Restricted winner Florrie Webb (centre), ridden by Conor Houlihan

REPORT: EXMOOR POINT-TO-POINT AT BRATTON DOWN ON SUNDAY 22ND MAY 2022

Just endure the uphill battle,
Even if it takes forever;
Aim to reach the summit,
No reason to wane or waver

From a poem by Bernard F Asuncion.

There have been numerous uphill battles on the historic Bratton Down racecourse where point to points have been held since 1925.The course is now laid out on the side of a hill more or less in triangular shape with sharp bends and the characteristic stiff uphill  finish.  Viewing of the racing is not as good as it used to be because  a bank with bushes on top has been growing higher over the past few years obscuring part of the course to spectators. The breathtaking scenic view across the moor remains unchanged, I am pleased to say.

THE race for the National jockeys’ championship took another twist at the Exmoor fixture at Bratton Down.

Not only did James King edge ahead of Will Biddick in his bid to retain the title, he also reached his half century of winners for the seasonas Luckello followed up last week’s course victory in the Rosettes Direct Restricted. The mare jumped well and strode clear of Biddick’s mount Bennys Miracle from the third last “We were a bit concerned because it was a hotter race and quicker pace than when she ran before,” remarked owner Jason Rees. “She was a bit green in front,” said the jockey as in form trainer Luke Price confirmed that an Intermediate will be an early target.

King went on to extend his championship lead to two (51 to 49) in the eight-years- old and over Conditions race which was run in memory of Donna Kingdon, when Rose Island, yet another saddled by Luke Price, just had enough in hand of Ninth Wave after another positive ride from the reigning title holder.  Biddick again had to be content with the runner up spot on last week’s course winner.  The Fame and Glory mare Rose Island has now won four times this season for Marita  Warner-King, whose mother Sue King confirmed that Rose Island was the last horse bought by her late partner Jason Warner. It was a poignant reminder that Jason had enjoyed a double in his colours at this corresponding fixture last year.  

Charlie Sprake has evidently learnt his trade well working in Will Biddick’s Alhampton, Somerset yard, and the 19-year-old is seeking a national title of his own. This is the Highflyer Bloodstockleading male novice riders’ trophy for which he strengthened his chance by winning the two runner Men’s Open sponsored by Riverside Caravan & Camping Park on Imogens Thunder. Sprake now has 12 winners this season, two ahead of Freddie Gordon. This time his sole opponent James King seemed to be trying harder than his blinkered mount Ramble On, as this battle hardened veteran had little to offer when headed on the finishing climb.

Wendy Jarrett’s 11-year-old Imogens Thunder has now won his last four races and nine point-to-points in all since he was acquired in Ireland in 2018.  “ He has had ulcers. We have used Gastroguard  on him and he has yogurt for breakfast every day. We will rough him off now,” said Blandford, Dorset  based trainer Mary Tory.

Yet another National title could find its way to the West country thanks to Monsieur Gibraltar’s Bray Leino sponsored Ladies’ Open success, strengthening the hand of 16-year-old Olive Nicholls in her quest for the ladies novice award. The odds on favourite fended off a brave effort from Mahler Style (Ella Orttewell), and showedno ill effects from his heavy fall at Parham last month. His time of 5 mins 36 secs is the fastest time I have ever known at Bratton Down in recent years.“That was awesome. He took a bit of a hold today and it was a help to have Ella alongside,”reported the young rider. Paul Nicholls, joint owner with John Bolton, remarked that, “Will Biddick (trainer) did a great job getting him back after his previous fall. I would love to see him at Umberleigh where he would enjoy the hills.”

Josh Newman had taken a nasty fall from the favourite Dr Rhythm, bringing down Halloween Harry in the Conditions race, but bounced back to win the ALX Commercials Maiden on KayleyWoollacott’s five-year-old Donnys Fortune. Newman was content to drop his mount out early but made stealthy headway at the final ditch. James King made the running on Polly Sans, but ran out of steam on the run in as the winner stormed up the hill to give his rider his 16thwinner of the season. The giant sized Soldier of Fortune gelding is a half brother to Tim Vaughan’s useful chaser Madera Mist and looks a shrewd buy for £8,000 at last month’s TattersallsAscot sales. “We are still getting to know him and his jumping is not polished yet,” remarked the jockey.

Rowley Park added to his recent Holnicote win when landing odds of 2-5 in the RSM Beares and Brian Thorne & Son Hunt race. County Kilkenny born rider Vinny Webster is one of the leading novice riders in the area this year and eased his mount to the front at the penultimate for his sixth winner of the season. Better known as a two miler under rules, the nine-year-old was passed on to Umberleigh owner/trainer Lisa Smale by 91-years old local Blackmore Gate farmer Humphrey Bray who was present to see the race.