Written by Granville Taylor

I cannot remember an earlier start to a British pointing season. Old timers will recall the days we had to wait until February, but the autumn weather did its best to welcome us to the excellent venue of Ottery St Mary.

So pleasant weather, lovely surroundings and softish ground put a smile on most peoples’ faces, not to mention four out of six winning favourites.

They went 7-2 the field as the flag went down for the 12-runner opener over two and a half miles with the eventual jolly having been cut from an opening show of 5’s. This was the well made six-year-old The Kings Writ, sweating a little but immaculately turned out as usual by Kayley Woollacott. The gelding’s hurdling experience, coupled with fitness saw Josh Newman’s mount pulling away from his rivals in the home straight to score by six lengths. Runner up Danseur du Large (steady ay 5’s) and third placed It Has To Be ( 6’s out to 8’s) look sure to atone before long. Two gambles came unstuck here; Gundahar (20’s to 10’) looked fit but faded to finish seventh and Mystic Court (10’s to 5’s) hit the deck at the fourth when leading.

Colorado Doc landed odds of 4-5 in the Conditions race (touched 4-6 and evens in a place). The six-year-old was given a positive front running ride by Bradley Gibbs and never looked like being caught. War Path (8’s touched 9’s) stayed on well to get within shouting distance of the winner. Mic’s Delight (4’s to 5’s) will be better for the race and Silver Token (14’s touched 16’s) gave a splendid introduction to point-to-pointing to 16-year-old Connor Brace in finishing fourth.

Doc Cody (13-8 out to 9-4) completed a double for David Brace and Bradley Gibbs in the Restricted. The relative generosity of the winner’s SP was due to substantial support for fellow Welsh traveller Champione (3’ to evens), a come back ride after three years absence for top point-to-point jockey Nick Williams. After taking the lead approaching the spinney, Nick’s mount stopped quickly before the second last and was pulled up. Minella Mojo (7’s out to 10’s) chased the winner home and can find a Restricted before long. The triple bumper winner Ghost River (solid 3’s) was well beaten when pulled up at the last but is surely capable of better.

The Mixed Open looked a decent race which went to the heavily backed Rutland based favourite Top Wood. “Our first bet was £600-100”, a leading layer told me before the useful ex-chaser was forced down to 2-1 at the off. Kelly Morgan’s charge, who escaped all the penalties for this race, was given a good ride by Sam Davies-Thomas to skate home by eight lengths. William Money (7-2 from 6’s) chased the winner home (what price his young jockey Connor Brace for the Novices title?). The Wealerdealer ( 3’s from 7-2’s) came from off the pace to finish third whilst fourth home The Dapper Fox (12’s to 10’s) came from the next parish to finish with a flourish (probably looking for Black Forest Lodge). He can score again with more positive handling.  Of the unplaced horses, the ex-Paul Nicholls trained Keltus couldn’t find a friend in the market (2-1 out to 6-1), and Warwick hunter chase winner Poole Master (5’s out to 10’s) couldn’t get in the race after a bad mistake at half way.

By this time the punters were baying for more blood and duly got it as the bold jumping Pointview Gale (9-4 fav from opening 7-4) sailed home in the three miles Maiden to give Josh Newman and trainer Kayley Woollacott their double. He can win again when upped in class. Druid Spitfire (5’s to 4’s) was chasing the winner when coming down at the penultimate and should find a Maiden this season.

The Welsh faces got it wrong in the last. They went for Desert Roe (9-4 to 6-4 fav). but it was the consistent Moreece (9-2 out to 11-2) who took the prize back over the bridge in the hands of Will Biddick.  Runner up Creative Inerta (4’s out to 11-2) will be better for this run. He weakened from two out to finish 20 lengths second.

One of the most heartening sights of the day was to see leading bookie Mike Smith at Ottery after his recovery from serious illness. He will soon be counting his money again.