Anyone involved in the sport is aware that retirements (both equine and human) are inevitable but when Monday’s Albrighton & Woodland fixture at Chaddesley Corbett came to a close the West Midlands had lost three high-profile participants.
Hannah Lewis set the ball rolling after finishing third on Shometheway in the Ladies and was followed an hour later by Jim Collett (a staunch supporter of the sport for over four decades) who confirmed his departure from Point-to-Point ownership after Rose Iland finally got her head in front in the Mares Maiden.
Hazel Hill’s entry and subsequent declaration for the Members indicated a major announcement was imminent, and an unusually large entourage in the paddock prior to the race, supported that view.
The favourite moved into the lead with a mile to run and after that it became a straight fight with Iftiraaq. Turning downhill towards the second last, it seemed that James King’s mount might spoil the party but Hazel Hill showed his class and quickly put the issue beyond doubt.
It was fitting the publics allocation of tickets had sold out, so the horse got the recognition his exploits deserved and he was given a tremendous cheer when Diana Williams announced his retirement. He won his first 12 races for the family and 19 in total including the 2019 Cheltenham Foxhunters.
Hazel Hill accompanied by Michaela Tallett on their way back to the winners enclosure
Hannah Lewis’s riding career has spanned 19 years and 93 winners but her story had no fairy-tale ending with Shometheway finishing third, but she has the consolation of taking the West Midland Ladies Title for the first time.
Judging by her two successes at this meeting, it seems likely Lewis is going to be as good a trainer as she was a jockey.
A reflective Hannah Lewis after her last ride
The Upton on Severn handler saddled Grageelagh Girl in the Novice Riders which opened proceedings at 2 p.m. and completed her double 6 races later when That’s Me claimed victory in Division II of the Maiden.
Supreme Danehill and Moonbeg Legend set a strong pace in the Novice Riders with the former paying the price by dropping away quickly with a circuit to run. Daniel Fehily’s mount hung on a bit longer and was still disputing the lead coming up the final hill.
Like many jockeys at this course Sinclair used the final bend as a sling shot into the home straight and Grageelagh Girl had a clear advantage over Aqua Dude and Danny Archer approaching two out.
Katie Sinclair and Grageelagh Girl after their success in the Novice Riders
Ellie Jefferson’s mount continued to make progress, while the leader did not help her cause by slowing into the last, but they quickly regained their momentum and won a little more easily than the neck verdict suggests.
This was a second career success for Sinclair who is based with Fergal O’Brien at Withington in the heart of the Cotswold country. She explained “They went too quickly from the start, so I waited for them to come back to me”.
Katie receives the TCEH sponsored Novice Riders prize from main Covid Steward Nickie Sheppard
O’Brien’s business partner Chris Coley explained “The mare won a bumper at Aintree earlier in her career and then lost her way. We wanted to get her confidence back and after these performances she is likely to return to Fergal”.
Lewis’s double was completed by That’s Me in Division II of the Maiden. Barley Hill and That’s Me had the run of the race but That’s Me hit the front before the fourth last and led his rivals up the final climb.
They were chased into the home straight by Barley Hill but Tom Broughton secured a fine leap from the leader at the last and they recorded a comfortable success.
Chu Chu Percy, Optimised and Ange des Malberaux were prominent during the first half of the Ladies while Shometheway lost her early position. Blazing Tom and Natalya Irvine improved quickly to take up the running as the runners went out on their final circuit.
The pace increased again as they jumped the island fence where Blazing Tom had the advantage over Ange des Malberaux, Streets of London, Optimised and Shometheway.
Turning back towards home Blazing Tom had the race at his mercy although Shometheway did pass three rivals over the final two fences to claim third spot albeit a significant way behind the winner.
The winning jockey stated later “I was flat out for the first circuit but had the opportunity to go to the front down by the roadside. He was foot perfect apart from his mistake at the last.”
