Park
A race fit Cotillion (5-4 to 4-5) got favourite backers off to a good start in the opening Hunt race under a confident ride from James King. The Saddlers Wells gelding has useful form under rules and ran really well behind Iberico in a staying test at Barbury recently. Jepeck (5-2) had finished runner-up in this event last season, and chased Cotillion home here. He went on to score four times last year and looks set for another good season.
Creative Inerta (9-4 to 2-1 fav) looked sure to atone for his Larkhill fall when cruising up to front running Sammy Blade (6-1) on the home bend. The leader had different ideas though and kept pulling out more for Sean Houlihan after a fine display of jumping. A strong, workmanlike type, Sammy Blade can successfully upgrade from Restricted class.
Frelia (5-2 to 7-4 jt fav) got her sex and weight wrong on the race card in a quality Timico Mixed Open, but the Welsh mare produced her usual game effort to hold the strong finishing Winter Soldier (7’s to 6’s) who was conceding 7lbs. Both the winner and runner-up are worth following. Miss Gotaway (14’s to 10’s) was returning from a brief spell under rules and will be winning again soon. The same remark applies to the other joint favourite, Dicky Bob, who just looked in need of the race, but was prominent until getting tired in the closing stages.
The 13-runner Exeter Racecourse Intermediate looked a decent contest hence they went 5-2 the field. Athreeothree (from 3’s) looked well and was entrusted with favouritism, but despite the best efforts of Biddick, he threw in the towel, virtually pulling himself up on the run-in after a terrible mistake at the last when in command. Chosen Lucky (2’s out to 7-2) was left to complete his seasonal hat trick with a winning late flourish. The penalised Northgeorge (4’s to 3’s) finished second and is a winner in waiting, a remark which also apples to fellow Welsh challenger Moral Hazard (6’s to 4’s) who was never far off the pace.
Multiple winner Join Together (5-2 to 6-4 fav) needs little introduction to punters, but only just got home in the Novice Riders’ ahead of the useful Blazing Whale (5-2 to 9-4) who made a hash of the last.
By this time the going had become really testing (I know this because I had already fallen over in the sticky mud (thanks to the two ladies who got me up). Palmaria (2-1 fav) was more foot perfect than me when relishing the trip and the ground to win the Mares Maiden very easily. Only three of the 16 starters finished. In what could be seen of the race, the well bred River Myth (20-1) kept on steadily and should improve.
The two divisions of the Open Maiden each took over seven minutes as conditions deteriorated further. Restless Rebel 5-2 to 3’s), a half brother to the useful Restless Harry, made his experience under rules pay in the first section to complete a double for Will Biddick
You could not blame the judge for declaring a dead heat between Blazing Bouncer (8’s out to 14’s) and Morpet (8’s out to 12’s) in the concluding Maiden. The race was run in the gloom and from the other side of the track I too could not separate the pair at the post. Morpet (Jake Bament) was in front for most of the way, but credit to 12-year-old Blazing Bouncer (Jamie Thomas) who joined his rival in the last stride. He had been off the track for three years, and was getting trainer Kayley Woollacott off the mark for the season.