THE British point-to-point season drew to a close at Umberleigh last Saturday against the background of the traditional end of season party atmosphere. The Torrington Farmers’ meeting ended the six and a half months Devon & Cornwall area campaign stretching back to last November’s opener at Black Forest Lodge.
The prolific Welsh pointer Findlay’s Find has been a great servant to Paul and Myfanwy Miles and showed his liking for the track by repeating last year’s Men’s Open win under David Mansell. The sturdy nine-year-old was scoring for only the second time this season, but his illustrious career CV now shows 22 pointing wins plus a hunter chase.
“We nearly didn’t come after it rained on Friday because he needs fast ground and the firmer the better for him. Dave kept him to the outside for better ground and he really appreciates a test of stamina,” said Paul Miles. Jockey David Mansell is of course vastly experienced but has had a lean year by his standards. “This is my first pointing winner since Barbury Castle last December so I have doubled my score,” joked the rider.
The South Pembrokeshire qualified Rosies Peacock (John Mathias), bidding for his eighth success of the season, started favourite and was prominent until weakening up the final climb to finish last of the four runners. It was left to the Cheshire trained Threapwood (Oliver Greenall) to chase home the winner, with the only West country representative Bathwick Scanno a creditable third…
Florence Mary is another fast ground specialist and found conditions to her liking when taking the Ladies’ Open. The ten-year-old looked in trouble down the back straight but was sent past leader Skating Home after the final ditch to score readily in the colours of Jeff Fear, who described his mare as, “a late season horse.”
The winner was a third pointing success for 17-year-old jockey Lucy Mager, a recruit from pony racing, who has just completed her first year of A levels at King’s Wessex. Florence Mary’s Wedmore based trainer Emma Mellor, due to give birth in two months time, has done well to rejuvenate her charge “She has always been a monkey and was not a great eater. I have changed her diet and her therapist and she lives a bit like a mountain goat. She checks the cows and sometimes goes to the beach at Burnham,” smiled the trainer.
The Confined field was reduced to two when Just Seven crashed out after a circuit, leaving odds-on favourite Robin Will well clear. 10-1 outsider Lucys Girl looked a forlorn hope until the favourite’s stride shortened dramatically after the last ditch, allowing Lucys Girl and young rider Jake Bament to sweep past. The winner, bought cheaply at Ascot sales last July, is owned and trained by Dan Farr just two miles from the course at Atherington.
Carry On Nando finished alone in the Restricted to give Irish born jockey Sean Houlihan his fifth career winner. His mount was well clear when sole opponent Gouranga Society unseated Paul Sheard at the final fence. Owned by Jenny Luscombe and Richard Candy and trained by Gordon Chambers, the winner was also sourced from Ascot sales last July. “He needs top of the ground and would make a super schoolmaster. We gave Sean (Houlihan) his first winner in March,” reported the trainer.
Heidi Lewis is another pony racing recruit and steered Kawana Cove home in the Intermediate. Nine-year-old Kawana Cove is jointly owned by the rider and her father David, and is trained by her mother Maria. The gelding had undergone a lean spell this season after taking the Restricted on this card last June. “He doesn’t like it soft and hates tacky ground,” commented the 18-year-old jockey who works for Kayley and Richard Woollacott and was partnering her fourth career winner.
After finishing runner up on his only other mount of the day, Oliver Greenall celebrated his retirement from the saddle by winning the final race of the season on 12-1 outsider Come On Louis, a horse he also trains near Malpas, Cheshire. The rider has happy memories of Umberleigh having set the then record total of 56 winners in a season with a double there in 2008 (since equalled by his brother Tom in 2009 and recently considerably upped by Will Biddick this year). Sitting in the changing tent afterwards with some relief showing, 28-year-old Oliver with over 200 career winners to his name explained, “This horse is owned by my box driver Andrew Ralphs who couldn’t be here today. My brother Jake bought him as a four-year-old and he has had all sorts of problems. This is the first season we have had a clear run with him. My plan is to concentrate on training pointers next season and to take out a full trainers licence after that.
WILL BIDDICK continued in top form at the East Devon fixture at Ottery St Mary on Saturday (Feb 28), where the rain softened ground rode heavy in places. The Cornish rider followed up his four-timer at Badbury Rings last weekend with a treble which keeps him well ahead of his rivals as he seeks a fourth consecutive National jockeys’ title.
