WRITTEN BY GRANVILLE TAYLOR
“Oh to be in England now that April’s there….”Robert Browning, English poet 1812-1889
Well Mr Browning, I am not sure that you would really like to be in England today, but you are correct in that Flete Park races epitomises the very best of English point-to-pointing in April.
Despite pleasant wall to wall April sunshine it seemed a sombre afternoon at Flete Park for the Dartmoor fixture. The winning post flags fluttered at half mast, and there was a break after the second race for a silence in recognition of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing and funeral.
COVID restrictions added to the unreal scenario, with just one bookmaker in each sparsely populated, segregated zone. At least a limited return of owners was encouraging. The organisers had worked tirelessly to water the course in the face of the dry spell.
A quality field of 11 contested the four miles Mixed Open for the Lord Mildmay Memorial Cup. Byron Moorcroft set a searching gallop on Ramble On, and was still in front jumping the last, only to be collared by Know the Scene (Martin McIntyre) close home. Where’s Wilma stayed on well to finish third, just ahead of Navanman and Honest Deed.
Know The Score had won three times under rules for the David Pipe yard, having cost £380,000 as a four-year-old. Current trainer Leslie Jefford explained, “He had lost his way a bit and we are trying to rekindle his enthusiasm. I hoped he would enjoy himself. We might come back for the Ladies’ four-miler in two weeks.” Successful Jockey Martin (Fly) McIntyre reported, “We went a nice gallop and I tried to hold him together. He would be better on a galloping track.”
27-year-old rider Darren Andrews had partnered losing favourite Navanman for John Heard in the Open, but fared better for the same yard as the mare Cottage Rose scored readily in the Restricted. After paying tribute to the watering efforts, the trainer said, “Darren gave her a peach of a ride. She is good at coming from behind. We made too much use of her at Cherrybrook.”
Ed Walker saddled Journey Juice to win the Hunt race under a fine hold up ride from Chloe Emsley. Bay to Go (James Armstrong) made a bold bid from the front, but had no answer to the finishing pace of the winner. “This was my first ride at Flete and my third winner of the season. The plan was to come late but I had a scare when he stumbled and lost some ground on the top bend,” reported the rider.
The Ed Walker yard looked likely to complete a double when sending out three of the four runners in a disappointing turn out for the four and five-year-old Maiden. It was the Darren Edwards ridden Swearer (yes that is the gelding’s name) who took the prize however, coming from behind to win going away by five lengths. Owned by Paul Emmins and trainer Joe Tickle’s partner Danielle Kenealy, the five-year-old showed the benefit of his point-to-point bumper run last year against his three unraced opponents. “He is fractious at home and our 16-year-old son Taylor rode him round the lorry park today to keep him calm,” remarked the up and coming North Devon trainer.
Bridge of Spies gained consolation for his unlucky defeat at Cherrybrook with a convincing win under Conor Houlihan in the Owners and Trainers Condition race. The winner runs in the colours of the Bielby family with trainer George Bielby reporting, “He was a gift horse. My wife and daughter do a lot of the work. This course suited him and he acts on any going.” Jockey Conor Houlihan commented, “He was amazing. Every time I asked him up he responded.”
The tall jockey works for Will Biddick, who chased the winner home on evergreen Unioniste. Biddick also had to settle for the runner up spot on Board of Trade in the Conditions event. On this occasion he played second fiddle to front running Syracuse’s Dream, who gave jockey Barnaby Treneer a popular local victory, and his third career success. “He loves it here and I rode him for stamina,” said the young rider whose mother Deborah trains the gelding she described as, “inconsistent and better on a hilly course.”
Will Biddick’s frustrating afternoon continued as his mount Melvyn fell at half way in the concluding Maiden. Both horse and the seven-times National champion jockey were unhurt. This race went to Dr Time who had shown only modest form under rules, and had failed to finish in two recent points.. He sauntered home here from 12 opponents under Josh Newman. Warwickshire based trainer Francesca Nimmo had enjoyed a winner at Chaddesley Corbett earlier in the day. Her husband Charlie Poste was on duty here and said, “Dr Time has enough ability for Restricted and Intermediates. We have now had six winners from the last ten runners.”
Photo Credits: Athwenna Irons/WMN