OVERNIGHT rain gave way to a cool, blustery afternoon at Bratton Down where it was business as usual with a double for the unstoppable combination of trainer Jack Barber and jockey Will Biddick.
The progressive Whataknight was given a typically patient Biddick ride to win the Men's Open. "He was rushed off his feet for the first two miles so I had to be patient. You can't go quick and keep going quick here," explained the rider on the verge of securing his fourth consecutive National championship. Six-year-old Whataknight remains umbeaten in his four races this season.
Trainer Jack Barber has enjoyed a remarkable season in winning his first trainers championship, increasing his winning tally from 14 last year to 50 this season. His half century came up when Brandevin, making his racecourse debut, overcame greenness to win a section of the Maiden which was divided on the day.
Once again Biddick nursed and educated his mount from the back until swooping to lead up the final climb. "He was really green and ticks every box. There is room for improvement in him," reported Biddick, who was enjoying his 66th winner of the season and whose career successes in the saddle had topped the 300 mark at Stratford just a few days before. Four-year-old Brandevin was purchased at the Cheltenham breeze up sales last December by Tom Malone. He is now in the ownership of Colm Donlon and Richard Webb. "He has needed time but he works well and jumps well," said Jack Barber.
The race was marred when Jo Buck was fired into the ground when her mount Strong Hurricane fell at the second fence. Jo was concussed and spent the night in Barnstaple hospital. She was reported to have facial injuries but thankfully a scan revealed no broken bones.
Biddick's mount Master Max was runner up in the other Maiden division won by Matt Hampton on six-year-old mare Spendajennie. Bought at the Tattersalls Derby sales as a four-year-old, the Old Vic mare is owned by Andrew and Hannah Broggio and is trained by Kayley Woollacott who described her charge as, " A lovely madam who works and jumps well at home," Kayley was achieving her 25th pointing winner of the season, in addition to a hunter chase.
Claire Hitch trains just a few miles from the course and saddled Minella Fifty to win the Ladies' Open after a battle with the consistent Presentandcorrect. The winning rider, 19-year-old Charlotte Prichard, is looking forward to three months working holiday in New Zealand during the summer.
Bernshaw has proved something of a Bratton Down course specialist for the Claire Hitch stable, but could only finish third on this occasion in the Hunt race behind The Mystro. Lee Drowne, who works in the Nigel Hawke yard, sent his mount to the front at the third last before drawing right away from Father Owen. Placed over hurdles in Ireland for Mouse Morris, the winner is now with Keith Cumings, and had been knocking at the door in his English points this season.
The Flying Doc treated her nine Restricted rivals with disdain. The mare was cruising coming to the last and Robbie Henderson only had to let out an inch of rein coming up the hill to overcome A Real Cliché and Winter Garden. "She is a pocket rocket and jumped brilliantly," confirmed the jockey. Ed Walker bought the Dr Massini seven-year-old for only 4,000 euros at Tattersalls, Ireland last August. She had scored at Didmarton on her English debut in March where she was ridden by Ed Barrett, who subsequently suffered serious injuries in a fall at the Eggesford a few weeks later.
Favourite backers soon knew their fate when long distance traveller Credit Crunched blundered and unseated Johny Bailey at the fifth fence in the Intermediate which was run in memory of Donna Kingdon.. What About Will took command entering the final circuit and strode clear after the last. Neil Harris saddled the winner who was partnered by Vicky Wade for her father Keith. "He has sharpened up his jumping after his two recent Hunter chases," said the trainer.