Biddick teamed up with leading trainer Jack Barber to steer Roger Penny’s Earthpower home to a narrow success in a section of the Open Maiden for four to seven-year-olds. Pippa Glanville’s bold front running efforts on Miss Weld looked like paying off, but Biddick brought Earthpower through to challenge at the last, and drove his mount ahead on the run in. “This is the first winner I have trained for Mr Penny. He is a nice type by Milan and was lightly raced last year. He had a wind op in the summer,” said the young handler, who took over the promising gelding when his grandfather Richard Barber retired at the end of last season.
The Barber / Biddick combination struck again when Bien Connu made all the running to take the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate qualifier. This nine-year-old is quickly making up for lost time after a three-years absence, having scored on his comeback run at Chipley Park last month. “This was the plan today to qualify him for the Exeter final,” stated the Henley, Crewkerne trainer. “We had to virtually re-break him when he came in after his long absence. He can be a bit of a monkey and Josh Newman rides him every day,” added Jack.
Will Biddick achieved his hat trick and did what A P McCoy failed to do on Downtown Manhattan in the eight-year-olds and over Open Maiden. The soon to retire champion McCoy failed to reach the frame twice on Downtown Manhattan when the eight-year-old was in training with Jonjo O’Neill, but the well backed Presenting gelding relished the very soft underfoot conditions here under Biddick to beat the John Mathias ridden It’s My Island in the 10-runner field.
Claire Hitch sent out Downtown Manhattan to score from her Exmoor yard, and almost secured a four-timer for Biddick as another of her charges, I’m All Set, just went under in a driving finish in a section of the Open Maiden. This event went to the Welsh challenger Good Grammar who prevailed by a length under a powerful ride by Nick Williams.
Two Devon based jockeys rode their first winners on an action packed afternoon. Delphi Mountain gave 26-year-old Emma Watson her initial success in the well supported Hunt race. Emma did not panic when Robbie Henderson delivered his challenge on odds-on favourite Level Spirit rounding the final bend, and still held a slight lead when the challenger came down at the last. “We bought Delphi Mountain out of Richard Woollacott’s yard and he is owned by my boyfriend Christopher Pike. I work at Culmstock for Stuart Sampson and train the horse myself,” said Emma who was having only her fifth race ride.
Jennifer Davenport opened her account on Mic’s Delight, a horse she also owns and trains in the Novice Riders’ contest. “He came from Victor Dartnall and this horse is a gentleman, an absolute delight and he looks after me,” enthused Jennifer, 33, who is a vet with the South Moor Veterinary practice at Modbury.
It was good to see Jo Buck back in the winner’s enclosure as the strapping grey Dicky Bob, owned and trained by Verity Nicholls was given a positive ride by Jo to open her account for the season when beating Molly Oscar by 10 lengths in the Restricted. “He stays really well and has thrived since he won at Buckfastleigh,” said Verity.
Sue Trump’s useful 10-year-old Kirkleigh defied his 7lbs penalty to take the Mixed Open. The popular Silverton qualified gelding had also been successful at Buckfastleigh two weeks previously (today’s winners Mic’s Delight and Delphi Mountain were behind him on that occasion). Once again forcing the pace and jumping soundly, Kirkleigh (Tom Chanin) shrugged off the challenge of Fiulin and drew away after jumping the last. “We will look at a hunter chase at Chepstow next where he will probably get his favoured soft ground,” remarked trainer Robert Chanin.
TOTNES & BRIDGETOWN RACES COMPANY Totnes & Bridgetown Races, which dated from 1783, ceased to exist following the closure and requisition of their course at Totnes in 1939 but through the continued existence of the Company, they are able to assist both Point-to-Point Racing and Hunter Chasing.
The Company is pleased to continue its support of the Dart Vale & South Pool Harriers’ Point-to-Points at Buckfastleigh and at February 15th’s meeting is proud to sponsor “The Westcountry Champion Chase”, the Devon & Cornwall Area Classic Race which carries total prize money of £1000, with £700 to the Winner.
This race was first run at Buckfastleigh in 2002 as an Area Feature Race but achieved Devon & Cornwall Area Classic Race status in 2006 when the prize money was raised to £1000.
“I’ve always told [owner] John Symes that this is the best horse he’s got, but he doesn’t believe me!” laughed Richard Woollacott, after the John Mathias-ridden Parkam Jack had defied a 19-month absence to land the Mixed Open at the expense of last year’s winner and odds-on favourite Certain Flight.
A former winner of two Points, a Newton Abbot novice hunter chase and a Worcester maiden hurdle under Woollacott’s trainership, but now representing wife Kayley’s Pointing string, the Grape Tree Road gelding showed no signs of ring-rustiness despite an extended break owed to a leg problem, and having been allowed to switch off in rear up to halfway found plenty for driving to fend off his closest pursuer by an eventual half-length margin.
