It was probably more hospitable in
downtown Spitzbergen than at Whitwick Manor on Saturday as a bitter wind
off the Welsh hills and a couple of blizzards chilled the usual good crowd
to the marrow. Eternal optimist of the day was the owner of the ice cream
van. The afternoonís major blizzard came when the Ladies Open was just
about to come under orders but was so bad that the starter held the horses
at the post for a good 10 minutes. Each of the 9 riders and horses should
have received a medal just for being out there.
Still, at least Mr. Softee was in
situ at 12 noon, which is more than can be said for the full paramedic
complement. With the horses for the members race shivering their way
around the paddock an announcement came that racing had been delayed 30
mins. Half an hour became an hour and a half as the replacement ambulance
was diverted to a road accident and the meeting, the seasonís first for
the Welsh Borders area eventually kicked off at 1.30. There would be no
divisions on the day and balloting out would come into force if the safety
factor was exceeded in any race.
Rachel Reynolds and GOLD N SHROUD
won the 7 horse members; it wasnít a strong field and although not
appearing to relish the soft conditions, he had too much class for Dai
Mansellís Gorsey Bank and won by 6 lengths. Third was an unraced
nine-year-old mare Isla May, who impressed in the paddock (unlike two or
three others) and made a fine debut.
The Confined was a strongish race
and Julian Pritchard gave ROCKET RADAR a peach of a ride to score by 30
lengths from Hoodwinker and Jane Williams, who collared a tired Star
Changes (Richard Burton) for second place. Against the Agent as usual set
off like a scalded cat and was twenty lengths clear when he fell on the
second circuit. The winner should certainly enjoy further success in
better company than this and might be worth another try under Rules (he
won a hunter chase in 1999).
The Menís Open field was slightly
substandard. After his easy win in the confined, the money was for Julian
Pritchardís Daddy Dancer, who had run a fine second to Parahandy at
Dunthrop. It was though Nick Shuttsí FIGHTING TIMES who powered home for
the ever-reliable Gary Hanmer. The winner benefited from the fall of
Richard Burtonís Sammorello (formerly a Huntingdon specialist with Nigel
Twiston-Davies), three out. High Alltitude, another with a decent recent
run was third under Robert Biddlecombe.
Eyecatching performance of the day
was SPRIGHTLY PIP (Tabitha Cave) who landed the Ladiesí Open in some
style. Always well placed, the eleven year old grey showed several gears
in the worsening ground to score from No Fiddling
(Rachel Reynolds) and Upton
Adventure (Lucinda Sweeting). The winner, a Roselier, acted well on the
increasingly poached ground and is another who is worth a chance to add to
his one hunter chase win.
The weather abated and the
Restricted Division 1 saw an exciting three horse battle with the
unfancied GENEREUX (Steve Blackwell) who had been pulled up in a weaker
race at Weston Park last week taking the spoils by 3 lengths from another
Shutts-Hanmer combination, Slip The Ring. Horton-cum-Peel (Adrian Wintle)
is showing improved form and followed up his second at Mollington with a
battling third place. Richard Burton was on the deck again on Andrew
Daltonís favourite In Your Interest, and he made it an unwanted treble
when Cashew Cache came to grief in the first division of the confined
maiden won by the impressive JUST CLIQUOT, completing a double for Gary
Hanmer. Well supported in the market, the six year old Gunner B mare was
always in command of the race, and only Julieís Glen (Micky Hammond), a
brave second could keep with her on the final circuit. Ray Rogers coaxed
Romabit Tom into third, a fence behind the first two.
The second division of the
restricted saw the reappearance of Maquilleux, the easy winner of a
Nottingham maiden. The nine-year-old chestnut jumped well for Mark Rimell
and had the dead wood well strung out early. But the 4-7 shot was no match
for COWANSTOWN PRINCE and Adrian Wintle, who put last seasonís poor form
behind him to take up the lead at the final fence (two out actually, as
the final fence had been omitted by now) to score by 5 lengths. Caught at
Dawn was two lengths further back for Mark Rodda.
The Confined Maiden Division 2 saw
the dayís biggest shock as the previously very moderate CARIAD CYMRU
took advantage of the pace duel between The Welder and Julian
Pritchardís hot favourite Cider Man to prevail for Mark Jackson. Cider
Man should make amends, he was jumping well and bowling along in front
when he made a bad blunder 5 out and quickly stopped to nothing. To his
credit, The Welder (half brother to Eskleybrook) battled on well for Dai
Mansell, and claimed a deserved second place. Persona Pride and Robert
Hodges stayed on past beaten horses for third.
There was a third division of the confined maiden, but at this point, with only about three bookies left in the ring, and with hypothermia closing in, as the old saying goes, I made my excuses and left.