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.
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)
Members race (Sponsor – Stags)
1 For The Staff (Ian Chanin) 4-7 fav
2 Lord Samson (Josh Guerriero) 5-2
3 Edeiff’s Lad (Josh Newman) 25-1
5 ran; 3l; 6l; 6m 45s
Trainer: Robert Chanin
Restricted Division 1 (Agrii)
1 Romassor (Tom David) 9-4
2 Un Ami (Chester Williams) 7-4 fav
3 Gosser Time (Joe Ponting) 50-1
10 ran; short head – 10l; 6m 50s
Trainer; Chloe Roddick
Restricted Division 2 (Pennymoor Timber)
1 Illicit Illusion (Sam Drinkwater) 9-4 fav
2 Whenharrymetsally (Will Biddick( 16-1
3 Boardwalk Empire (Tom Ellis) 7-2
11 ran; 3/4l; 6l; 6m 45s
Trainer: Tom Lacey
Mixed Open (Matford Land Rover & family of the late John Pearcey)
1 Certain Flight (Will Biddick)
2 All Great N Theory (David Renney) 18-1
3 Hameldown Tor (Robbie Henderson) 6-1
17 ran; 2l; 6l; 6m 41s
Trainer: Keith Cumings
PPORA Club Novice Riders’ (Dodson & Horrell)
1 Justabout (Ciaran Gethings) 16-1
2 Tamatown (Alastair Harvey) 5-1
3 Barneys Mate (Christopher Barber) 9-4 fav
10 ran; 1 1/4l; 1l; 6m 56s
Trainer: Gerald Greenway
Intermediate (Exeter Racecourse)
1 Blazing Whale (Robbie Henderson) 8-1
2 Babeny Bridge (Lizzie Kelly 5-2 fav
3 Paddycards (Claire Hart) 8-1
16 ran; 1 1/2l; 6l; 6m 43s
Trainer: Edward Walker
1 Lucette Annie (Darren Edwards) 6-5 fav
2 Popaway (Joe Docker) 5-1
3 Champagne Rosie (Will Biddick) 11-8
6 ran; 5l; 7l; 6m 53s
Trainer: Simon Partridge
Open Maiden Division 1 (Mount Pleasant Inn)
1 Master Hooper (Matt Hampton) 7-2
2 Desert Sting (Ed Glassonbury) 7-2
9 ran won by a distance – only two finished; 7m 2s
Trainer: Julie Purdie
1 Thedrinkymeister (Sam Drinkwater) 5-4 fav
2 Mangans Turn (Jack Barber) 6-1
3 Driftwood Haze (Evan David) 8-1
9 ran; 1 1/2l; distance; 6m 52s
Trainer: Tom Lacey
Open Maiden Division 2 (Steve Marsh & friends of the late Robin Barwell)
1 Big Georgie (James Ridley)
2 Bamboleo (Will Telfer) 5-2 fav
3 Corton Ridge (WillBiddick) 8-1
15 ran; 2 1/2l; 6l; 6m 52s
Trainer: Heather Ridley
GRANVILLE TAYLOR REFLECTS
Despite the ground getting quicker a healthy total of 79 runners contested the eight races at Bratton Down. I don’t think I have ever seen so many close finishes in one day with six of the eight races being decided by one length or less. All except one of the races were run in under six minutes.
Men’s Open (Bob Pittard Memorial – The Pittard Family)
A small but select field which included the exciting prospect Deb’s Dasher, who had not tasted defeat in five outings since his Kilworthy Intermediate win last March. The seven-year-old started 6-4 favourite but was faced with an equally progressive type in Special Account, who was seeking his third win of the campaign. Benedictus is also on the upgrade and had two wins under his belt this year. Merv Woodward soon had hunter chase winner Gershwinner out in front, but was joined by Deb’s Dasher (Richard Woollacott) before half way. Benedictus fell at the 12th fence and Deb’s Dasher went into the lead shortly afterwards. All this time Neil Harris had been making stealthy progress on Special Account and he was soon tracking the leader going ominously well. It took some nerve, but Harris sat quietly until asking Special Account for his effort half way up the final climb. He got a positive response where it mattered and headed the gallant Deb’s Dasher 100 yards from the line. “I was told to leave it until the last stride,” grinned the winning jockey. The winner’s trainer Camilla Scott said her charge was, “putting it all together now and needs to be ridden like that.” I am not sure that such brinkmanship does a lot of good for Special Account’s owner Jenny Perry, who spent much of the race not daring to watch in the centre of the course!
