WRITTEN BY GRANVILLE TAYLOR
The ever improving Tiverton mare Where’s Wilma opened her account for the new season when winning the Richard Miller Memorial race at the Portman fixture, watched by a hugecrowd at Badbury Rings, Dorset on Sunday (November 7th).
The mare’s regular rider Matt Hampton was content to drop his mount out in a quality ten runner field. The mare got into top speed coming down the home straight, and neatly side stepped the faller Trainwreck at the third last. Where’s Wilmawent on to collar the leader Exxaro (Conor Houlihan) at the last and won going away.
“She made several jumping errors but quickened nicely,” reported the jockey, partnering the 11-year-old mare for the Not So Innocent Partnership headed by trainer Michael Watson. Where’s Wilma had won three of her four races last season, earning her owners the Leading Horse and Leading Mare awards for the Devon & Cornwall Area.
The successful rider Matt Hampton also trained a winner, as the progressive six-year-old Twig added to his wins at Maisemore Park and Upcott Cross last season in the Novice Riders’ Condition race in the hands of teenager Beau Morgan. The Sally Alner trained Tom Barton (Charlie Sprake) made much of the running, only to be headed and outstayed by Twig after the second last.
It was good to see Will Biddick back in the winner’s enclosure for the first time since his heavy fall at Upcott Cross in May which had left him with a fractured ankle and two torn ligaments. The seven-times National Champion jockey steered home four-year-old debutant Hey Soul Sister, who was stepping straight into Restricted class and got the better of a spirited duel with Schiap Hill. The winner, looking a nice prospect, was sent off 5-4 favourite, and hails from Christopher Barber’s yard at Mosterton near Crewkerne. Her next appointment is on Friday (Nov 12th) at TattersallsCheltenham November Sales.
The Barber/Biddick combination had to settle for the runner up spot in the Four and Five-year-old Maiden as the previously unraced Monty Searle could not quite get to grips with the more experienced Southfield Lily, given a positive front running ride by Lily Bradstock.
The former Philip Hobbs inmate Le Ligerien scooted clear down the hill under Tommie O’Brien to win the seven-runner Mixed Open by five lengths from the versatile ex-Irish gelding Sky Marshal (Milo Herbert). A winner three times over hurdles in the colours of David Churches, the eight-year-old, who was winning for the first time over three miles, is in the same ownership and now stabled with Marie McGuinness near Taunton.
The closest finish of the day came in the concluding Open Maiden as Martin (Fly) McIntyre just forced home Dock of the Bay to score by a head from the Darren Edwards ridden Jimmy Tew. Formerly with David Pipe, the seven-year-old is now qualified with the Four Burrow and trained by Leslie Jefford at Payhembury near Honiton for the Otis Partnership.“He is always on the go and we had to have him out of the box to calm him down after the first race today. The idea was to give him time to settle in the race and Fly did that well,” said trainer’s wife Lisa Jefford.