After several disruptions, first snow and then equine flu, the 2018/2019 season finally got back on track at the weekend, and normal service was quickly restored with Alex Edwards riding a double at Bangor on Dee to add to his winner at Brocklesby Park 24 hours earlier.
Edwards and trainer Phil Rowley got their title challenges back on track courtesy of Salvatore’s victory in the Brocklesby Conditions. The 6-year-old continued his progression through the ranks and extended his winning sequence to five with a comfortable victory over Distime.
Rowley saddled 6 horses at Bangor on Dee which resulted in two victories for the Bridgnorth based trainer.
Alex Edwards teamed up with Diana Ralph and Bill Hawkins’s Encounter a Giant in the Intermediate where they faced a major threat from the Sheila Crow trained Rob the Getaway, but that horse was beaten when he fell at the last and the Croome qualified son of Kalanisi continues to impress as he steps up in grade.
Rowley had two runners in the Timico sponsored Mixed Open and they fought out a close finish with the Noel George ridden Optimised beating his stablemate, the Alex Edwards ridden Bear’s Affair by a neck.
Edwards and Rowley teamed up with Undisputed in the Confined but the odds-on favourite was soundly beaten by Ballyrath, while that illusive first winner continues to elude Michaela Tallett who had to settle for third place on Rowley’s Aupcharlie in the Novice Riders.
Rowley and Edwards brought the day to a successful conclusion when Gadrose sporting Diana Williams familiar colours was successful in the Restricted, following a 3-length victory over Spoilt Sam and Rules of War.
Arthurs Secret may not have reached the heights predicted earlier in his career, but is still a useful performer on his day and his effort in the Brocklesby Mixed Open has been described as “awesome”.
Taking the lead at the second he toyed with his rivals and extended his advantage throughout the final mile and went from being 10-lengths at the 16th to hold a 30-length winning margin as he passed the judge.
The weekend saw first winners of the season for Ross on Wye based Ryan Potter and Kinnersley trainer James Ridley.
Don Bersy had an unusual preparation for the Mens Open at the Curre, as he had made the 400-mile round trip to Brocklesby Park the previous day only to start slowly and that led to him being pulled up before the second fence.
It was a much shorter journey to Howick from his Caradoc base and this time he set off on level terms with his rivals.
The 6-year-old was last of the 6 runners over the first but swept into the lead on the climb to the next with Bradley Gibbs determined to set a strong pace and the partnership continued to extend their advantage over the next line of fences.
The leader looked vulnerable as Mister Robbo and Ramble On reduced the deficit racing towards the 13th, but Gibbs kicked on again as they turned back towards home.
Don Bersy and Bradley Gibbs hold a clear lead approaching the 17th at Howick
Don Bersy had to be given a couple of reminders at the 16th but remained well clear until he began to show signs of tiring approaching the last. He wandered about on the run in still but still had sufficient reserves to hold off his rivals’ challenges on the flat.
Ryan Potter, Don Bersy and Bradley Gibbs after the horses hard fought success
Winning trainer Ryan Potter explained afterwards “That’s the first winner since moving to Caradoc in the summer. We have only had the horse about 3 months. He came to us because he refused to start in a couple of races under Rules. We expected him to win yesterday but he didn’t start. He is not the easiest of rides but when he jumps off, he loves his racing”.
35 minutes earlier the Novice Riders race produced the finish of the day with three runner’s inseparable at the last. Flying Eagle led for much of the journey, but Son of Suzie moved onto the leaders tail at the 13th and these two had a titanic battle all the way down the home straight.
Son of Suzie (grey) and Jacob Pritchard Webb, hold the challenges of Victory Mill (red blinkers) and Flying Eagle as they approach the 17th
Son of Suzie just leads Victory Mill at the penultimate
Son of Suzie held a slight lead at the penultimate, but Luca Morgan then produced Victory Mill between the other two runners and they all rose as one at the last. Son of Suzie made a mistake but with the horses finishing in a shute racing away from the crowds it was impossible to tell who had prevailed.
Between the final two fences and Son of Suzie just has his head in front, with Flying Eagle nearside and Victory Mill just behind. Unsure of who has won, the two horses await the judges verdict
Son of Suzie’s connections were confident of victory but it took some time before the official verdict was announced with the Cotswold qualified gelding gaining the verdict y half a length.
This was a first training success for Leafield based Anne Rimell, the wife of N.H. Trainer Mark while the 11year-old carries the colours of Patricia Duncan and her daughter Caroline Mackness.
The horse was given a brilliant ride by Jacob Pritchard Webb who was partnering his second winner. Previously with Fergal O’Brien the 22-year-old Cheltenham based rider is now based with Emma Baker at Naunton.
Jacob Pritchard Webb, winning trainer Anne Rimell (holding picture) and part owner Caroline Mackness
The Skinners sponsored Ladies Open went to Phil Rees’s Alfstar whose horses at based at Joanne Priests Holdfast Stables near Upton on Severn.
The 11-year-old races under a Monmouthshire certificate and was given an enterprising ride by West Midland rider Alice Stevens. She took her mount to the front at the 12th and kept responding as they were challenged all the way down the home straight by Double Captain who was still 5-lengths in arrears at the line.
Alfstar and Alice Stevens hold the challenge of Double Captain at the second from home
Itstimeforapint and Leanne Williamson made up significant ground over the final three fences and that allowed the Cotswold qualified gelding to claim third place at the last.
It was a good 24 hours for Miss Stevens as she had steered Summer Sounds to an easy success in the Thurlow Conditions Race at Horseheath the previous day.
A prolific winner last year when owned and ridden by James Jackson-Stops, the horse is now part owned by Graham and David Fisher. Summer Sounds put up a super performance under his eight pound penalty and made all. He was the only one who really saw the trip out after Alice Stevens set a strong gallop from the start.
Summer Sounds and Alice Stevens take one of the early fences at Horseheath
He was about two lengths clear as they started uphill to the third last but this had been extended to twenty lengths by the time, they reached the post.
In a post-race interview, she was asked by James Crispe about the horses jumping, as his only mistake was at the last. She replied “that was down to your commentary as I heard I was 20 lengths clear coming to the last so I thought I would let him do his own thing – which turned out to be paddle through it”.
Summers Sounds makes his only mistake of the race at the last
Alice gave him a perfect ride and the win was down to spectacular jumping and outstaying the opposition.
Nick Jones’s Draft Pick filled the runners up berth twice last year but finally found a winning opportunity in a 3 runner Maiden at Larkhill.
Ballyjim was preferred in the betting and looked the winner turning in but as he had done when beaten by Miss Seagreen at the same venue a couple of weeks previously he hung left on the flat.
This left the door open for Draft Pick and James Ridley’s charge was quick to take advantage of the situation and eased clear to win by a length and a half.
Not sure who was more delighted – the horse with the carrots or James with the beers!
Sophie Lacey has an excellent record with her runners in Larkhill Maidens but race conditions prevented the stable from their chosen path. Undeterred connections chose to run their un-raced 4-year-old newcomer Tea Clipper in the Restricted.
He produced an impressive performance and this 52,000-euro June 2018 purchase who is a full brother to the recent rules winner Mormon is likely to command a significant sum if he follows the normal sales path employed by the Woolhope stable.