THE new British point-to-point season got under way last Saturday (24 Oct) at Ottery St Mary under strict protocol due to COVID-19 stipulations. In the earliest ever start to a British season, the East Devon race meeting had to take place behind closed doors. Only essential personnel were allowed in.
On a thoroughly wet, blustery day, seven times National champion jockey Will Biddick took the honours with a treble. "My best ever start to a season" said the Truro born rider.
Art Mauresque set the ball rolling under a copybook Biddick ride in the opening Hunt race. The Tom Malone trained gelding eased into the lead in the home straight to hold Raddon Top who was one of a trio of Leslie Jefford trained runners in the race. One of the other Jefford runners, Ryves Rocky finished a creditable third giving a memorable first race ride to Kirsty O'Dell.
Biddick teamed up with the David Maxwell owned Jalatuwih to take the Men's Open after a spirited duel with Navanman (Darren Edwards). The pair had the race to themselves in the closing stages. Biddick's mount proved the stronger on the run to the judge, looking like a top class hunter chase prospect. Trainer Beth Childs reported, "He came from Philip Hobbs to run in point-to-points." He was described by his jockey as, "A classy horse under rules and the aim is to go to the Foxhunter at Cheltenham. He travelled strong. I gave him a click and he moved on"
Taunton bloodstock agent Tom Malone provided Will Biddick with his treble when saddling Starsky to win the second section of the Maiden for six-year-olds and over. This time the leading rider limped into the parade ring having been kicked about like a football by most of the field after falling from A Tipple or Two at half way in the previous race. The trainer, who also owns Starsky said," I originally bought him as a store. He was at Ditcheat for a while, then the owners wanted him moved on so I took him back. He is still a maiden under rules so we have that option, but plan to keep him pointing for a while. In typical bloodstock agent fashion Malone added of the six-year-old Shantou gelding, "He is for sale.".
The earlier division of this race also went to another ex-inmate of the Paul Nicholls Ditcheat yard when the six-year-old Grey Getaway came clear after Takeabid had fallen at the last jump. Matt Hampton, who now trains and rides the South Dorset qualified gelding for a small partnership said. "He is a nice horse. We picked him up in February as he had lost his way a bit under rules. It is nice to get his head in front and get a bit of confidence back," The well bred six-year-old still has a long way to go to pay off the £190,000 he cost previous connections as a four-year-old.
The easiest winner of the day came in the Ladies' Open when the useful ex-chaser Red Indian travelled from his Leicestershire base to stroll home by a distance unchallenged under Alice Stevens. The winner was in command from a long way out in the colours of Sir Johny Weatherby, and looks set for a successful campaign. The jockey enthused, "He was delightful to ride and I had a great time."
The Tattersalls Cheltenham sponsored Maiden for four and five-year-olds attracted a quality field of 13 mostly unraced horses. Four-year-old debutant Kyntara came out on top, pulling clear of his rivals under Alex Edwards after the second last to score by four lengths from Great Colewood and Feu Des Malberaux. A good topped youngster by Kayf Tara, the winner was sent out by Shropshire based Mel Rowley, a likely harbinger of many more successes for the yard this season. The promising gelding is out of a winning hurdler from a good jumping family. Kyntara cost £30,000 as a three-year-old, from the Tattersalls Ireland Derby sales.
There was drama at the last fence in the NHS Print Concern Restricted when the strong challenging Papal Present fell, bringing down Prove Me Wrong. This left Ryan's Fancy in command , and the ex-Irish pointer was not hard pressed to hold the giant sized Schiap Hill. The winner was ridden by Immy Robinson, whose mother Caroline made history by riding Eliogarty to win both the Cheltenham and Aintree Foxhunters' in the 1980's under her maiden name of Caroline Beasley. She remarked, "We bought him at Doncaster sales, he had won a point-to-point, wasn't a big price and is by Getaway." Immy modestly added, "He did it all. I just held on to him as long as I could."
The seven-year-old winning hurdler Sparkleandshine lived up to his name with a 20 lengths success over the Hobbs runner Rolling Dylan in the PPORA Club Members'. Tommie O'Brien steered home the winner who cost only £3,000 at Ascot last December. "It was probably best that he couldn't run for a while and put on condition during COVID", said trainer Alan Hill.