Gloucester Races proved once again how safe it is to run a Point-to-Point during these Covid affected times. The sport made a welcome return with three meetings on Monday afternoon, but the large number of runners and hot conditions at this fixture presented a major challenge for all concerned.
A number of races were split at declaration which resulted in 10 races and a 12 noon start. There were doubles for owner David Brace and rider Bradley Gibbs, a winner from Yorkshire and three first time winners in Beau Morgan, Ellie Jefferson and Josh Barber and a “Members” race of open race standard, which proved the sport is back on the path to “normality”.
Temperatures reached 22 degrees by mid-afternoon which tested the skills of the Vets and their large team of helpers who constantly had to replenish the water supplies down at the finish and by the unsaddling enclosure to enable “cooling down procedures” to be carried out to maximum affect.
If the paying public had been allowed access, they would certainly have got their monies worth in the first, a Joint Members Race between four corroborating hunts (Ledbury, Cotswold Vale, Heythrop and Monmouthshire). Any horse race betting would have been fast and furious, but sadly, bookmakers are just another of the missing pieces in this Covid jigsaw.
This proved the best race of the meeting with Ballyboker Breeze and Zac Baker relishing the conditions and proving far too good for their rivals. The Joanne Priest trained 13-year-old went to the front from flag fall and established a 5-length advantage which they maintained until Robin Why Not, Trio for Rio and Chase Me moved into challenging positions with half a mile to run, while Miss Seagreen began to improve her position.
The leader’s advantage was whittled away approaching the third from home and after his earlier exertions Ballyboker Breeze looked vulnerable as Trio for Rio challenged around the final bend. His effort petered out as Baker asked his mount for one final effort and he got an instant response as they established a race winning lead between the final two fences. Miss Seagreen who had been outpaced into the home straight was putting in her best work at the finish but the winner kept up his furious gallop.
Zac Baker gets another good leap out of Ballyboker Breeze at the last
Now 13 years old Ballyboker Breeze looks back to the form he showed a couple of years ago and its testament to the training skills of Priest and the constitution of the horse who had to overcome a career threatening injury last summer.
Baker recalled afterwards his rivals had queried his tactics at the start to which he replied “Don’t worry I’ll be making it. I thought we went quick enough and he went on again when challenged in the home straight. He been off the course for a long time but I thought we would try and repeat the tactics from 2 years ago and if they caught me, fair enough. This course suits him and you can be brave on him and he sorts himself out. I thought it was a very good run”.
This success provided Jo with her first success since moving to the Caradoc stables once frequented by John Edwards where she is based alongside Ryan Potter. Like many others in the Covid Pandemic her numbers have reduced as she retains just two pointers as the others have been rerouted to race under Rules.
The only other West Midland success was provided by Vivaldi Collonges in the Men’s Open for which there was a disappointing turn out of just three runners.
The order remained unchanged for most of the race as Coningsby dictated the pace with Vivaldi Collonges in close attendance while Phoenix Rock kept a watching brief.
It proved a classic case of cat and mouse with Coningsby jumping well in the lead, while Bromley’s mount was waiting to pounce and approaching four out, they moved into the leader’s slipstream, while Phoenix Rock’s effort petered out.
Vivaldi Collonges and Ben Bromley are well clear at the final obstacle
There was little to separate the leaders over the next two fences but coming round the bend Vivaldi Collonges assumed command and sauntered home for an easy win which provided Phil Rowley with his first winner since he re-assumed command of the Pointers at their Morville base.
With Alex Edwards now professional, Zac Baker, Tommie O’Brien and James King all have the opportunity to land their first Area Riders Championship. The latter did not have a winner but three second places considerably enhanced his current score.
The market is always the best guide in 4 and 5-year-old Maidens so it would have been interesting to see how this race was priced up with runners based with Fran Nimmo, Tom Lacey plus Chris Barber’s “Irish imports”.
King teamed up with the Nimmo trained Adjournment and after some early skirmishes they secured their position at the head of affairs, but both Flaming Ambition (Barber) and Algesiras (Lacey) were in close attendance until the latter cracked half way down the back straight. Turning back towards home Flaming Ambition had got his remaining rivals measure and proved far too good over the final two fences.
