WILL BIDDICK continued in top form at the East Devon fixture at Ottery St Mary on Saturday (Feb 28), where the rain softened ground rode heavy in places. The Cornish rider followed up his four-timer at Badbury Rings last weekend with a treble which keeps him well ahead of his rivals as he seeks a fourth consecutive National jockeys' title.
Biddick teamed up with leading trainer Jack Barber to steer Roger Penny's Earthpower home to a narrow success in a section of the Open Maiden for four to seven-year-olds. Pippa Glanville's bold front running efforts on Miss Weld looked like paying off, but Biddick brought Earthpower through to challenge at the last, and drove his mount ahead on the run in. "This is the first winner I have trained for Mr Penny. He is a nice type by Milan and was lightly raced last year. He had a wind op in the summer," said the young handler, who took over the promising gelding when his grandfather Richard Barber retired at the end of last season.
The Barber / Biddick combination struck again when Bien Connu made all the running to take the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate qualifier. This nine-year-old is quickly making up for lost time after a three-years absence, having scored on his comeback run at Chipley Park last month. "This was the plan today to qualify him for the Exeter final," stated the Henley, Crewkerne trainer. "We had to virtually re-break him when he came in after his long absence. He can be a bit of a monkey and Josh Newman rides him every day," added Jack.
Will Biddick achieved his hat trick and did what A P McCoy failed to do on Downtown Manhattan in the eight-year-olds and over Open Maiden. The soon to retire champion McCoy failed to reach the frame twice on Downtown Manhattan when the eight-year-old was in training with Jonjo O'Neill, but the well backed Presenting gelding relished the very soft underfoot conditions here under Biddick to beat the John Mathias ridden It's My Island in the 10-runner field.
Claire Hitch sent out Downtown Manhattan to score from her Exmoor yard, and almost secured a four-timer for Biddick as another of her charges, I'm All Set, just went under in a driving finish in a section of the Open Maiden. This event went to the Welsh challenger Good Grammar who prevailed by a length under a powerful ride by Nick Williams.
Two Devon based jockeys rode their first winners on an action packed afternoon. Delphi Mountain gave 26-year-old Emma Watson her initial success in the well supported Hunt race. Emma did not panic when Robbie Henderson delivered his challenge on odds-on favourite Level Spirit rounding the final bend, and still held a slight lead when the challenger came down at the last. "We bought Delphi Mountain out of Richard Woollacott's yard and he is owned by my boy friend Christopher Pike. I work at Culmstock for Stuart Sampson and train the horse myself," said Emma who was having only her fifth race ride.
Jennifer Davenport opened her account on Mic's Delight, a horse she also owns and trains in the Novice Riders' contest. "He came from Victor Dartnall and this horse is a gentleman, an absolute delight and he looks after me," enthused Jennifer, 33, who is a vet with the South Moor Veterinary practice at Modbury.
It was good to see Jo Buck back in the winner's enclosure as the strapping grey Dicky Bob, owned and trained by Verity Nicholls was given a positive ride by Jo to open her account for the season when beating Molly Oscar by 10 lengths in the Restricted. "He stays really well and has thrived since he won at Buckfastleigh," said Verity.
Sue Trump's useful 10-year-old Kirkleigh had also been successful at Buckfastleigh two weeks previously (today's winners Mic's Delight and Delphi Mountain were behind him on that occasion). Once again forcing the pace and jumping soundly, Kirkleigh (Tom Chanin) shrugged off the challenge of Fiulin and drew away after jumping the last "We will look at a hunter chase at Chepstow where he will probably get his favoured soft ground," remarked trainer Robert Chanin.