“He always wins driven out, but that’s just him!” Woollacott continued. “In fairness he’s always been our best work horse at home, but he doesn’t always do it on the track for you. We didn’t do anything special to get him fit after his leg, just a lot of galloping, and we knew that was enough. We knew he was fit for today.”
Although already proven over Rules fences by expedient of that Newton Abbot victory, a return for Parkam Jack to Richard’s side of the yard any time soon is by no means assured. “We knew he was good enough to be worth giving a year off and bringing back for this job [Pointing], but we won’t go back under Rules except perhaps for a hunter chase. We know exactly what he is – he’s a solid 112-rated sort of horse, and no better.”
Five winners for the season for Kayley Woollacott quickly became six, as Larkhill Restricted dead-heater Jepeck sprung himself from Intermediate class at the first time of asking with a victory rather more emphatic than that recorded in Wiltshire three weeks earlier. Momentarily under pressure approaching three out, Jamie Thomas’s mount produced an irresistible renewed effort between the final two fences to win going away.
Success here qualified the son of Westerner for both the Connolly’s Red Mills and Exeter Racecourse Intermediate Finals at a stroke, but thoughts are yet to turn to either target in earnest – perhaps unsurprisingly, coming as they would nearly six months into a campaign that started at the season-opening Black Forest Club fixture.
Kayley Woollacott ventured further: “He’s still only six and we wouldn’t want to over-race him. Even this was a quick reappearance after Larkhill, but there wouldn’t have been anywhere to go with him for a while after as he has to go right-handed.” A trip to Buckfastleigh was briefly considered in the winner’s enclosure, before those present remembered that track had of course switched from Jepeck’s favoured clockwise configuration to anticlockwise in 2013.
Kayley could confirm one definite immediate plan, however – “Keeping him from Richard!”
A well-backed favourite, Jepeck was not unfancied by the Woollacott raiding party – and one in particular. “Our head lad said on the way down we’d have a double today – this horse and one other”, smiled Kayley Woollacott, adding: “Unfortunately he got the other one wrong!”
By a process of elimination, that “other one” could only have been Robin Will, a warm order to add the Hunt Members contest to the Open Maiden success he gained on his one previous course visit two years ago.
The cutest of waiting rides from John Mathias reaped less reward than it deserved, however, as the combination of a limited response off the bridle after two out and a last-fence error condemned the half-brother of Grand National aspirant Unioniste to a four-length defeat at the hands of Blinding Lights, whose winning rider Matt Hampton doubled his score for the season in the process.
“I was hunting with the Tiverton yesterday, and they were asking me what I was running in the race”, beamed successful owner-trainer Mary Sanderson afterwards, “and I told them it was Blinding Lights. ‘Will it win?’ they asked, and I said it would be a blinding shame if he doesn’t!”
Not that it was always a certainty that the 10-year-old son of a niece of Burrough Hill Lad would still be holding a place in the Sanderson string long enough to record this latest victory for her. “The girls in the yard love him, but I nearly sold him last year – he didn’t pass the vet, though. There’s nothing wrong with him now,” recalled the Calverleigh-based former publican, who further advised that Blinding Lights was “never 100%” during a 2013-14 campaign tempered by issues with backside muscles and an abscess in the mouth.
A neck second to Turthen under the same rider in the 2013 renewal of the same race, having made every yard in the hands of the now-conditional Kieran Edgar twelve months before that, Blinding Lights’ success constituted an eighth in the Tiverton Members for Sanderson in just 15 seasons.
However, the gelding still has some way to go to emulate former stable star Jabiru, winner of the same race five times between 2001 and 2006; and nor is he ever likely to effect quite the same sort of boilover as achieved by 2008 scorer Hollandia, winner of a three-runner renewal at odds of 50-1!
No less celebrated a finisher in the Members race following a wholly respectable 27l fifth on Weston Lodge, 52-year-old first-time rider Alex Muirhead returned to the paddock to a rapturous reception from friends and well-wishers… and to the challenge cup (swiftly filled with champagne) for the first resident in the Tiverton Foxhounds country to pass the post.
Resplendent in tartan-apeing red and green diamond-patterned silks during the race and the ceremonial headgear and coat of his beloved City Of Exeter Pipes and Drums after it, the veteran debutant – a chandler by trade – had not wanted for expert tutelage from the likes of Rodi Greene and (brother-in-law) Jamie Osborne ahead of this realisation of a long-held dream.
Robin Will’s reverse in the opener was the first of two for John Mathias in the opening couple of races, with joint-favourite Shanks A Bunch producing the shortest-lived of threats before weakening right out under the Welshman in the Restricted that followed.
