The first part of the season has proved problematical for owners and trainers whose running plans have been thwarted by the lack of any significant rain.
Some of the bigger stables are still keeping their powder dry in the hope that conditions will ease considerably in the coming weeks and that could result in some interesting clashes in the future.
This weekend was one of mixed fortunes for West Midland stables. Out of luck at Cocklebarrow they were successful at Thorpe Lodge and Friars Haugh as well as at Larkhill the previous day.
The bitterly cold wind at Cocklebarrow tested the endurance of all participants where the first of this seasons Point-to-Point Classic Races, The Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup resulted in a close finish.
Having walked the course the previous day Sam Jukes decided against running last year’s winner Iberico so Newsworthy was sent off favourite in his absence.
James Henderson’s runner set the early pace, but it was not a searching gallop and with 4 fences to jump he was holding onto a diminishing advantage with Pithivier and the John Smith Maxwell ridden How About It moving into challenging positions.
The favourite began to beat a retreat approaching the penultimate and was passed by Pithivier who now had How About It breathing down his neck. The leader took the last with a half-length advantage but John Smith Maxwell and How About It inched closer on the run to the judge but were still a head in arrears at the post.
Pithivier and Peter Mason (red and white) cling onto their lead as John Smith Maxwell and How About It (nearside) creep closer at the finish of The Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup
The Skinners Ladies Open at this meeting is run over 3-1/2 miles and was dominated from start to finish by the favourite Southfield Theatre and TB Broke Her from Sam Jukes Dymock stable.
Lilly Bradstock took her mount to the front from flag fall, but Hannah Lewis kept the leader in her sights and began to improve going out onto their final circuit.
Lilly Bradstock and Southfield Theatre hold a narrow lead over TB Broke Her and Hannah Lewis at the halfway point in the Lyon Trophy
TB Broke Her was slicker at her fences down the back straight but could never establish a clear lead and the mare was the first to falter approaching the fourth from home.
Southfield Theatre is well clear as they start off up the run in
Southfield Theatre increased his lead and kept up the relentless gallop in the home straight to score impressively, while TB Broke Her stayed on gallantly to deprive last year’s winner Dabinet Moon of second place.
35 minutes earlier it looked as though the North Cotswold qualified Pantxoa and Jacob Pritchard Webb were in a strong position to take the Novice Riders. The partnership led throughout and seemed to be going better than Susquehanna River on the home turn, with this pairing well clear of the remainder.
Pantxoa and Jacob Pritchard Webb lead the field at the 11th in the Novice Riders
Having jumped perfectly up until that point, Pantxoa hit the third from home, screwed on landing which gave Pritchard Webb no chance of maintaining the partnership. That left Susquehanna River with the prize at his mercy, but distracted by a loose horse he ran out at the final obstacle, and that resulted in Tempelpirate gaining a very fortunate success.
Tempelpirate and Tom Durrell (blue and white) hold a narrow lead over Victory Mill and Luca Morgan with Net Work Rouge just behind, but the result could have been very different
Alex Edwards and Phil Rowley had to settle for the runners up spot with Undisputed in the Conditions at Thorpe Lodge where another local runner Vasco De Mee claimed third place, but they gained compensation later in the afternoon following Salvatore’s success in the Intermediate.
Sheila Crows Rob the Getaway was all the rage in this contest and looked the most likely winner racing down the side of the course, but Salvatore took the lead in the home straight and saw off his rival during the closing stages.
Caroline Robinson’s long journey from Sherrifhales to Friars Haugh on the Scottish Borders proved worthwhile when Beggars Bush beat the favourite Templepoint to land the Restricted under her daughter Immy which made up for Myoldmans defeat in the Intermediate earlier in the day.
Virak races under a Blackmore Vale certificate but his owner Clive Hitchings has his roots in the West Midlands as he is based at Upper Welland near Malvern.
The winner supplemented his Chaddesley Corbett win by taking the Mixed Open at Chipley Park and connections have indicated a tilt at the Dudley Cup is a possibility later in the season.
Stellar Notion had won at Larkhill earlier in the season and returned to the Wiltshire venue to land his second race of the season. Tom Frost’s 11-year-old had little more than an exercise gallop after his solitary rival Tom Barton departed at the 4th.
Photos – Courtesy of Graham Fisher and Pete Mansell