Reigning West Midland Area and National Champion Alex Edwards hit top form at the weekend riding a total of five winners, one success at Kingston Blount on Saturday afternoon was followed by a quartet of winners at Bangor-on-Dee less than 24 hours later.
Three of his victories at Bangor came from Phil Rowley’s stable at Bridgnorth and now he is getting into full stride their rivals face a difficult task matching his efforts over the next few months.
Flat Races at Point-to-Points are like marmite you either love them or hate them. They are proving popular with owners and trainers, while the public seems to have mixed feelings about them.
Due to the small safety factor for these type of races (10), the JRL sponsored race had to be split into three divisions of 8 and the day got off to a perfect start when Alex Edwards and Bleue Away proved far too good for their rivals in Division I.
Despite making her racecourse debut the 5-year-old daughter of Getaway was one of the leading fancies and was allowed to stride along at the head of the field.
Bleue Away (red & white) leads Full of Roque as they enter the final 100 yards
Her domination of the race continued as the pace built up entering the final half mile. Market rival Full of Roque tried to make a race of it but the leader had that horses measure inside the final furlong and was extending her advantage passing the post. Brought at Tattersalls Derby Sales in 2017 she looks the type who will progress onto better things.
Rowley had runners in all three divisions of the Flat Race and his horses had obviously been primed for the occasions with Flamboyant Joyaux favourite for Division II but the horse’s supporters were left nursing their wounds when the 4-year-old was beaten a neck by the Ben Pauling trained newcomer Granny’s Secret.
Granny’s Secret (pale blue) shows signs of greeness as he is tackled by Flamboyant Joyaux (left) and Empressive Lady (right)
Edwards mount led into the home straight but Granny’s Secret struck the front and made his bid for victory. Flamboyant Joyaux then showed great character and was clawing his way back into contention at the finish, eventually going down by a diminishing neck.
Normal service was resumed when their stablemate Whenhellbrokeloose proved far too good for his rivals in Division III. The 6-year-old son of Black Sam Bellamy was allowed to stride along in front but was harassed by High Coppice and Loco Coco turning back towards home.
Whenhellbrokeloose returns to the winners enclosure after his success in Division III of the JRL sponsored Flat Race
The horse then showed his true potential and the result was never in doubt as they began to drew clear and just had to be pushed out to maintain his lead on the flat.
Rowley related afterwards “He has been babyish ever since we had him and I am sure he will come on for that run and is for sale”.
Edwards did not have a ride in the Members (the first of the Point-to-Point Races) but teamed up with the Diana Ralph trained Following Mama in the Mixed Open. They gave a good account of themselves but were comprehensively beaten by the Trish Rigby trained Garde Ville who drew clear in the home straight with Following Mama securing third place in the closing stages.
On the flat and Garde Ville (yellow hooped sleeves) begins to assert over Alfstar with Following Mama (blue and white quartered cap) running on to take third
The third leg of a Rowley/Edwards treble was provided by Optimised in the Conditions.
Settled at the back of the field for the first circuit the partnership began to make steady headway from halfway and were in contention approaching the 15th.
Ballyrath and Optimised drew clear from this point but straightening up for home, the runner up began to feel the strain and the favourite extended his advantage approaching the last but still won by 20-lengths despite being eased down on the flat.
The final leg of the Edwards four timer was provided by the Diana Ralph trained and Worcestershire qualified Captain Von Trappe in the Conditions, the final race of a marathon 10 race card.
Gina Andrews mount Vedettariat was a long odds on favourite whereas Captain Von Trappe was trying to overcome a long absence. Conditions must have been testing at the end of a long day but Abigail Banks ex-Gigginstown inmate revelled in the conditions and had 8-lengths to spare over the favourite at the finish.
Tommie O’Brien is renowned for his handling of 4-year-olds starting their racecourse education. The West Midland based rider is much in demand with trainers handling this type of horse and that allowed O’Brien to chalk up his first hattrick during Sunday’s Blackmore and Sparkford Vale fixture at Charlton Horthorne.
It must be a rare occurrence but two full brothers both won races on Sunday afternoon. While Whenhellbrokeloose was winning at Bangor his younger brother Get Prepared was successful in the first division of the 2-1/2 mile Maiden.
Qualified with the North Shropshire he justified the long journey and favouritism to get the better of Breaking the Ice by 6-lengths and provide a first ever training success for owner Michelle Offen.
35 minutes later and O’Brien was back in the winner’s enclosure following Presence of Minds victory in Division II, following which the 4-year-old received an entry in the Tattersalls Sales at the Cheltenham Festival.
An inmate of Fran Nimmo and Charlie Poste’s academy near Stratford on Avon he impressed observers with his style of jumping and despite running green in the closing stages proved too good for another West Midland qualified runner Five Gold Bars.