A major surprise looked on the cards when Abi Banks and Round Robin took the lead in the Restricted and started up the final hill with a length or so advantage.
Tomb Storme loomed into contention in the home straight and settled down to fight out the finish.
Abi Banks and Round Robin are just about to be swallowed up by Tomb Storme
As Round Robins stride began to shorten Tomb Storme edged clear and with Abi Banks mount making a mistake at the last, the West Country challenger was able to provide the first leg of a double for trainer Annabella Bacon and jockey Josh Cameron.
“I thought we had it two out, but he has no pace at the finish” commented Abi Banks on her way back to weigh in.
12 runners lined up for the Men’s Conditions with James King dictating the pace on Risk a Fine while Uppertown Hawk and Cavs Girl also featured prominently.
Risk a Fine and Ballyboker Breeze opened up a decisive advantage with a mile to run but could not shake off Fifty Shades who had latched onto their coat tails.
Ballyboker Breeze got the upper hand ascending the hill and looked to holding a winning advantage, but Fifty Shades swept past between the final two fences to claim victory.
Fifty Shades passes Ballyboker Breeze between the final two fences
The winner has been on the go since the Wheatland fixture in early December and seemed to appreciate the conditions, thus providing Daniell Ellis with his fourth winner of the season.
James King had to miss Sunday’s meeting at Kingston Blount, due to suspension but rode his 29th winner of the campaign by partnering Rose Iland to victory in the Jockey Club sponsored Mares Maiden.
A 7-year-old by Fame and Glory she has not been out of the frame this season, but it was pointed out that her participation in the Jockey Club sponsored series entitled her previous efforts to be taken into consideration for this major prize.
Carina and Rose Iland led until they were joined by Kostantina and Festival Dawn as this quartet pulled clear from the 14th.
Festival Dawn and Rose Iland eased clear up the hill with King renewing his challenge around the final bend, where his manoeuvre on the inside saved him several lengths.
Everything comes to those who wait – James King drives Rose Iland clear of Festival Dawn approaching the last to gain her first win
The two horses were still locked together at the penultimate, but Rose Iland inched clear of her wilting rival, and that allowed the mare to score what had proved to be an elusive first success.
A scene never to be repeated – a final winner for Jim and Sue Collett staunch supporters of Point-to-Point racing in the West Midlands for over four decades
Interviewed afterwards octogenarian owner Jim Collett was full of praise for trainer Jake Slatter revealing “The mare has never been off the farm, Jake trains her round the edge of a field to get her fit”.
Jim picks up his final piece of silverware
He promptly announced that I’m Wiser Now and Rose Iland would be going to the sales and using his own words “I’m getting out of it now” thus ending his long and successful involvement with the sport.
Collett has seen some wonderful horses carrying his colours many of them partnered by his wife Sue, and we wish them both of them the best in the future.
Division I of the Maiden, saw the days closest finish with any one of four horses in with a chance coming to the last. Coisa Blanco led the runners on the final climb but they were passed by Josh Cameron on Thursdayateight, with Mythical Prince close up in third, while Guinness Village was a couple of lengths down in fourth.
The complexion of the race changed dramatically between the final two fences, with Thursdayateight slowing down and losing his lead, while Guinness Village who was just starting to get up a head of steam, made a mistake from which he was unable to recover.
Thursdayateight leads approaching the last
Starting off up the run in, Coisa Blanco regained the lead with Mythical Prince snapping at his heels, but then Cameron conjured up a whirlwind finish from Thursdayateight which enabled him to claim the prize in the final strides, although his riding did incur the wrath of the stewards.