That could hardly have lain in starker contrast to fellow jolly, the Will Biddick-partnered Bien Connu, whose effort in repelling Mangans Turn (Josh Newman) to lead home a Jack Barber-trained one-two betrayed no evidence whatsoever of the mammoth 38-month absence which had preceded it.
Last seen running away with a Thames Valley Club Maiden at the sadly now-dormant Tweseldown in December 2011, and turning out here for only the third time in his life, the Bienamado gelding’s effort understandably had connections beaming afterwards. “That’s very pleasing. He’d not been quite right any previous year that we’d brought him back in, but he’s been better this time around, having come back in September,” explained Barber, the current National Trainer’s Championship leader. “He had a leg, and it’s just taken time with him – firing, a long time off, and a lot of work.”
In light of Bien Connu’s protracted previous absence, it would not surprise were short-term aspirations for the nine-year-old not to have extended beyond returning cold legs the following morning.
Present to shout on John Mathias from the sidelines, win or lose, proud father Philip also found time to impart a little further information on the new course at Llwyndau Farm, the venue for this year’s Banwen Miners Point on Monday, May 4th following the sale of the previous Pentreclwydau site.
“[BHA course inspector] Peter Hobbs and I walked the course the other week, and it’s very encouraging – the grass cover will be good, and it’s really a better site than we could have dared hope for at such short notice. The landowners are completely on board, and so proactive in getting things in place between each planning meeting.” Mathias explained of a site located around five miles west of Pentreclywdau.
As to the layout? “It’s sort of a d-shaped 1m1f circuit, and quite flat, with a straight home run and a bend in the back straight. I’d think it would lend itself better to being left-handed, but that’s to be decided.”
Fifth place was the best that Silver Token could manage in the Mixed Open on this card twelve months earlier, but the combination this time around of a drop back in class, plus the assistance of emerging talent Harry Cobden, proved just what the Silver Patriarch gelding required to land a first Pointing success in over two years in the Dodson & Horrell PPORA Novice Riders’ event. Sent closer at the start of the final circuit, the 10-year-old grey finally wore down the gallant Ladyvie (Hannah Welch) in the final 75 yards, following a good tussle over the final two fences.
For the Lydford-on-Fosse based Cobden, 16, victory here represented a first success between the flags on only his third attempt, as well as an altogether happier experience than a slip and unseat from Cock Of The Rock on his Pointing debut at Wadebridge two weeks earlier. “He was hopping mad after that,” recalled self-described “long suffering mum” Sarah, proudly watching on along with the rider’s grandmother Gill and Rules trainer Anthony Honeyball.
Active in pony racing since the age of nine, and the winner of – by his own reckoning – no fewer than 33 events in that sphere, Cobden schooled at Sexey’s in Bruton until turning 16 last November. “He came out of school early – you’ll have the Schools Service on us!” laughed Sarah. In actual fact her son remains in education, combining home tutorials with five weekday morning shifts for principal employer Honeyball and Wednesday afternoons spent riding out for David Brace.
Cobden has plenty for which to thank the last-named, in particular; “He was pony racing in Ireland last October, when Mr Brace approached him and asked if he’d like to work for him,” Sarah continued. Already qualified by Brace this term with the Llangeinor, the well-established duo of Cock Of The Rock (jointly owned by Harry and granny) and Silver Token (owned by the current trainer of both horses, Honeyball’s partner Rachael Green) look well bought if intended to help the rookie realise his stated ambition of becoming the champion Novice Rider – between them, the duo withstood 19 hunt race outings in 2013-14.
Another partner of a licensed trainer to oblige on the afternoon was Pat Bryant, handler of the Pointers at his and Caroline Keevil’s Motcombe base and on the mark here with the Philip Thomas-ridden General Girling in division one of the Open Maiden.
Winless in 15 starts under Rules for Keevil and latterly rated as low as 73 over hurdles, the son of General Gambul has taken a far greater shine to the discipline of Pointing and entered this contest on the back of three second places from as many recent starts, two up on Salisbury Plain. “If he can go that close at Larkhill, he ought to win something,” laughed breeder Jane Girling, present to see the homebred she has loaned back to the yard’s racing club for the season break his duck at last.
“He jumped well enough over hurdles, but we tried him once in a chase and he was much too careful,” continued Keevil, adding: “He’s also not always known for his resolution, but he showed a lot of guts today.” That comment could just as readily apply to his partner, as the crowding from eventual runner-up Just Imagine It up the run-in cowed neither General Girling nor Philip Thomas out of converting the winning opportunity. Formerly based with John Joseph Murphy and Caroline Hobbs before joining the Keevil-Bryant axis, 30-year-old Thomas was recording a third Pointing victory.
