Spectators had their money's worth at Chipley Park near Wellington on Sunday when a total of 106 runners contested the eight races. Intermittent snowflake flurries failed to deter the huge crowd.
Six times National leading point-to-point jockey, and current Devon & Cornwall title holder Will Biddick, took the riding honours at Chipley with a treble. Despite riding a winner at Larkhill on the previous day, he also suffered a nasty fall there. He described himself as, "feeling a bit sore," illustrating how tough these jockeys need to be.
The Biddick treble was initiated with a supremely confident ride on 14-1 outsider Imogen's Thunder in the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate event. Wendy Jarrett's gelding, trained by Mary Tory in Dorset, was winning for the third successive time and is a likely candidate for the racecourse final of the Intermediate series.
Promising six-year-olds Raging Fire and Crown of Thorns completed a good day for the rider when successful in their divisions of the Open Maiden.
Bought at Doncaster last May, Raging Fire is a well made half brother to Welsh National winner Elegant Escape. The ex-Irish gelding is owned by Phyllis Felton (mother of trainer Mike Felton) and Teresa Dufosee. "He is a nice prospect and we will go steady with him," remarked Lucy Felton.
Crown of Thorns was also a Goffs Doncaster purchase, and is from the family of Champion Hurdle winner Gaye Brief. Once again a patient Biddick ride paid off to the delight of his trainer Sarah Pidsley, who handles the rangy gelding for her parents Michael and Judith. "He is such a nice horse and wants to do everything to please. I ride him out every day," exclaimed the Payhembury based trainer
In Arrears (Darren Edwards) battled on gamely to catch Pancrace 50 yards from the finish in a maximum 16-runner field for the Restricted. "She didn't handle the bottom bend and I was outjumped over the fences in the straight, but she stayed on really well," reported the winning rider.
The classy Virak landed odds of 4-5 under Natalie Parker in a competitive Timico £1,000 Mixed Open, just outstaying Navanman. Virak is likely to try to repeat last year's success in a valuable hunter chase at Haydock Park in February. It was good to see his trainer Rose Loxton in attedance after the nasty injuries she suffered late last year. "He is a happy little horse and Natalie gave him a great ride," said Rose.
Millie Wonnacott steered home her mother Claire's consistent 12-year-old Heaney in the 15-runner Novice Riders' race. Millie, who works for the Neil Mulholland yard, was partnering her sixth career winner. Double Captain, unbeaten in his last four starts, chased the winner unavailingly up the home straight to finish second.
Another large field lined up for the Mares Maiden, where the winner Georges Legacy, given a bold ride by Kieran Buckley, was always holding his rivals up the final climb. The Joe Tickle trained mare runs in the colours of the George Searle Partnership, in tribute to her popular breeder George Searle, who died two years ago.
Another front running performance saw the Rob Hawker trained Jack Snipe making all under Shane Quinlan to beat his eight rivals in the Hunt race for the Pengelly family. This useful ex-chaser shook off the favourite Whenharrymetsally in the closing stages. The successful Cork born rider was enjoying his 25th career victory.