PHOTO’S – PHIL BRITT, DAVID FISHER & PETE MANSELL
ALBRIGHTON & WOODLAND RESULTS
1ST GRAGEELAGH GIRL MISS K SINCLAIR 2-1
2ND DANNY ARCHER
3RD MONBEG LEGEND
1ST TOMB STORME J CAMERON 10-1
2ND ROUND ROBIN
3RD FRANK AND HONEST
1ST BLAZING TOM MISS N IRVINE 7-4
2ND ANGE DES MALBERAUX
1ST FIFTY SHADES D ELLIS 6-1
2ND BALLYBOKER BREEZE
3RD YEATS ACE
MARES & FILLIES MAIDEN
1ST ROSE ILAND J KING 9-4
2ND FESTIVAL DAWN
3RD ETHERIDGE ANNIE
MAIDEN – DIVISION I
1ST THURSDAYATEIGHT J CAMERCON 4-1
2ND MYTHICAL PRINCE
3RD GUINNESS VILLAGE
MAIDEN – DIVISION II
1ST THAT’S ME T BROUGHTON 7-4
2ND BARLEY HILL
1ST HAZEL HILL T O’BRIEN 2-5
3RD KASHMIR PEAK
Gabrial the Great and Thomas Murray made a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure with an emphatic win in the Novice Riders at Kingston Blount on Sunday afternoon.
As Murray stated in his post race interview “the horse has to have everything in his favour” and on this occasion they were. The horse was running over a shorter distance, had better ground, had course form and a contest that looked weaker than other races he has contested this season.
The 12-year-old ran well behind Deans Road at Chaddesley in April and with that horse winning a Stratford Hunter Chase this was another pointer to his chances, although all these facts were ignored with Knight Bachelor sent off favourite.
Murray settled his mount in mid-field, but then took up a more prominent position climbing Kingston Knoll for the final time.
The runners disappear for a short while down the back straight but when they came back into view, the partnership had a clear lead, and the opposition were struggling.
Gabrial the Great continued to extend his advantage but very nearly threw the race away with mistakes at the third from home and an even more serious one at the penultimate which the partnership did well to survive.
Having overcome these errors, they turned into the home straight with the race in their pocket which allowed Murray to stand up in the saddle and throw his arm in the air to celebrate victory fully 30 yards from the line.
Thomas Murray after his win on Gabrial the Great
Questioned afterwards Murray explained “I am a farrier by trade and just have a couple of Pointers which I train at Elmley Castle, near Evesham. This horse has some ability but everything has to be right for him. He has been sick recently so I was not that hopeful. He goes out in the field every day. I have no gallops so just take him out round the lanes which he seems to enjoy. I came over from Ireland when I was 17, to join Andy Martin.”
Asked about the emotional scenes with his wife Jessica in the winner’s enclosure, he explained “her father passed away two days ago and I think I needed some divine intervention to survive that mistake at the penultimate”
Don Bersy is both brilliant and frustrating and we have seen both sides of his character at Kington Blount this season.
There were excuses for his behaviour three weeks ago where he lost 15-lengths after two false starts before recovering in the second half of the race.
On Sunday we saw his darker side. He got off on level terms with his rivals but within half a dozen strides dropped anchor and decided that was it and quickly lost touch.
Having ridden him on numerous occasions Bradley Gibbs knows all his foibles but he quickly accepted the horse was in an uncooperative mood and accepted defeat before the second obstacle.
With the favourite out of contention, Ben Bromley and the Wheatland qualified Ballykan were left with a relatively easy task. Leading as they came off the hill, the partnership moved clear down the back straight. The Brassmoulder moved into their slip stream, but his challenge was repelled as the leader threw in three prodigious leaps over the final three obstacles.
Ballykan and Ben Bromley after their Open success
Bromley junior, had some big shoes to fill at Phil Rowley’s yard near Bridgnorth following Alex Edwards decision to turn professional. Bromley reported afterwards “the horse travelled well throughout. I was able to give him a breather going up the hill and was where I wanted to be throughout the race”.
Although James King rode a double at Bratton Down the previous day, he was suspended for this meeting, so Tommie O’Brien came in for the ride on the Angela Slatter owned and trained Waterloo Warrior in the Conditions.