“I’m happy with that – it’s the ideal start,” summarised Poundsgate handler Simon Partridge after a clever ride by Darren Edwards secured stable star Lucette Annie the TBA Countryside Alliance Mares’ and Fillies’ event for the second year running.
The competition had a thinner look about it with last year’s runner-up Popaway sent to contest the afternoon’s equivalent contest at Higham this time around, and the 4-9 favourite was not overly taxed in recording a clever 2.5l success over the Hannah Welch-partnered Romney Marsh (the rider’s second runner’s-up finish inside 40 minutes).
A winner every season since 2010, and running in the colours this year of Clare West as well as longstanding owner Janet Humphrey, the daughter of Alflora made light of conditions (officially good to soft) just a touch drier than preferred. “I’d like to take in a hunter chase with her again this season, but she’d need cut in the ground for that,” Partridge reasoned, “though we do get away with it on quicker ground in Points.” A ninth career visit to her local stomping ground of Buckfastleigh is in the offing before anything else, however: “It comes nicely for her in three weeks’ time, so I don’t suppose we’ll see her out again before then.”
Lucette Annie won’t be the only representative from the Partridge yard between the flags this season. “I have a five-year-old youngster called Sandy Park set to debut in Maidens – he’s been following Lucette Annie up the gallops. Blue Abbey [an 11-year-old maiden half-brother to Asian Maze and Quantitativeeasing] is still with us and still chasing her up the gallops, too!”
“I am so chuffed with that ride – that’s just what she needed,” enthused owner Julia Batho on greeting the returning Midnights’mischief, punched out by James Jeavons to land the second leg of the Open Maiden at the expense of odds-on shot Porlock Bay (Darren Edwards).
Head girl to Alastair Ralph this season, Batho had insisted to her current boss that Midnights’mischief, a mare she’d acquired in 2011 as a three-year-old, made the trip up to the Downton Estate north of Ludlow with her as part of the arrangement. “I said, ‘I’ll bring my horse with me if that’s alright, but she isn’t very good.’ She’s a bit better than that now!”
A tenure with Nick Williams had preceded the move to Ralph, but whilst there Batho struggled to get her daughter of Midnight Legend fit enough to do herself justice on the racetrack, as perhaps evidenced by pulled-up efforts at Kilworthy and Trebudannon last spring.
Before that, the 37-year-old had worked for Tor Collins prior to the latter’s own move to Shropshire from the Sandhurst Area, and whilst based there had recorded her one win as a race-rider in the 2009 Hampshire Hunt Members race at Hackwood Park on Lord Alpha, a horse she trained herself for Anthony Ward-Thomas. The Batho connection to Collins endures up to a point through Midnights’mischief, whose dam Pipes A’Calling foaled her after winning a Godstone Mares’ Maiden for that handler in 2007.
Although the commencement of the Welsh Borders Area season remains a good few weeks off, a busy time is assured for Batho and all working for Alastair Ralph before then, as the now former assistant trainer to Henry Daly begins to unleash the yard’s big guns such as John Corbet Cup third Following Dreams. “Alastair’s got about 11 or 12 Pointers in this year; a few young ones, but not too many maidens. One less maiden now, in fact!”
Midnights’mischief was a first ride for the Ralph yard this season for James Jeavons, 24, and a second winner for him all told. The Sarah-Jayne Davies/Jeremy Mahot-trained Upton Centurion in a PPORA Novice Riders race at Brampton Bryan last April was the first, and he hopes to be riding for that operation as well as for Hannah James and for Ralph this term.
Porlock Bay’s second to Midnights’mischief thus left Pointing Plus columnist and Attheraces host Luke Harvey having fared two places better than brother Dominic’s Hunt Members fourth Lightening Jack, but at the same time still bereft of the victory he’d hoped to tease out of his Dr Massini gelding before taking in a skiing holiday a few days later.
No matter. “I love this sport, and hailing from barely five miles away I love being here at Chipley,” Harvey beamed whilst warming down Porlock Bay in the box park after racing. “You couldn’t get me to go racing on a day off, but I’d do this any day of the week. This is the longest I’ve gone without a beer all day, though!”
Prior to watching his charge Tucumcari finish unplaced in the Intermediate, handler Norman Thomas had clasped your writer by the hand on their first meeting for nearly three years and exclaimed, “I thought you were dead!” It’s always nice to be able to dispel a rumour…
COURSE specialist Byerley Bear dominated the Ladies’ Open under Leanda Tickle. The nine-year-old had mopped up all three Ladies’ races run on the Royal Cornwall Showground last season and again showed his liking for the track with another emphatic victory.
