by Fred Sampson
(of Equestrian Cornwall -

The weather forecast did not deter us as we set off on our 2½ hour journey to Mounsey Hill Gate.  We fortunately chose to leave Newquay via Wadebridge to get onto the A30 as the dreaded iron bridge on the Goss Moor has been claiming a few victims lately and we do not want to get held up in traffic.  When will drivers learn that a 14.6 high lorry will not go under a 14.3 high space below a bridge – well not intact anyway! We learned later that an accident caused this road to be blocked AGAIN at the cross roads near the bridge so we chose well.  Maybe I could choose well when I get to the meeting.

I can confirm that the road to Dulverton has been repaired and now it is quite a pleasant drive but there was a diversion because just like Cornwall, they have trouble with their bridges and someone complete with vehicle had decided to jump over the wall and into a garden on the little bridge at Exebridge necessitating traffic lights and a diversion for race traffic but we unfortunately were past before seeing the diversion sign so we carried on our normal route and arrived quite safely amid strong winds and pouring rain as only Exmoor can throw at you!  I can handle the wind, put up with the rain but WHY does it also have to be so cold!  Any two of the bad elements can be endured but all three at the same time take some sticking!!  Ruth decided the front of the Jimny would be a good place to watch from when I went off to walk the course.  In my opinion it was good to soft with not many good patches but a lot of soft patches and if this rain keeps up there will be more soft patches and even less good patches and if the size of each patch increases it will be soft with some very sticky patches.  Seriously though – it was soft!  I would expect horses to find this course very tiring!

Five entries for the Hunt race and Mrs White’s BELLS WOOD is made odds-on favourite as he is carrying form better than the other entrants and I have noted that an imported jockey will be riding on this occasion; one David Barlow from the Oxfordshire area.  Apparently someone’s nuptials have claimed the normal jockey in the form of a best man so we have to witness a visitor in the plate of the White’s entries this afternoon.  Now this is no mean rider having already ridden more than 80 winners including a recent double at Huntingdon in hunter chases.  The way Mr Barlow brought home BELLS WOOD in 6 minutes 57 seconds on this course and twenty-five lengths from Mrs Woollacott’s BORN NATURAL  (M Shears) convinced me that I need look no further for a couple of winners today.  I will just follow Tessa White and their very good friend, who was booked back in October, Mr Barlow!

The Ladies Open was contested by 10 runners and by now I decided to take a viewing position out in the field where I can see all the fences not covered by the number one commentator.  I get an out of sight commentary from the start to the run through prior to the open ditch and then I can view the race right around the far end and back to the fence prior to the finishing line where number one commentator picks it up again.  I miss a couple of fences from here and also the finishing line but I see the race as it happens and it suits me.  Never mind the weather!  There was close betting between three or four horses and finally I think it was Mrs Prouse’s SHOBROOKE MILL  (C Prouse) who started out as favourite.  This horse has been hunter chasing and has done quite well in that sphere.  Off they go!  Mrs Newman’s best turned out BRETECHE  (T Newman) was away quickly as well as Mrs Borradaile’s POLDEN PRIDE and the jointly owned PRESTIGE LORD (L Sweeting).  R Weaver’s MOSTYN, another fancied horse, lost about 30 lengths at the start and SHOEBROOKE MILL didn’t get away too well either.  At the second open ditch it was still being fought out in front between POLDEN PRIDE, PRESTIGE LORD and BRETECHE.  Mrs Wilkinson’s ITS GRAND and P Southcombe’s OLIVE BASKET were still in with a chance if good enough.  At the final open ditch it was ITS GRAND who had raced into the lead from BRETECHE and these two were at least 15 lengths to the good of the remainder.  Full marks to Lucinda Sweeting for her marvellous recovery to remain onboard PRESTIGE LORD but they were out of the race having lost a lot of ground.   When commentator number two handed back to Alfie for the final time it was BRETECHE who was on her way to the winning line followed by ITS GRAND and from the tiring remainder came J & T Greenwood’s BITRAN (O Green) into third place.  My investment SHOEBROOKE MILL did not reward me on this occasion but then Mr Barlow was not allowed to ride in the ladies race.

