Everyone involved with the sport has faced enormous difficulties over the past weeks and that looks likely to continue, as rain continues to play havoc with the fixture list.
Given that situation, it was surprising that some owners did not take the opportunity of running horses on ground that was comparable to other meetings held at Larkhill earlier in the season.
After recent inactivity, enthusiasts who braved the elements were rewarded with some excellent racing and glimpsed what could be another Lacey star in the making following King Roland’s scintillating performance in the 3-mile Maiden.
The highlight of the day was provided by this racecourse debutant who faced a worthy opponent in Richard Kelvin Hughes Foxworthy and these two youngsters dominated the market.
Abbotts Court, Bob Along Mahler and Foxworthy were prominent throughout, with Will Biddick having his mount on the outside of the field, whereas Tommie O’Brien seldom left the rail.
The two market leaders made forward moves in the home straight and Foxworthy held every chance until he made a decisive error at the third from home which put paid to his chances.
King Roland quickened clear of his rival at this point and soon opened up a useful advantage. Imogens Thunder got the better of his battle with Foxworthy over the final two fences, but the favourite quickened into the final obstacle and sprinted further clear on the run in and took another couple of furlongs before O’Brien was able to pull him up.
King Roland and Tommie O’Brien are just starting to get into full stride, while Foxworthy is left trailing in his wake
As a 4-year-old the Ledbury qualified gelding was receiving a huge weight allowance but could not have been more impressive and is definitely one for the notebook. Potential buyers will soon be knocking on the Woolhope trainer’s door.
Lacey stated on his website the following day “King Roland’s performance was as good as I have seen in 10 years of having pointers. He looks exceptional! He is a big horse and hasn’t even got near to leveling off, he still has a huge amount of furnishing up to do. He looks every bit a star in the making. A few of our horses have taken some pulling up this season but I haven’t seen one still running away behind the bushes at Larkhill, some 3 furlongs beyond the finishing post”.
Tommie O’Brien, King Roland and a smiling Tom Lacey
This meeting provided rich pickings for West Midland qualified horses and that started off when Lacey saddled Muse of Fire in the 2-1/2 mile Maiden.
The 4-year-old racecourse debutant was installed at the head of the market and for much of the journey looked the certainty the market said he was.
Hugos Horse enjoyed an uncontested lead for much of this contest but cresting the final hill Sixteen Letters and Muse of Fire were racing in his slip stream. The former had just taken the lead when departing at the 16th but with Muse of Fire cantering on the leaders heels the result looked a foregone conclusion.
The grey Hugos Horse holds a narrow lead over Must of Fire on the final bend
Hugos Horse kept his rival honest, while Muse of Fire’s lack of experience or the close attentions of the loose horse continued to make heavy weather of passing his rival. The two horses were inseparable at the last and up the run in but the favourite managed to get his head in front in the dying strides to prevail by three quarters of a length.
Lacey confirmed his charge had “won despite hating the soft ground and proved he has the potential to become a good horse, he wasn’t helped by a loose horse galloping across him on a couple of occasions and crossing him again on the run in. It wasn’t plain sailing for him or for Tommie who did a great job on him. The horse toughed it out and was doing his best work at the end of the race”.
Little in it at the last – and winning connections
Two horses that had been successful at Didmarton continued their winning ways with Punter Friendly landing the Conditions while Different Gravey took the Mixed Open.
Punter Friendly dictated the pace from the start and things seemed to be going in his favour until he dived through 4 out and lost several lengths which left the way open for Crackacan who held the lead around the final bend.
It was then his turn to make a mistake, which he did at the last and that probably cost him victory as Will Biddick galvanised the favourite on the flat and they just prevailed in a close finish to land the spoils for Sylvia and Richard Francome.
Will Biddick and Punter Friendly (red) start to get the better of Crackacan (yellow) in the closing stages
Just four runners turned out for the Mixed Open with Different Gravey and Thereyarsee impossible to separate on recent form. Lorcan Williams (Thereyarsee) set the pace while Biddick was content to bid his time before asking his mount for an effort over the final four fences.
Different Gravey had just struck the front when his rival departed at the 16th and from then on had little difficulty maintaining his lead over Asockastar to provide the second leg of a double for Ed Walker to add to the two winners he saddled at Buckfastleigh.