Chloe Roddick’s mount Rebel Du Maquis threatened briefly on the bottom bend, but 4-7 favourite Byerley Bear strode clear of the ex-Paul Nicholls chaser up the final hill. The winner’s trainer Robert Chanin said, “He is stronger than ever this year and has enjoyed his hunting. There are no firm plans but he may go for a hunter chase at Taunton in January.” Leanda Tickle was equally enthusiastic. “He was at his best and switched on when challenged,” reported Leanda who rides out for Victor Dartnall as well as Robert Chanin and Leslie Jefford.
Double Bank is one of the most genuine pointers in the west country and kept up a relentless gallop to defy a penalty in the Men’s Open at the expense of Kirkleigh and Champagne Rosie. “He jumped his way into the lead and I let him bowl on,” explained regular rider Merv Woodward. The winner is trained for owner Jonathan Cole by Emma Oliver at Teign Valley. “Double Bank has won over trips from two miles 5 furlongs to three and a quarter miles and all types of ground,” explained Emma, who also has an eye on the Taunton hunter chase next month.
“The finishing hill here is like Cheltenham,” quipped John Mathias who came from Wales for one ride. This was the game Raffa who duly followed up his recent Black Forest win with a hard fought success over Supreme Danehill in the Intermediate. Joint owner Lucy Fielding-Johnson said of her home bred seven-year-old, “He loves going up hills but is a bit small and may struggle in Opens”.
It was a good training performance from Spaxton based Teresa Clarke to send out Takamaru to win the Restricted. The eight-year-old had been off the course for 18 months but stripped fit and well to defy the favourite Theatre Goer and Ratline Rosie. Takamaru was bought for the Four 4 Fun Partnership last summer from Ashley Farrant, and spokesman Phil Browne commented, “The partnership was formed over a few drinks at the Blue Ball pub in Triscombe near Taunton and I think there is more to come from this horse.” Successful jockey, 19-year-old David Noonan hails from Kilbrin, County Cork, and works for David Pipe. “This is my fifth winner and I still qualify as a novice rider,” said the jockey.
The novice rider race on this card went to Working Title, who was a fourth winner for 18-year-old Joe Drinkwater. who works for Tom Lacey. The same horse had provided Joe with his first winner in the corresponding race last season. “He will come back here for an Open in January,” said the jockey’s brother Sam who trains the family owned 12-year-old.
Persistent drizzle descended into gloom for the closing Maiden events which attracted fields of 13 and 12 respectively. Rookie trainer Ben Clarke saddled his first winner with only his second runner when Desert Queen won the first Maiden division. A grand daughter of Dubacilla, Desert Queen pulled hard under Michael Legg but had enough in hand to repel the game effort of Wilde At Heart.
The unlucky departure of Westbrooke at the third last left five-year-old The Sweetener ( Jamie Thomas) clear in the closing Maiden where runner up Sisterbrooke caught the eye. Kayley Woollacott saddled the winner, who is from the family of Grand National winner Comply or Die, for owners Paul Govier and Geoffrey Brown. “Jamie has done a fantastic job with him. He had disappointed for Richard (Woollacott) under rules but has had a wind operation,” stated the Rose Ash trainer.
THE current Devon & Cornwall title holder Robbie Henderson started the new campaign in great style with a first and last race double as the new British season got under way at Black Forest Lodge.
Perfect ground, blue skies and a good crowd heralded the opening meeting, and 25-year-old Henderson lost little time in defence of his title when steering Jepeck to victory in the opener.
This Dulverton Farmers qualified five-year-old looked the paddock pick of the 15 runners and ran on strongly from the second last to hold Captain Camelot and Loves Blind. with the Will Biddick ridden favourite High Priority well held in fourth. The winner is owned by John Pike and trained by Kayley Woollacott, who has her 23-strong string, “pretty forward.” “He hung right when placed in a Uttoxeter bumper for Richard (Woollacott) and it was decided that he should go pointing and would appreciate a right hand course”, explained Kayley.
Robbie Henderson completed his double in the Intermediate with a very easy win on The Mythologist, owned by his parents Guy and Sophie, and trained by Guy near Shaftesbury, Dorset. An imposing chestnut by Derby winner Motivator, the winner won both his English point-to-points last season and made all the running to score easing down here. “He is progressing nicely,” said Guy, who is due to take up his new role as Ascot chief executive in the New Year. When asked about the front running tactics Guy said with a smile, “when the horse box ramp goes down I leave it all to the jockey.”
