GRANVILLE’S BETTING GOSSIP: DART VALE & HALDON HARRIERS AT BUCKFASTLEIGH ON SUNDAY 15TH MARCH 2020

Oh dear, so that’s it for the season with three months of pointing in our area still to go. No more point-to-points, no more betting gossip, racing suspended, the industry jeopardised, bookies redundant and they are trying to handcuff me to the chair.

Whether it was the dodgy weather (it rained all morning on Sunday) or coronavirus worries, it was a shame that the normal bustling atmosphere of Buckfastleigh was lacking. The track conformation was a bit different because the normal last fence was not jumped, meaning a very long run-in from the jump coming off the top bend. There was plenty of quality racing though for the faithful to enjoy.

The opening five runner Hunt race was a bit of a puzzle. I couldn’t work it out so no bet. 10-year-old Moonaro is still a maiden but was sent off 2-1 fav having been chalked up at 3’s. Beuvron settled at 5-2 from 3’s but he is not very reliable nowadays. Tarrytown (9-2) had shown a glimmer of form, and the experienced Skylander (11-4) is capable on his day. It was another maiden however, Ragged Dream (7-1), who prevailed in a close finish to give 17-year-old Tamby Welch a deserved first point-to-point winner.

Stevan Steel (5-2 to 9-4 fav) is no rock star but came good under a typically positive Darren Edwards ride to win the Open Maiden easily from 11 opponents. The rider had the luxury of a peep round with his toiling rivals stone cold off the last bend. West Somerset trainer Janet Ackner does well with this type of horse who was placed in an Irish Maiden as long as four years ago, but had been knocking at the door recently. He must get his grey coat from his dam Silver Proverb who was moderate but had to lump a young claimer called Tom Malone round over hurdles a few years ago.

Gunner Vic (10-1) came from well off the pace to claim the runner up spot (he would have been put into the note book for a Bratton Down meeting). Natalie Parker’s mount Clever des Assence (drifted from 2’s to 3’s) was a head away in third after pressing the leaders for a long way.

The Men’s Open was the Devon & Cornwall Area Classic race limited to previous winners. Navanman (6-4 fav having touched 11-4) needs little introduction and duly took his pointing wins to 11, this time with Darren Edwards in the saddle. John Heard’s charge relished the heavy ground and went 20 lengths clear round the top bend before cantering home ahead of Big Georgie (7-1). Below form Fishy Story, who had touched evens before settling at 2’s, finished a well beaten third. Navanman had a good reason for his defeat at the showground last month when sustaining an injury, and connections have done well to squeeze another win out of this top pointer.

Nickelsonthedime (5-4 to 4-5) had created a very favourable impression with a couple of Wadebridge wins, but had to give best in a good Intermediate to The Galloping Bear (5-2) who had won his Restricted on the showground after opening his account in the mud at Ffos Las in December. The Galloping Bear (Darren Andrews) led from the top of the hill and stayed on well in conditions much to his liking. Both these promising types are by the St Leger winner Shantou who has developed into a leading NH stallion. It is unfortunate that the Exeter final to this event is lost.

The two market leaders also dominated the Skinner’s Ladies’ Open. The game veteran Dicky Bob (solid 3’s) jumped well and tried to make all the running under Millie Wonnacott, but was overhauled off the last bend by a confidently ridden Master Baker partnered by Jo Supple (evens fav). Jo is nearing her century of winners and has been on board Master Baker for all of his 15 wins, including three hunter chases. Wind Tor (3’s) was a distant third. Goldbury (8’s to 7’s) looked fit but had an off day and was pulled up before half way.

The form worked out in the Novice Riders race when Millanisi Boy (4-5 to 4-6) just made his experience pay with a two lengths success over the penalised Raddon Top (3-1). The winner always seemed to be holding the upper hand but was hard pressed by his main rival from the top of the hill and was driven right out by Fergus Gillard.

The Point-to-Point flat race was scheduled as the last race but had to be divided after attracting 15 declarations, exceeding the safety limit by one. Six of the eight runners in the first section were unraced which made for a cagey betting market. The faces went for Alan Hill’s once raced five-year-old Vain Girl (2-1 fav), but there was support for Any Alibis (7’s to 3’s) and the subsequent Fran Nimmo trained winner Sun Rising Hill (3-1). The Warwickshire trainer specialises in this type of event and this Mahler four-year-old certainly knew her job, coming clear under Alice Stevens to beat Nicky Martin’s Fevertre (4-1).

The other division, shall we call it the last waltz, went to Gerry Supple’s Sandaroc (3’s to 5-2), a strong bodied four-year-old filly by Shirocco who looked fit and ready to go in the preliminaries. Sandaroc landed a double for promising young jockey Fergus Gillard, fending off the jolly, Charlottes Way (2’s from 4’s) inside the last couple of furlongs. In another tight betting heat there were bits and pieces for third placed Red Cap (4’s to 3’s), Midnight Billy (7-2) and The Ramp Sleeper (5’s).

Before you ask, yes, I backed Sandaroc ( on the basis of paddock inspection). I would like to think that I was just coming into form on the betting front when the curtain came down dramatically, but that is what all of us punters would say……