A first “Irish” winnner at Maisemore as Flaming Ambition jumps the last
The winner is one of a group of horses that switched to Pointing this side of the Irish Sea when the rules were relaxed and it became obvious the UK was going to restart much quicker than their Irish Counterparts.
The winner was guided to victory by 23-year-old Tiernan Roche who has recorded 22 victories in his home country. He described his experience “He won as he liked on the ground, and was not doing a whole lot in front. He jumped well and quickened although he is still a bit green and was having a look at things”.
Officially trained by Chris Barber, Flaming Ambition came into his current trainer’s care after Barber had made an enquiry about sending some horses over to Ireland during the Pandemic, but he eventually ended up with 10 horses joining his Dorset yard.
Two races later and King racked up more points when Largy Mountain had to give best to Twig in Division II of the 3-mile Maiden.
Shamilan blotted his copybook by ducking out at the 6th, and a circuit later Post No Bills held a narrow advantage over Riding Shotgun and Twig, while King was exuding confidence and moving Largy Mountain up onto the leader’s heels.
Post No Bills maintained a narrow lead around the bend but just as King was poised to pounce on Largy Mountain, Beau Morgan and Twig opened up a race winning lead between the final two fences.
Beau Morgan rides his first winner on Twig
This provided the 16-year-old Bath Schoolboy with a first winner on his very first ride. When questioned later he recalled “I could hardly sleep last night and would have been content to get round, but coming around the final bend I thought wait a minute I could win this”.
His daily schedule involves getting up at 5-30 am. riding out 2 lots for Neil Mulholland, changing in the car on the way to school and then home for rest after lessons have been completed.
In Division III of the older Maiden, King recorded his third placing of the afternoon on the Jake Slatter trained Rose Iland.
Brother Byrne was an additional runner in this race and as he had done at Barbury earlier in the season he set a strong pace. Only two of his rivals were able to maintain contact as they raced along the riverside, but those efforts took their toll on Rose Iland whose effort petered out with three to jump.
Danny Archer and Ellie Jefferson managed to reduce the leader’s advantage turning for home but Gibbs had kept something in reserve and his mount lined up for the judge with an unassailable lead.
Ellie Jefferson and Danny Archer at the last
Brother Byrne had tipped up at Barbury with the race in his pocket and unfortunately history repeated itself because when Gibb’s mount hit the top of the penultimate and paid the penalty which allowed Jefferson to record her first win. The 20-year-old rider was recording her first success on her third ride and is currently based with South Wales trainer Christian Williams.
Earlier in the afternoon Gibbs teamed up with David Brace’s Gats and Co to take Division I of the 6-year-old Maiden. The winner had been pulled up on heavy ground at Hereford in February, but seemed more at home on this surface and was given a confident ride before catching the long-time leader Wilcox and Co at the 16th,
The first leg of a double for David Brace and Bradley Gibbs when Gats and Co takes the Maiden
Later, Brace and Gibbs teamed up to take Division I of the Veterans Race with Robin des People. A prolific winner between the flags earlier in his career the 11-year-old seemed to benefit from a return to Pointing and was one of three horses in with a chance on the final bend.
Ballykan and Model Cloud were vying for the lead at this point but Gibbs timed his run to perfection on Robin des People and the partnership swept clear of their rivals over the final two obstacles.
Robin Des People provides the second leg of a double for Brace and Gibbs
The Skinners sponsored Ladies Open went the way of Dubai Quest and Gina Andrews but it was by no means the cake walk it looked on paper. Aqua Dude and Eleonor Williams led for much of the contest but were hampered by a loose horse and lost significant ground at halfway.
The combination was back in front going out onto the final circuit but were being shadowed by Shometheway and Dubai Quest. Gina Andrews’s mount looked in trouble at the fourth from home but she galvanised her mount around the final bend and quickly opened up a significant advantage.
What looked like a comfortable success suddenly became less likely as a mistake at the penultimate put the leader on the back foot and with Aqua Dude’s departure, Shometheway was able to reduce the leader’s advantage in the final furlong.
Gina Andrews and Dubai Quest clear the last ahead of Shometheway
Jack Teal brought Daly An Sceil down from Yorkshire for the Intermediate and the long journey paid dividends when Teal’s mount hit the front at the end of the back straight and this progressive mare ran out an impressive winner. The runner up Minella Wizard would have been a lot closer if he had not made a major mistake halfway down the back straight.