Different Gravey and Will Biddick are clear of their rivals at the final obstacle
Charlie Dando damaged his collar bone recently but that injury was not apparent and was fully tested as he needed all his strength to drive Carrig Dubh into the runners up spot in the Confined.
Sarazen Bridge led as they passed the judge for the first time and was still at the head of affairs when they reappeared at the far end of the course.
Carrig Dubh is not the most proficient of jumpers and lost his position after a mistake at the 15th, but Dando got down into the drive position and slowly but surely, they began to reduce the leaders advantage.
They continued to close on their rival around the final bend and held every chance at the last but Nick Phillips had kept a little up his sleeve and his mount eased clear of his rival on the flat.
The Dando stable gained compensation for that defeat when they took the concluding Intermediate with Kit Barry.
Silent Warrior led until the 15th but was passed by the favourite V Neck who held a slender advantage at the last. Dando’s mount stayed on dourly and as V-Neck began to wander, Kit Barry kept as straight as a dye and forged clear in the final 50 yards to maintain the Little Sodbury stables fine winning run.
Small fields were the order of the day during the North Staffordshire meeting at Sandon, where trainer Phil Rowley and jockey Alex Edwards continue to set the pace in both the Trainers and Jockeys Championship.
They scored a double but a third success eluded them when hot favourite Hazel Hill was beaten in the Men’s Open for which there appeared to be no excuses.
Garde Ville led for most of this contest but the favourite struggled to pass his rival over the final two fences and had to give best in the closing stages.
Salvatore got the Bridgnorth trainer off to a winning start in the Members. Confidently ridden he hit the front until the final bend and proceeded to go further and further clear in the home straight.
The Rowley/Edwards axis was back to their winning ways in the Intermediate. Optimised looked to have a battle on his hands when challenged by Belton Red Fox at the penultimate but his effort soon petered out and the winner just needed to be pushed out to maintain his lead on the flat.
Owen Glendower seems to have taken on a new lease of life at 13 since joining Hannah Gregory’s stable near Westbury on Severn, and he followed up his second place at the Flint and Denbigh meeting with an easy win in the Ladies Open.
The complexion of the race changed when Executive Benefit put on the brakes and refused at the 14th. His antics caused Well Mett to do likewise whereas Hannah Gregory and Owen Glendower managed to avoid a mini-Foinavon situation and were left in splendid isolation. Both rivals required several attempts before they got back into the race by which time the leader was three fences in front.
There was another local winner at Horseheath when Nikki Stubbs and Kashmir Peak took the PPORA Conditions. Successful at Cocklebarrow earlier in the season Nick Pearce’s Croome and West Warwickshire qualified runner jumped well and outclassed his rivals to score in the fastest time of the day.
Muddy Kimble saw several locally qualified horses almost hit the bull eye before the North Cotswold qualified Lake Balaton gained a fortunate success in the Restricted.
His compatriot from the same Hunt, Dans Wee Man had taken the lead approaching the last and was forging clear when he jinxed passing some running rails on the flat and parted company with the unfortunate Guy Disney. Zac Baker’s mount had looked destined for third place prior to that but the jockey forced Lake Balaton up in the dying strides to claim an unlikely victory.
Tom Britten and his Croome and West Warwickshire qualifiers Orange Nassau (Novice) and Toowoomba (Men’s Open) both had to settle for the runners up spot, while David Morgan’s Toulouse the Plot finished third in the Maiden.
RESULTS – AVON VALE
1ST SARAZAN BRIDGE N PHILLIPS 4-6 FAV
2ND CARRIG DUBH
3RD IMPACT AREA
2-1/2 MILE MAIDEN
1ST MUSE OF FIRE T O’BRIEN 4-6 FAV
2ND HUGOS HORSE
(ONLY TWO FINISHED)
1ST PUNTER FRIENDLY W BIDDICK 4-7 FAV
(ONLY TWO FINISHED)
1ST DIFFERENT GRAVEY W BIDDICK EVENS FAV
3RD MISTER DICK
1ST KING ROLAND T O’BRIEN EVENS FAV
2ND IMOGENS THUNDER
VETERAN AND NOVICE RIDERS
1ST RAILWAY STORM R WITHEY 9-1
3RD THE CALLER
1ST KIT BARRY C DANDO 3-1
2ND V NECK
3RD SILENT WARRIOR