Ladies’ Open (Eastleigh Care Home)
Blackstaff was returning to the point-to-point field having been highly tried in both the Cheltenham and Liverpool Foxhunters this spring. Lizzie Kelly’s mount started a shade of odds-on to beat his three opponents which included the smart Wee Fly. It was a muddling sort of race and the form may be questionable. Oslot (Leanda Tickle) ran on well to beat Ha Ho Magregor and Wee Fly, with Blackstaff a disappointing fourth. Take nothing away from the winner, Oslot, who was enjoying his first success since winning the Galway Plate from the Paul Nicholls yard in July 2008. Like many ex-chasers, this ten-year-old is finding a second career point-to-pointing, and he now races in the colours of Bruton based Sam and Rose Loxton. “He was not in love with the game and was given to us by his previous owner Andy Stewart. He had a year off and has a lovely nature,” explained Rose, whose day job is assistant head lass in the Nicholls yard where she looks after the mighty pair of Kauto Star and Big Bucks.
Confined (AP & VA Maddox Ltd)
Leanda Tickle completed a double on Delta Borget, whose late thrust saw him get up in the shadow of the post to deny Certain Flight (Michael Miller), who held a three lengths lead at the bottom of the hill. Shanann Star (Darren Edwards) finished a close third. Leanda has made the most of her opportunities this year and her nine winners currently put her one behind Charlotte Prichard for the National Novice title. Delta Borget was another winner for the in-form Leslie Jefford yard near Honiton. “Delta Borget has strengthened up a lot this year and you couldn’t ask for a better horse for a syndicate,” enthused the trainer, whose wife Lisa manages the ‘Here Comes The Girls’ group. Another few bottles of pink champagne no doubt consumed.
Restricted: (James Pryce Tractors)
Leslie Jefford had saddled the first of his three winners of the day here in the shape of the grey Silver Commander (Will Biddick). It probably wasn’t part of the plan, but Biddick’s mount gave his fourteen opponents a ten lengths start and had to work his way through the field. Noble Aran made most of the running with Tourist Board and Little Cornham in close attendance. Silver Commander reached a challenging position at the last and cut through his rivals to score by half a length from Little Cornham with Noble Aran a close third. “He is still learning and is a potential staying chaser,” noted the successful trainer, who has charge of the Silver Patriarch gelding on behalf of the Exe Valley Racing Syndicate.
Intermediate (Hi-Tec Drains)
FletePark winner Sunken Secret (Ed Glassonbury) and In The Circle (Ryan Bliss) fought for the lead after EslinBridge had fallen when challenging at the second last. Dashing John was creeping closer with every stride however and 19-year-old Natalie Parker got a great response from him coming up the hill. Sunken Secret refused to give in, but ten-year-old Dashing John stayed on under a determined ride and got his head in front a few yards from the post to give his young rider her second career winner. Dashing John has proved to be a useful schoolmaster for the Parker family. Amazingly Dashing John’s sire My Best Valentine was a sprinter (he won the Group 1 Prix De L’Abbaye De Longchamp), but his dam Westerlands Queen was a three miles plus hunter chase winner for his breeder, the late John Manners. At least John would have smiled at breeding a stayer from a sprinter.
PPORA Club Novice Riders’ (Connolly’s Red Mills)
The 12th fence had claimed a few victims during the day and this time snared the odds-on favourite Barney’s Mate. Sobre Tresor (Josh Newman) and Light Touch (Vicky Wade) battled it out in front, but just as Sobre Tresor got the upper hand, he was collared at the top of the hill by the strong finishing Crank Hill (Tim Hampton) and Mister Moonax (Hannah Hawkins). Once again, a classic Bratton finish with just over two lengths separating the three principals on reaching the judge. The South Dorset gelding Crank Hill had recently finished runner up over four miles in a Cheltenham hunter chase so his staying power was not in doubt.
Open Maiden Div 1 (Ucanstore.com)
A short head verdict was the official decision this time as the 5-2 favourite King Kash (Richard Woollacott) held on grimly to withstand the strong challenge of FourstarRiver (Vicky Wade). “He appreciated the better ground today and just idled a bit on the flat,” said the jockey’s partner Kayley Jones, who now holds the point-to-point licence at Rose Ash since Richard has taken a National Hunt licence. King Kash was bought privately in Ireland last winter where he had been placed twice in Irish points.
Open Maiden Div 2 (BMW Westerley, Barnstaple)
A maximum field of 16 faced the starter, but the five-year-old Jewellery quickly established a long lead under Will Biddick. Jewellery kept up the gallop to come home in sparkling fashion to score with 25 lengths in hand of Floral Patches (Martin Cooney) with My Rebel (Leanda Tickle) making eye catching late progress to finish third. The winner formed part of a training treble for Leslie Jefford. Owned by Culmstock builder Mike Rowe, this tough little mare had already been placed on the flat and over hurdles before turning her attentions to pointing this year. Runner-up in two of her three previous outings, “she has not run a bad race all season,” said the trainer.