IT was a memorable day for a number of young jockeys at the East Devon meeting at Ottery St Mary on Saturday.
Chris Wald and Rob Stoneman each rode their first career winners in testing conditions with the going officially described as soft, heavy in places.
Wald took the Novice Riders' race on Maller Tree owned by Kate Dennis. The 24-year-old rider also trains the useful gelding, whose winning tally under rules included seven hurdles and an Irish bumper. The young rider, a pupil assistant to licensed trainer David Dennis, based near Malvern, was enjoying his first winner on only his third ride. A former student at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, he described Maller Tree as, "a very safe jumper and they go a bit slower in points."
Flying Award, ridden by Rob Stoneman, was a fast finishing runner up in the Novice Riders' contest, but the 22-year-old jockey had earlier tasted his first success when Arcs Abound stayed on well to win the Open Maiden for four-to-six year olds. Lucy Gardner trains the winner for owners Claire Alers-Hankey and Jill and Geoff Nute. Rob Stoneman, who has worked for the Gardner yard near Exeter for three and a half years, said, "I was told to kick on down the back straight to make use of his stamina." Six-year-old Arcs Abound is the first winner out of Winter Scene, who won eight races with her trainer Lucy Gardner in the saddle
Will Gordon rode runner up Micky Stark behind Arcs Abound The 20-year-old rider, who works for Alex Dunn's National Hunt yard near Taunton, went on to record his third career success on Upto Ollie in the Open Maiden for seven-year-olds and over. The winner just prevailed after a neck and neck battle with The Conjurer. "This horse is clever and the first time blinkers helped. He stays all day," commented owner/trainer Sarah Pidsley, who is based at Payhembury near Honiton, and was saddling the winner on her 25th birthday.
Kirkleigh was the only one of the four starters to complete the course in the Hunt race, giving 23-year-old Alistair Harvey the fourth winner of his career.. Kirkleigh, who was scoring for the third time this season, has now won 15 races in the colours of the jockey's Grandmother Sue Trump. Trainer Robert Chanin has no firm future plans for the gelding. "I just keep him ticking over with the odd little canter between races. We may look for a hunter chase," said the Thorverton trainer. The jockey's next assignment is an interview with the RAF selection board. "I hope to become a logistics officer with the RAF and hopefully find time for polo and point-to-pointing," laughed Alistair.
Will Biddick kept himself well in line for a fifth consecutive National jockeys' title with a hard fought double. He won the Mixed Open on Blazing Whale, who defied a penalty to hold off the spirited challenge of Ohio Gold (Martin McIntyre). "He loves the soft going and is back to form. He was a bit disappointing last time at Buckfastleigh and this is a nice tonic for my co-owner Francis Read who is in hospital," reported Ed Walker who trains the 11-year-old locally.
Biddick completed his double when seven-year-old Earthpower, trained by Jack Barber, kept on gamely in a slow motion finish to the Restricted after battling stride for stride throughout the final circuit with runner up Pauls Conn. Roger Penny owns the winner, bought at Doncaster as a four-year-old and successful in a Maiden on this course last year.
The easiest winner of the day came in the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate when Master Baker retained his unbeaten record for the season by toying with his six rivals to score by 20 lengths. "He is very exciting but I don't know where we go from here," mused Leslie Jefford, who handles the progressive Kayf Tara seven-year-old for owner Jackie McCullough. It is good to see Jo Buck riding at the top of her form and this was her fifth success of the season.