O’Brien is in the in enviable position of riding the youngsters being prepared at Tom and Sophie Lacey’s Cottage Field stable and Cadzand’s reputation had obviously preceded him. The 4-year-old racecourse debutant started an odds-on favourite and won like one, cantering round, jumping well before extending his advantage in the closing stages. A Derby Sales purchase in 2018, this victory will look good on his CV if he follows the same Sale path as many of his predecessors.
Virak has got a new lease of life in Point-to-Points and Clive Hitchings 10-year-old chalked up a seasonal hattrick by scoring in the Mixed Open under Natalie Parker.
Rowley and Edwards took 4 horses to Kingston Blount on Saturday afternoon and left with a win, a second and two thirds.
The win was provided by the improving Salvatore who led three out in the Conditions and held Gallery Exhibition’s renewed challenge on the flat, while Hawkhurst was a disappointing third.
Salvatore provides Alex Edwards with yet another winner at Kingston Blount
Division I of the Maiden saw The Odissey make his racecourse debut but supporters of the odds-on favourite had their “fingers burnt”. Things seemed to be going to plan when Edwards produced his mount to tackle the leader R Bren on the flat, but the latter refused to accept defeat and regained the advantage in the final strides to prevail by a short head.
The winner had shown nothing under Rules for previous trainer Tracy Barfoot Saunt but is now owned by Peter Ponting and is trained by his son Joe in South Gloucestershire.
The Optimist (red & white) and R Bren battle it out at the last, but Danny Burtons mount just touched off his rival on the flat
Rowley’s runner Caliente was disappointing in the Restricted, while the stables Gadrose was no match for Timmie Roe in the Intermediate.
Round Robin attempted to break his duck in Division II of the Maiden, but despite multiple attempts he is unable to get his head in front. It finally looked as though he might do so, especially when Abi Banks refused to open the door to Will Biddick around the final bend. The two horses were inseparable at the last but Round Robin was unable to hold his rivals challenge on the flat and was passed by Will Biddicks mount Silver Louna.
Round Robin and Abi Banks hold a narrow lead at the last – happy connections in the paddock including Point-to-Point stalwart Nigel Lilley (left) and trainer Hannah Lewis (right)
James Ridley has his team in fine form and although beaten Templebraden was the moral winners of the Open as he was narrowly beaten trying to concede weight to the eventual winner Man of Steel.
The latter looked as though he would win easily as they straightened up for the judge, but had not accounted for the runners up battling qualities and these two had a titanic battle as they raced towards the judge.
Man of Steel and Templebraden jump the last in unison and the gallant runner up returns to the winners enclosure
The following are extracts from Jake Exelby’s report of the meeting at Kingston Blount
Seven went to post for the Brentham Cricket Club sponsored Mens Open, which saw local runner Man Of Steel and Dale Peters floor odds-on shot Templebraden. Disappointing on his two runs this season and the recipient of the dreaded “double squiggle” in the formbook, denoting an unreliable horse, the Alan Hill trained ten-year-old was on his best behaviour here. Held up initially in mid-division, he moved into the lead three out and just held on by a neck from the favourite, who had every chance two out despite having dropped to the rear early on and never looking to be going well. Son of Suzie was ten lengths third.
“When he gets it right, he’s good,” said winning owner Toby Hunt. “But it depends what’s in his head – he’s got ability if he wants to, but he can take the mickey. He likes quirky courses (he has won the end of season Cartmel Hunter Chase for the past three years) and Dale has won both his starts on him.” Toby confirmed that Man Of Steel, who has never lost in his seven starts in May, is on-track for a four-timer bid at Cartmel, via a return here for the four-mile Mixed Open at the next meeting and possibly a tilt at the Grimthorpe Gold Cup at Sheriff Hutton.
The Kingston Blount Racing Club Conditions Race had ten runners and saw the only successful odds-on shot of the day, in the shape of Phil Rowley’s progressive Salvatore – winning his sixth race on the bounce – and Alex Edwards. Mid-division early, the favourite moved smoothly into second coming down the hill on the final circuit then led three out and was never troubled to win by two-and-a-half lengths from outsider Gallery Exhibition. Market rival Hawkhurst was again disappointing, nine lengths away in third.
“That was a hell of a race,” exclaimed winning trainer Phil Rowley afterwards. “They went quick to start with and he jumps and stays,” Asked if the horse idled in front when looking to quicken clear, Phil laughed. “You tell me! No, I think he just does enough and Alex never had to get after him.” Salvatore was bought at Doncaster from the late Malcolm Jefferson for a group of owners including Di Cope. “We wanted a fun horse,” Di confirmed. “Phil didn’t want to sell him at first as he had a wind issue, so we leased him, then bought him after his first run.” The plan, like Timmie Roe, is the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham, via a Wetherby Hunter Chase. And a second consecutive trainers title for Phil, now on 14 after a weekend four-timer? “Probably not, but we’ll try our best!”