Glacial Oscar made a bold bid to give Robbie Henderson a treble in the Restricted. This family owned six-year-old raced neck and neck with Raffa, but got the penultimate fence all wrong, unseating the jockey and leaving Raffa (John Mathias) well in control. The Taunton Vale qualified Raffa is a Milan gelding, home bred by Lucy Fielding-Johnson, who owns the seven-year-old in conjunction with “Ces” Mitford-Slade. “He is straightforward, game and honest and I train him on his own,” explained Ces. The owners run the Pontispool Equine Sports centre at Norton Fitzwarren near Taunton, and sponsor jockey John Mathias. “His blunder at the last was jockey error. He was flat out but I knew he would run to the line,” reported the rider.
The useful hunter-chaser Penmore Mill started odds-on to win the Mixed Open, but could only finish third behind 12-1 outsider Baresi and Gale Force Oscar in a driving finish. Despite winning over hurdles and fences in Ireland and earning a rating of 135, punters overlooked this nine-year-old, another winner sired by Milan. Mike Hawker trains the gelding for a five-strong group called The Dog Foxes, and he was well ridden by his nephew Rob. “We bought him at Doncaster in September without looking at another horse. He had got too high in the handicap in Ireland,” said the trainer.
Whenharrymetsally continued her upward curve when just holding off the Warwickshire challenger Killimore Cottage in the fastest time of the day in the Club Members event. This six-year-old King’s Theatre mare was scoring for the fourth time in succession. She was bought as a four-year-old at Fairyhouse by her trainer Keith Cumings on behalf of owners Andrew and Hannah Broggio. “She stays and stays and will make a lovely brood mare eventually,” said the Bishops Nympton trainer. The mare proved a welcome change of luck for her jockey Matt Hampton on his first ride back from injury. “I had a plate inserted after breaking my collarbone in a fall at Holnicote in 2013 and bent the plate when I broke my collarbone again in a fall at Bratton Down this May. I had another operation when my shoulder had to be re-plated.” reported the 23-year-old jockey who is assistant trainer to Victor Dartnall in North Devon.
A healthy total of 84 runners contested the seven races, with a dozen facing the starter in each of the 3 miles Maidens. Icthec took the first division for owner Martin Rice and jockey Peter Mason, who also trains the seven-year-old at Ablington. The Heythrop gelding was runner up in this race last year when his season was curtailed with a pelvic injury. “He had physio to correct his pelvis and is much more relaxed now,” reported connections.
Welsh stables rarely leave this track empty handed, and Railway Benefit obliged under a good ride from Nick Williams in the second Maiden. This ex-Irish six-year-old by Beneficial is owned by Steve Whistance and trained by Gareth Moore at Pyle near Bridgend. “I bought him out of the ring for 1500 euros at Tattersalls, Ireland in August. He was lame then and everything was wrong with him – sacro iliac joint, ulcers, hock, you name it,” said the owner. His yard has done well to bring him to the races looking sound and fit.
Richard and Kayley Woollacott were delighted to be able to host their open day on August 10th, where over 140 people attended. The day started at Big Brook Park at noon, where they had started training Point to Point horses back in 2006. The yard has grown enormously, and the couple can boast that they have enjoyed training in excess of 150 winners out of this yard.
A breaking demonstration, followed the introductory welcome drinks and a tour of the yards facilities. Richard then demonstrated his Monty Roberts’ technique of breaking and loose schooling the youngsters, together with the help of two of their young jockeys, Jamie Thomas and Heidi Lewis. The team have been busy working hard on breaking the youngsters and assessing them for their future careers. They have lots of exciting new horses for the forthcoming Point to Point season, including Cinevator, Jepek who was third for Richard in a Bumper, and lots of older horses which will hopefully appear again this season, such as Allerford Jack and Parkham Jack. Wak A Turtle is another who will be returning from a lay off. Currently for sale, Turtle has been placed in two novice chases & they feel is perfect for the coming Point to Point season. The yard had several others with potential and looking for new owners including Le Clo De La Londe, a recent French import, previously placed second over hurdles.
Everyone was then invited back to the Nethercott yard for food and drink and a tour of some fabulous National Hunt horses, including Spa Hill, Liberty One, Kudu Shine, Millanisi Boy, Kruseman, Floresco and Silver Grove. The facilities at Nethercott Manor include various grass and all weather gallops, woodland rides, cross country jumping, indoor school, water treadmill, streams regular turnout, and they say most importantly fantastic staff, of which they employ five at both yards.
Their staff were out in force to help the day run smoothly, with all the teams hard work being rewarded, and all those that attended, had a thoroughly lovely and informative day.