Daly an Sceil and Jack Teal travelled down from Yorkshire to take the Intermediate
To crown a fine day for Welsh stables, the Mikey Bowen trained and Josh Barber ridden More Bucks took Division II of the Veterans. This partnership led from the start and jumped impeccably throughout and had sufficient reserves to hold the challenges of Oscar Lantern and Minella Friend and provide 16-year-old Barber with his first success on his fourth ride.
Another first time winner – Josh Barber and More Bucks at the last
1ST BALLYBOKER BREEZE Z BAKER
2ND MISS SEAGREEN
3RD TRIO FOR RIO
4 & 5 YEAR OLD MAIDEN
1ST FLAMING AMBITION T P ROCHE
3RD THE EMINENT GOOSE
6-YEAR-OLD MAIDEN – DIVISION I
1ST GATS AND GO B GIBBS
2ND WILCOX AND CO
6-YEAR-OLD MAIDEN – DIVISION I
1ST TWIG B MORGAN
2ND LARGY MOUNTAIN
3RD POST NO BILLS
6-YEAR-OLD MAIDEN – DIVISION III
1ST DANNY ARCHER MISS E JEFFERSON
2ND ROSE ILAND
3RD PARTY TUNES
1ST VIVALDI COLLONGES B BROMLEY
3RD PHOENIX ROCK
1ST DUBAI QUEST MISS G ANDREWS
3RD MASTER BAKER
1ST DALY AN SCEIL J TEAL
2ND MINELLA WIZARD
3RD DR RHYTHEM
VETERAN CONDITIONS – DIVISION I
1ST ROBIN DES PEOPLE B GIBBS
3RD MODEL CLOUD
VETERAN CONDITIONS – DIVISION II
1ST MORE BUCK’S J BARBER
2ND OSCAR LANTERN
3RD MINELLA FRIEND
It did not take long for West Midland stables to get their name on the score sheet when the season recommenced on Monday afternoon with James Ridley carrying the Area flag at Revesby Park in Lincolnshire.
The Kempley based trainer saddled Crews Pitch in Division I of the Flat Race, and after leading on the first bend Zac Baker was content to share the lead with Escoltador for the first circuit and was able to maintain a prominent position as their rivals dropped away when they took the lead at the end of the back straight.
Jack McGrath and Sharon Wilson’s youngster looked in trouble as Granny Mags and Optical Girl moved into challenging positions with a furlong to run, but no sooner had they appeared on Crews Pitch’s girths than Baker’s mount extended his stride and drew clear to secure an impressive win.
Zac Baker and Crews Pitch after their win at Revesby Park
The 5-year-old had been pulled up at Chaddesley before Christmas, but the trainer admitted that with hindsight he had probably run him on the wrong ground. “He does everything impressively at home but I probably got that call wrong”.
Despite running a bit green the winning jockey stated “He was a different horse on this ground, and I suppose James might look at a Maiden for him now.
North Cotswold qualified horses have certainly hit the ground running since the sports resumption and Midnight Chill caused an upset in the Ladies Open at Charing. Faced with just three rivals Claire Hardwick’s mount faced stiff opposition in the shape of the Alan Hill trained Laurium and Gina Andrew’s mount King of the Clothe.
The former set the pace and the order remained unchanged until the Sam Canning trained Midnight Chill moved to challenge Laurium at the top of Charing Hill. These two quickly opened up a clear lead over King of the Clothe who was struggling to reel in the leaders.
Hardwick’s mount shot clear at the penultimate and put the issue beyond doubt by extending his advantage all the way to the line. The jockey confirmed afterwards “the horse was brought out of Jamie Snowden’s yard in the autumn with the stipulation that he only runs in Point to Points. I have been dreaming that I could have one last good one to ride and this could be it”. It is hard to believe that this was Hardwicks first success for almost two years.
Lucy Turner teamed up with the Tor Collins trained Zamparelli to land the Hunter Chase at Ludlow’s mid-week meeting to get the Broadway based trainer off the cold list. The shorter trip seemed in Zamparelli’s favour as she was last during the early stages but came through to dispute second at the third from home before forging clear to land this prize for owner Sarah Dawson.