The past 10 days have proved fruitful for West Midland qualified horses and riders and they have made the most of these opportunities winning races under Rules and between the flags.
Guy Disney’s efforts to resume race-riding had a fairy-tale ending in 2015 and the Cotswold based rider continues to add to his inspiring story, with another chapter after he steered Rathlin Rose to a second victory in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup on Friday afternoon.
Disney, who lost part of his right leg in Afghanistan in 2009 produced the favourite at the last and they ran on strongly up the hill for an easy success.
The winning rider as always keen to play down his achievements told the assembled press corps “When you’re on a horse like this who jumps, travels and has been round the course and distance, it’s lovely”.
A day previously the Diana Williams owned and Phil Rowley trained Hazel Hill had been facile winners of a Leicester Hunter Chase under Alex Edwards, but stablemate Grandturgeon could not keep the stables winning run going as he was well beaten in the Walrus at Haydock.
The winner Virak (although qualified with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale) carries the colours of well-known West Midland based owner Clive Hitchings and runs under the Hills of Ledbury (AGA) banner.
Premier Portrait was expected to justify favouritism a Fakenham Hunter Chase on Friday, but was still some way behind the leaders when he parted company with Gus Levinson trying to avoid a faller at the 13th.
Emma Yardley chose this time to increase the pace on Foxcub and they gradually eased clear of their remaining rivals and Miss Yardley was looking round for non-existent dangers throughout the final mile with the North Cotswold qualified gelding jumping superbly on the way to this impressive success.
Yardley and her boyfriend Ryan Potter who are based near Upton-upon-Severn were both recording their first successes under Rules.
The winning trainer stated “he was a gift horse and we are lucky to have one of such quality. He’s only 15 hands and we were worried about his jumping”, asked about future plans Potter suggested “we will have to look for a sharp track with small fences”.
On the Pointing front West Midlands combinations were amongst the winners at Bangor, Buckfastleigh, Larkhill, Brocklesby Park and Charing.
Alex Edwards’s treble at Bangor consolidated his position at the head of the table to become the Leading Rider and as has been seen in the past, making up lost ground is always going to be difficult for his rivals.
Alex’s first success was provided by Barel of Laughs in the Mixed Open but he was made to fight all the way by Ed Gittins on The Caller. The former led into the home straight but was challenged by the eventual winner who was on level terms approaching and just after the last. Barel of Laughs eased clear of his rival who fought back and was narrowing the gap again at the finish.
Edwards second success was provided by the Francesca Nimmo trained Control Me in the 2-1/2 mile Maiden, before completing his hattrick on Calling Mama in the Restricted.
Guy Disney and Dans Wee Man attempted to make every post a winning one in this event and only narrowly failed to do so. A succession of good jumps kept them in contention down the back straight but they were challenged between the last two by the Diana Ralph trained mare who eased clear on the flat but needed to be kept up to her work to hold the runners up renewed effort close home.
Christy Mews took two North Cotswold qualified horses down on the long journey down to Charing in Kent and swept up both Opens.
Ivy Gate finished down the field at the Barbury International meeting but found easier pickings in the Mens Open at Charing. Partnered by Jordan Nailor Ivy Gate came with a late challenge to see off Jimmy the Jetplane, while the winners stablemate Degooch employed similar tactics in the Ladies equivalent and put in an impressive performance under Ally Stirling.
Tom Lacey enjoyed a good weekend with a first and second at Brocklesby Park on Saturday followed by another winner at Larkhill on Sunday afternoon.
The Lincolnshire course saw the return to Arthur’s Secret and on this performance it appears his poor run at Chaddesley been finally put to rest.
Volnay de Thaix had beaten Battle Dust at Thorpe and the later had franked that form by winning at Chaddesley so the form looks rock solid.
Arthur’s Secret made the running from the 2nd but was being closed down by favourite Volnay De Thaix before unseating Abi Banks at the second from home. Much post-race discussion centred on what might have happened, but with Arthur’s Secret still just holding an advantage when departing, both camps have cause for optimism. The winner is now bound for the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
Dina Maker and Will Biddick ran a very promising race to finish 3rd in the Mares Maiden, just behind the Sophie Lacey trained Hattie Hopkinson but both had to give best to a local winner for Nick Kent.
The Weston’s Dina Maker jumped nicely in the main whereas the Lacey mare was very sticky early on. The first three home were covered by a couple of lengths at the 2nd last before the winner took control. Dina Maker would have finished closer if it wasn’t for a bad mistake at the last.
Normal service was resumed in the Open maiden when the Lacey’s 4-year-old Port of Mars took advantage of the weight allowances to open his account in the hands of Tommie O’Brien. Redmond Hall gave a good account of himself but Port of Mars took command approaching the last and was driven clear on the flat for an easy success.
Port of Mars (left) battles it out with Redmond Hall before winning at the Brocklesby
The long journey down the M5 paid dividends for Emma Alvis, Sam Jukes and Clive Bennett with Rye Cross winning the Mixed Open at Buckfastleigh. Rye Cross had figured prominently until running out of steam at the 15th at Larkhill in early January but obviously stripped fitter on this occasion and was able to see off the attentions of the favourite Dicky Blob at the rewarding odds of 7-1.
West Midland enthusiasts had to wait until the final race at Larkhill on Sunday but they were rewarded for their patience when Interconnected made up for his Thorpe fall by putting his rivals to the sword in the concluding Maiden.
Interconnected was always in the leading quartet and was given the normal ride associated with this stable creeping quietly into the race, hitting the front with 2 to jump, gradually increasing the tempo approaching the last, before storming clear on the run in and this race followed that pattern. The Charlie Dando owned and ridden Loodeen finished a respectable second.
Interconnected and Tommie O’Brien are well clear rounding the final bend
Earlier in the afternoon Ben Sutton and Minella Friend had finished in the runners up spot in the Novice Riders, while Hardy Morning finished second to It Has To Be in the Restricted and not helping his chances by veering off a straight line up the run in.
Hardy Morning (checked sleeves top picture) does his chances of success no good by veering across the course in the Restricted
The Coronation Cup saw Brackloon High repeat last years victory in this contest with a 2-length success over the North Cotswold qualified Mon Parrain who put up a gutsy performance under Paige Fuller.