POINT-TO-POINTING was seen at its best at Bratton Down on Sunday with good ground, quite favourable Exmoor weather, a total of 83 runners and some exciting finishes.
The reigning Devon & Cornwall champion jockey Josh Guerriero will be handing over his title this year, but his new job as assistant trainer to Midlands based Dan Skelton has meant fewer opportunities in the saddle this time
25–year-old Josh showed that he had lost none of his dash with a treble in the first three races. Bernshaw set the ball rolling with a repeat of last year’s win in the Hunt race. Trained locally at Stoke Rivers for her parents Mike and Mella, the blinkered Bernshaw made virtually all the running. “He had not really been firing recently. He can be lazy and a bit artful and had to work hard for this,” commented the trainer
The Restricted had to be divided on the day. Fourstar River was well backed in the first section and came from off the pace to sweep past his rivals on the brow of the hill. “I have been trying to win a race here since 1975 and had several near misses,” said the winner’s owner/trainer Stewart Reddaway, who confessed to having a big bet on his nine-year-old. “He is a high class horse but not easy to train. Charlotte Rowe does a lot of the work and we have to look after his joints and his back,” he added.
Josh Guerriero produced another fine ride to lift the other division with The Mexican Bandit. Once again there was a blanket finish with The Mexican Bandit grimly holding off a five strong posse charging up the hill. “We have only had him for six weeks and he was a 70th birthday present for his owner Diana Scott. He was originally with Ollie Greenall and he came to us via Josh Guerriero and Ed Glassonbury,” said trainer Keith Cumings.
Open races often attract small fields at this time of the season, but they were well filled here. Join Together has been a classy recruit to pointing this year and the former Paul Nicholls chaser took his unbeaten record to six in the space of just 12 weeks when outclassing his 11 opponents in the Ladies’ Open.
Rose Loxton now trains this tough gelding, who has kept his 16-year-old rider Megan Nicholls in pole position for the National Novice Riders’ title. Leanda Tickle set a good pace on the bold jumping Ned White, but had no answer to the winner’s finishing burst. “My instructions were to follow the pace and be patient,” explained the winning rider, who was partnering her 16th winner of the season and could find herself with some good hunter chase rides next year. “Join Together is the sort who could go for the Foxhunter at Cheltenham.” was the long term thought expressed by proud father Paul Nicholls.
Round Tom has been successful in the hunter chase field in the past and the Richard Barber trained gelding started favourite in the 14-runner Men’s Open under Will Biddick. This time the nine-year-old could not quite cope with the wonderful veteran Coombe Hill who stayed on strongly in the hands of Darren Edwards. “He did not run well at Newton Abbot recently and we were thinking of retiring him after this race, but might have second thoughts now,” mused trainer Charlotte Fear (nee Tizzard) who handles the 13-year-old for owner Geoff Thompson.
Fancied horses put the punters in a good mood on Sunday, but Glenwood Present proved a lively outsider when chalked up at 16’s and 20’s before landing the 12-runner Intermediate under Josh Newman. “He had been gurgling and has got his confidence back now with the tongue tie and better ground”, said Nick Taylor, whose wife Tanya trains the sturdy ex-Bob Buckler gelding at Woolminstone for owner Nick Elliott. Glenwood Present was described by his trainer as “Such a sweetie in the yard – we can even lead our daughter’s pony off him.”
O’Flo had run really well at Bratton two weeks ago and the five-year-old grey stepped up to win the first division of the Open Maiden when outstaying the clumsy jumping Crackacan and Grey Dream to give Bryony Frost her 11th winner of the season. “That was a lovely run and she can go into the field now for the summer. Her dam O’Ech won here 10 years ago,” said the winner’s owner/trainer Carol Lawrence who bred her winner from the Vauterhill stallion With The Flow.
Whataknight won the concluding Maiden in good style to give Will Biddick his 36th winner of the season and put him well within sight of his third successive National jockeys’ title. “He was a bit green but jumped well and found a gear or two up the hill,” reported Biddick. Richard Barber saddled the winner for owners Terry Hamlin, Martin Dare and John Snook. “He was a late foal and has come on a lot in the last few weeks,” said the Seaborough, Dorset trainer. West Country pointing enthusiasts will recall Whataknight’s dam What A Mover, who won several points, and by co-incidence had won on the same Bratton Down card as O’Flo’s dam ten years ago.
PUNTERS 6: BOOKIES 2
Not exactly a blood bath for the layers, but punters certainly had the best of the exchanges with six of the eight favourites or joint favourites obliging.
FOURSTAR RIVER was snapped up at early 4’s in the first Restricted before settling at 2-1 favourite. The lightly raced gelding had delivered the goods only once before at Lower Machen last year, and was played late by Josh Guerriero to land a nicely planned gamble here.
The booking of Gina Andrews may have contributed to ASHTON MAGIC contracting from 14-1 into 10-1 in the same race. The seven-year-old almost fell when leading at the 10th fence and eventually finished last of the nine runners
COOMBE HILL was a worthy winner of the Men’s Open. This veteran pointer had won a hunter chase at Wincanton earlier this season but seemed to be on the downgrade when well beaten at Newton Abbot last month. He gained friends here at 7-2 and 3-1 and gamely overcame the 6-4 favourite ROUND TOM .
GLENWOOD PRESENT ‘S recent Holnicote win seemed to be overlooked as the sturdy gelding was easy to back at 20-1 and 16-1 in a competitive Intermediate. Josh Newman worked his mount into the lead before the final bend before brushing aside his challengers up the final climb.
The bookies were lying in wait in each division of the concluding Maidens. The bonny grey mare O’FLO (2’s to 7-4) shared favouritism with CRACKACAN, who was cut from 5-2 into 7-4. They finished first and second in that order.
The dogs had evidently been barking before the Richard Barber five-year-old WHATAKNIGHT teamed up with champion Will Biddick in the last event. No chances were taken by the layers and just scraps of 6-4 and 7-4 were offered. Once again the chaps with the satchels were proved right and this promising youngster did his job in taking fashion.
Point-To-Point and Pony racing results of the Exmoor meeting
Westcountry Videos filmed the meeting, order on 01884 840403 or through the website later in the week at www.westcountryvideos.co.uk
The following professional & amateur photographers were at the meeting: Baths photographic (Marcus Bath), Brian Armstrong, Clayton Jane, David Strange, John Beasley (Big Green Annual), Helen Stoneman, North Devon Journal, Tim Holt and Turfpix (Tracy Roberts)
Sunday 8th June, Tiverton Staghounds Point-To-Point, Bratton Down (near Bratton Fleming)