Based approximately 20 minutes from Tiverton, in picturesque village Rose Ash, Kayley Woollacott runs a point to point yard consisting of around 20 horses. Married to Richard Woollacott, the 2010/11 men’s champion point to point jockey & 9 time Devon & Cornwall champion, Kayley took over the training of the yard mid season in May 2012. Richard, who had previously trained the point to pointers has now turned his hand to National Hunt training and after a whirlwind first season of 16 winners from just a handful of horses it is clear that high standards and results are crucial.
Kayley was keen to prove in her first full season training that these standards would be upheld & with 25 winners for the season, including two impressive hunter chase wins, the yard finished up the leading yard in the Devon & Cornwall area and 3rd on the National table ranks. Results are imperative & the yard has consistently been the most successful Devon and Cornwall based point to point yard for several years and is something that Kayley will be fiercely defending in the coming season. Last season saw several impressive winners from the yard including the undefeated 3 time winner KUDU SHINE and ROBIN WILL, who won 2 point to points and gave Kayley her first Hunter Chase winner before graduating to Richard’s National Hunt yard. Both horses will be aimed under rules this season although Kayley is excited about some of her youngsters for this season “It’s what’s it’s all about, seeing the young horses progress and move on up through the ranks, hoping you may find a real star”.
Kayley believes that all horses should be treated as individuals, and the team work hard on tailoring the training regimes to suit the horses’ needs rather than slotting them into a regimented routine. Variation in the work schedule is key to keeping horses happy & the facilities play a big part in allowing this. A 4.5 furlong steep uphill woodchip gallop provides a good cantering surface whilst most of the fast work is done on one of the several grass gallops around the farm. The yard is lucky to benefit from an indoor arena, allowing horses to be exercised during extremities of weather & provides an excellent place to do loose school jumping and weekly flatwork on the youngsters. Jumping is a key factor for the routines at Big Brook & the horses tend to jump weekly once fit enough, whether it be in the school, through the little obstacles and cross country fences through the woods or over the actual hurdles & fences. By getting the horse used to using all their jumping muscles and schooling regularly it ensures that the horses are well prepared before their race and injury rates tend to be very low.
Both Kayley & Richard are constantly trying to improve the facilities & always looking for new ways of getting the best out of the horses in their care. This year has seen a new addition to the facilities in the form of a water treadmill, something that is proving invaluable for horses that have suffered leg problems in the past and means that like swimming, the horse can be exercised whilst taking the strain off of the limbs due to the buoyancy of the water.
A key factor for the yard and it’s continuing success has to be the quality and loyalty of the owners involved in the yard. “We are so lucky to have so many nice people behind us that understand we are trying our best for the horses”. The yard prides itself on its open house policy & although the official owners visiting day is a Tuesday they often have an owner in on various days to see the horses and catch up on progress. A friendly atmosphere can be guaranteed & the races provides a real day out everybody “The social scene is very much an important aspect of Point to Pointing as people are involved for the enjoyment and so we try to make sure we have plenty of food and drink flowing at the races whatever the weather & results!”
The team in the yard are an important part of keeping the place running smoothly and a happy team rubs off onto the horses. The team this year are a brilliant bunch with lots of experience behind them and really take pride in the fact they are part of such a successful establishment. Jamie Thomas, who joined the yard last season will take on more rides this year, whilst the yard have a couple of promising Novice Riders in Jake Bament & Heidi Lewis. “It’s nice to be able to try & support the novice riders coming through, particularly when they work so hard in the yard”.
This season several familiar faces will be back in training such as DEBS DASHER, LIGHTENING JACK & CHECKERBOARD along with some exciting new faces such as Mr Bingley, Templeton & Steeltown. “We are all looking forward to getting going again and we encourage anyone who would like to see the yard and what we do to get in contact and arrange a visit”. For more details have a look at www.richardwoollacottracing.co.uk to catch up on news from the yard and how you can get involved as the yard have several horses for sale or shares available in syndicates.
The wedding of Kayley Jones and Richard Woollacott took place on Friday 6th September 2013 at Rose Ash Church, South Molton, North Devon. The service was followed by a short break back to the stables for a photo shoot with Kayley’s Point-to-Point schoolmaster Kilrogen along with the couples family dogs. They were then joined by over one hundred guests for a party at The Fox and Hounds, Eggesford to dance the night away. The celebrations continued over the weekend when Richard saddled a winner at Fontwell Park, seeing Nothingbutthetruth hold on and win by a nose for jockey Tom Scudamore.
The couple then headed off for their honeymoon and well deserved break in Italy, before Kayley settles into the forthcoming Point-to-Point season which the young trainers are looking forward to.