“That went to plan,” confirmed the winning jockey. “It wasn’t tactical – they went off hard in front. He’s an exciting prospect – it was only his ninth run and he’s still learning,” added Alex Edwards, who has a plum ride in Friday’s Cheltenham Foxhunters on Hazel Hill. “He’s the best I’ve ridden,” said Alex. “If he can reproduce his Warwick run, he won’t be far away.” And further ahead, another jockey’s championship beckons, with this win followed by four more on Sunday.
With 18 declarations, The French Horn at Sonning Open Maiden was split into two divisions of nine and the opening heat saw the odds-on The Odissey, another Rowley-Edwards runner, turned over. Although the four-year-old debutant was always travelling well in mid-division before going second four out and looking the likely winner, he couldn’t fend off the attentions of the Pete and Joe Ponting’s six-year-old mare R Bren and Danny Burton, who led going out on to the final circuit and, though headed after the last, battled back to win by a short head. Here Comes Molly led early then dropped back before rallying to finish 20 lengths third.
“We thought she had a chance,” confirmed winning trainer Joe Ponting afterwards. “She was working well at home and doing everything she asked.” R Bren – who was bought privately from Ireland – is the only horse that Joe, who trains at Hillesley near Badminton, has in training at the moment. Fascinating fact: when Joe trained Dollydo to win at Chipley Park in 2011, he was only 15!
Ex-professional Danny Burton – 32 – made history as the first jockey to ride a winner in a point-to-point over fences since the rule change last summer, that allowed older jockeys who had not ridden 25 winners under rules to revert to amateur status. It was his second winner of the campaign, having also scored in a point-to-point flat race. Tewkesbury-based Danny, who has ridden for the Pontings for some time, explained the reason for his decision. “I couldn’t make a career of it professionally. I’ve got a full time business in garden maintenance and a family to look after.” His main supporter is Ben Clarke and he also rides out for Ed Walker and Tom George. “It’s great to ride for people who support me,” Danny continued. “Although it’s really annoying that I can’t take part in Hunter Chases under the new rule – as that’s meant I’ve also lost pointing rides.”
Division two saw another close finish, as Hannah Lewis’ mare Silver Louna, under a vintage Will Biddick ride, just pipped long time leader Round Robin – who has now been placed on his last nine starts – overhauling the long-time leader, who had been in front since the second fence and who established a long lea, on the run-in after looking short of room on the final bend. Fleur Du Pommier finished a never dangerous 30 lengths third.
Silver Louna was a welcome winner for pointing stalwart, owner Nigel Lilley, who reckons it was his first since Mr Cee in 2010. “Kingston Blount has always been a lucky course for me,” confirmed Nigel – I also won the Bullingdon Cup here with Lord Alfred.” Hannah Lewis explained how she came by the horse. “I used to ride Mr Cee for Nigel and when I set-up on my own at Upton-on-Severn, he asked me to buy him a horse. I used to train War Path and Silver Louna is his half-sister. I bought her at Ascot and she’s blind in her left eye, so I didn’t know how she’d cope going left-handed.” Hannah only has two in her yard – the other is Friday’s Grand Military Gold Cup second (at 150/1!) Spanish Arch.
Winning rider Will Biddick, who was also on board when Silver Louna was second on her pointing debut at Larkhill (before a Monmouth fall), told me, “She’s not very big but she’s game. I let her get her confidence for a lap as they went off very quick, but I could see the leader weakening and, the further I went, the better.” Will was moving on to 401 career wins and hopes to beat Richard Burton’s record of 414 this season, although he played down talk of a seventh title, saying, “It’s hard without a big stable behind me.” Will has three intended mounts at Cheltenham this week, including Caid Du Berlais in Friday’s Foxhunters.
Local successes continued at Stratford on Monday afternoon when the Ryan Potter trained Brave Jaq scored a 9-length victory in the Hunter Chase to provided yet another winner for Tommie O’Brien.
Flat Race – Division I
1st Bleue Away A Edwards 5-4
2nd Full of Roque
3rd Spectacular Rival
Flat Race – Division II
1st Granny’s Secret A Rid 5-2
2nd Flamboyan Joyaux
3rd Empressive Lady
Flat Race – Division III
1st Whenhellbrokeloose A Edwards 6-4
2nd Wingin A Prayer
3rd Loco Coco
1st Port Melon H Myddelton 4-6
2nd Belton Red Rox
3rd All Great N Theory
1st Garde Ville S Davies 4-7
3rd Following Mama
1st Optimised A Edwards 8-11
3rd Fair Exchange
1st Haven’t Time B Moorcroft 5-1
2nd Buffalo Sabre
Only 2 finished
Maiden – Division I
1st Enry Iggins Miss G Andrews 6-4
2nd Albert Cutler
3rd Catwalk Frank
Maiden – Division II
1str Terrierman B Gibbs 2-1
2nd Dee Star
3rd Whistling Dolly
1st Captain Von Trappe A Edwards 10-1