Buckfastleigh normally provides a strong betting market and the first of three points scheduled there this season saw plenty of jousting between the 18 bookies and several regular, hungry looking faces.
Punters had the edge in the opening Maiden which was divided on the day. The rangy grey Song of the Hunter was backed from 2’s to evens and put in a sound display of jumping to beat Young O’Leary (6-4) in the first section. The winner’s Irish point-to-point form included a good second behind Dolphin Square this time last year (four times winner since under David Maxwell and rated 138), so his ability was no secret. A nice early goal.
Fran Nimmo’s four-year-old Freezing Point (2’s to 7-4 fav) was ridden out on his debut to repel a bold bid by Party Tunes (10-1) in the other division run in a much slower time. The concession of 21lbs proved just too much for the runner up, but he jumped soundly and is a winner in waiting. Arctic Milly (5-2) ruined her chance with a blunder at the last, but a Mares race is there for the taking. Freezing Point has an appointment at the sales later this week.
Five Gold Bars (Rob Hawker) was backed from 6’s to 3’s before keeping on well to hold the sustained challenge of Gio’s Girl (6-4 to evens) in the Restricted. Nobodydoesitbetter (solid 4’s), who looked well after a lay off had every chance three out before finishing third, should find a similar contest.
It was hard to oppose the top hunter chaser Caid du Berlais in the feature Mixed Open. Will Biddick’s mount eased slightly from 2-5 to 1-2 and won like a 10’s-on chance. I have always liked Marcle Ridge ( 3’s at the off), although he had a few pounds to find with the winner. I joined the each way thieves at 4’s so got a few quid back when he finished a creditable second. I expect a few subsequent winners to come out of this race. Third placed Doc Carver (16’s to 14’s) will no doubt pop up in Wales. Raddon Top (20’s) put a poor Larkhill run behind him and was best of the also rans here. Crown of Thorns (10’s) will be better for the race and Soul Kaliber (8’s) was not disgraced up in grade.
It all seemed a bit easy at this stage, but the plunge on Unioniste (13-8) came unstuck in the Veteran Horses Conditions Race (excellent opportunities for 10-year olds and over). He was rated 159 in his hey day but like most of us he is not the force of old. Three Faces West (5-1) made all under Nathan Vergne and pulled out more from the top of the hill when pressed by teenager Dicky Bob (5-2 to 2’s). In the end Three Faces West drew right away with Millanisi Boy (16-1) leaving his recent form behind in second. Bradley Brook (14’s to 12’s) had been off the track for over 1500 days and was taken carefully from well off the pace before finishing third, passing Dicky Bob close home. The well backed Rye Cross (8’s to 3’s) was pulled up early after breaking a blood vessel.
The seven years plus Open Maiden attracted a large field and a very easy winner with a large name in Gottagottagetaway. Despite three non completions in his three outings, the winner was nibbled at from 16’s to 100-7 with the competent Sam Jukes replacing a claimer (who owns the gelding) in the saddle. The more experienced On Raglan Road (16-1) outran his odds to finish runner up. Clever Des Assence (3-1 jt fav) is in a good yard and took third as Chicago Lady (7-1) was disqualified.
Clive Bennett’s Shometheway (7-4 to 11-10) had a hard race winning the Carmarthenshire Restricted before Christmas, but turned out here as fresh as a daisy here to win the getting out stakes stylishly. Journey Juice (8-1) finished his race well and Cloudy Music (3’s) ran her usual game race to fill the placings. Shometheway’s dam Labarynth won a few Westcountry points a few years ago when ridden by her trainer Polly Gundry (now Polly Walker). Apart from this useful mare she has bred Marcle Ridge and promising young hurdler Shishkin, who may be Festival bound for Nicky Henderson.