As usual the Toddington trained gelding hit a flat spot with O’Brien having to cajole his mount along going out onto their second circuit.
Thomas Junior (two shades of blue) is challenged by Waterloo Warrior on the final bend
Waterloo Warrior responded well and was in touch down the back straight and had the leader in his sights throughout the final half mile. Unfortunately for them, Phil York and Thomas Junior kept finding extra every time the favourite moved up to their girths.
The leader blunders at the last
York (enjoying his 50th success at Kingston Blount) rides this course better than most and asked his mount for a final effort coming to the last. Waterloo Warrior was unable to take advantage of the leader’s mistakes and anchored by a 9 lbs weight concession had to give best on the flat.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Tommie O’Brien with near misses on Waterloo Warrior and The Brassmoulder and he suffered similar fates on French Piece (Intermediate) and Lucky Lucarno (Restricted).
O’Brien had French Piece in a handy position throughout and looked ready to strike as the runners turned out of the back straight. The jockey was just about to deliver his challenge on Jason Warner’s gelding when Getting Closer and Izzy Marshall swept by on the home turn, while O’Brien’s mount lost second place when Robin Why Not passed him in the final 25 yards.
With three placings from three rides O’Brien sought compensation on Lucky Lucarno in the Restricted. Nick Phillips and Ifyoucanseemenow led from the start but looked a sitting duck as their opponents began their efforts in the final mile.
O’Brien and Lucky Lucarno held every chance at the penultimate, but were unable to sustain their effort in the home straight and Nick Phillips pulled further clear on the flat.
Having hit the bar with Lucky Lucarno, Ettington trainer Martin Wanless finally found the net following Raleagh Flora’s victory in the Maiden under Tristram Durrell.
This was an impressive performance by the 6-year-old who had obviously benefitted from his previous run at Kingston Blount. Durrell’s mount made progress down the back straight moving from third place at the fourth from home into second place at the next.
They swept into the lead approaching two out and with the favourite Misstree Song running out of puff sauntered home for an easy win.
BERKS & BUCKS RESULTS
1ST THOMAS JUNIOR
2ND WATERLOO WARRIOR
3RD ORDER IN COURT
1ST GABRIAL THE GREAT
3RD KNIGHT BACHELOR
1ST GETTING CLOSER
2ND ROBIN WHY NOT
3RD FRENCH PIECE
2ND THE BRASSMOULDER
2ND LUCKY LUCARNO
1ST RALEAGH FLORA
2ND MISSTREE SONG
3RD WATCHING BRIEF
It is normal on British Bank Holiday weekends, to avoid motorways at all costs, but unfortunately for those entered and hoping to run at Bratton Down, this is something which could not avoided.
Owners/trainers and riders always allow plenty of time but Brookethorpe based Jason Warner had to endure a six-hour trip down to Devon, but after three winners which cemented his position at the top of the Leading Owners Award, the journey back would have been and was much shorter.
Prior to this meeting James King and Luke Price were level at the top of the Small Trainers Award, but King helped his rival to take a narrow lead by steering Los Alamos and Blairs Cove to victory.
King and Warner were unsuccessful with Edabean who had to settle for fourth place in the Restricted, but later teamed up to land the Men’s Open with the Luke Price trained Los Alamos.
King was content to track the favourite River Myth before delivering his challenge at the last and drawing clear up the long run in. Warner revealed later that he had brought the winner about three weeks ago and “the drier ground had helped here”.
Price, King and Warner teamed up again later in the afternoon to take Division II of the Conditions with Blairs Cove.
Blairs Cove led from the start and the opposition were unable to get the leader out of his comfort zone and he had little difficulty holding all their challenges up the final hill.
With King suffering from a sore ankle Conor Houlihan took the ride on Best to Come in the Maiden and to crown a fine afternoon for the West Midland based owner, the 8-year-old was ridden off the pace before making progress at the 14th, taking the lead at the last and being ridden out to maintain his advantage as they raced towards the finish.