THE ground was drying up nicely at Black Forest Lodge with senior jockeys describing the going as, "the dead side of good."
Robin De Souza had already scored three times on very soft ground this season and continued his winning sequence under Darren Edwards, still in pole position to retain his Devon & Cornwall jockeys' title, in the Confined. It was not all plain sailing however as his rider explained, "He made three or four bad mistakes. He was taken off his feet a bit and I didn't think we were going to win at one stage." The six-year-old has plenty of talent though and trainer Dean Summersby admitted," He is better on softer ground. There are no real plans but the Exeter Intermediate Final is a possibility."
Double Bank has been a grand Westcountry campaigner for owner John Cole and trainer Emma Oliver over the years He belied his 13 years with a sparkling success under regular jockey Merv Woodward in the Men's Open. Double Bank made all the running and strode clear of Whenharrymetsally over the final three jumps to win by 15 lengths. Teign Valley trainer Emma Oliver said, "We had an accident on the way home after he won a hunter chase at Taunton last February when he got his legs over the partition in the lorry. I didn't know whether he would ever be the same again but he has been working well at home and enjoying himself and it is good to see him back to form. He may run at Chepstow (hunter chase) in three weeks time."
Harriet Tucker, 20, partnered her first winner in the Ladies' Open on eight-year-old Masterleaderman, a gelding she also owns and trains. The ex-hurdler just got the better of Sobre Tresor after a protracted neck and neck battle despite edging left on the run-in. "I work for Chloe Roddick and got this horse out of Caroline Keevil's yard," reported the winning rider.
John Pearn's familiar colours have been carried by the family horses for many years and entered the winner's enclosure when Commanche Conflict , trained by his daughter Alice at West Anstey, took the Intermediate under Sean Houlihan. "Alice is married now but she wanted a horse to train after we lost Johny No Cash, so we bought this horse at Ascot last July," remarked winning owner John Pearn. Alice was given a rousing cheer by her ten months old baby parked just outside the winner's enclosure.
Commanche Conflict just held off the Welsh challenger Bob The Builder in the Intermediate, but the traditional Welsh success at this Devon track came when the quaintly named Itchymei'imscratch brushed aside his ten rivals under Tom David in the Restricted. The eight-year-old, who bears the funny name, is owned by Keith James and trained by Gareth Moore at Pyle, near Bridgend. "I think he was named in an Irish pub. We bought him at Ascot sales last July," smiled the trainer.
The Midnight Legend mare Goodnitesweetheart justified the promise shown on her Larkhill debut by winning the first division of the Open Maiden after the leader Looking Glass had run out at the second last. .Bred by the former show jumping legend Steve Hadley, who was in attendance, the winner is owned by Polly Walker (nee Gundry). "I won on her dam Over To Charlie at Flete Park. She was also bred by Steve," reflected Polly. "This mare is a tough little nut who could go for a Mares bumper," she added.
Darkgesture jumped well under Josh Newman to win the concluding Maiden. The seven-year-old Presenting gelding was bought by his trainer Keith Cumings at Fairyhouse as a three-year-old. "He is a great big baby who has taken time to come together and has still got some building up to do," said the trainer who handles the winner on behalf of The Dark Horses Partnership.