The Stags Dulverton Men’s Open Race saw eight entries go to post and the quirky POLAR FLIGHT (L Jefford) is made the odds-on favourite.  Now I say quirky because he has been known to find a jockey an encumbrance rather than a help and unseats him but he has also run extremely well as at Bratton Down when he won a hot open race and winning by being 12 lengths to the good of the much respected WELL TED.  J Shears’s STRONG STUFF won at Lifton, Mrs Robarts’ WELL TIMED won at Wadebridge, the Symes’ CASTLE AVENUE stays well and has won a couple this season.  A good contest!  I’m off to the investors arena and plummet my investment on Ms Ashburner’s BELARUS at four to one and to be ridden by imported Mr Barlow.  This horse ran a very good race last week at Dulverton West and came home in a late well judged run by Dominic Harvey to take the spoils from, the good thing DARAYDAN and FRIAR WADDON.   When I first get view of them Mr Cottle’s MY JESS followed by Linda Blackford’s FERN LEADER (A Charles-Jones) are the leaders with BELARUS whipping-in.  Not to worry, he came late last week!   On the second time they came in sight at the open ditch it was still MY JESS now closely followed by CASTLE AVENUE and FERN LEADER running together, BELARUS is still whipping them in along with FOOLS ERRAND (D Birkmyer).  Not to worry he came late last week!  (Slight concern creeping in!)  When it (the commentary) was handed back to Alfie with a complete circuit to run, POLAR FLIGHT had crept up to lead the field with CASTLE AVENUE second and FERN LEADER third.  I’m not sure now whether BELARUS had made up a few positions or was it due to others dropping out but it was obvious that there was quite a gap between the leading trio and my (still mine – at this stage!) BELARUS. On coming to the final ditch it was POLAR FLIGHT and FERN LEADER racing together who took it first with CASTLE AVENUE over in third and BELARUS (still coming late!) bringing up the rear.  FERN LEADER slowly got the better of POLAR FLIGHT by a couple of lengths and guess what! BELARUS was now up to third place. Whoops! the dulcet tones of commentator number two stated – POLAR FLIGHT has unseated at that one and FERN LEADER goes on clear.  Now this is really exciting and I am out in the field besides the second last watching the only two remaining contestants coming towards me – FERN LEADER slowly being run down by BELARUS.  Over the penultimate came FERN LEADER just to the good of BELARUS and me shouting my head off and screaming BELARUS on!  Alfie now took over the commentary from ‘in the country Jeff’ and made public that this is one for the judge but he quickly corrected this with the loveliest news of all – BELARUS first, FERN LEADER second!  I felt sorry for Linda as at one time it looked as though her twenty to one shot FERN LEADER was going to do it but the late coming BELARUS had done it again!  Off to the investor’s arena clutching a small white computer read out that tells me – I’m in the money!  A great race!

Next came the intermediate with 5 runners and again an odds-on favourite was established in R Buckler’s THE MASTER’S CHOICE.  This favouritism is backed on this horse and Neil Harris winning a restricted last week and also his previous race.  I was not so impressed last week so I am looking for one to beat him and settle for the best turned out Mrs Brake’s FATHER JIM (A Charles Jones) to bring me home some more spoils.  Off they go and from out in the country I hear that my investment carrier has started well. I like that!  At the second open ditch and into my view again I see that UCKERBY LAD (M Munrowd) is a couple of lengths to the good of my concern with THE MASTER’S CHOICE in third along with Mr Ferguson’s CUCKLINGTON (A Goshen).  At the fence which will be the last next time, my horse decided to go on and relegated UCKERBY LAD to second place with CUCKLINGTON and THE MASTERS CHOICE following.  The pace was increased and FATHER JIM went on – and on – and on and came over the winning line a distance to the good of CUCKLINGTON and it was only these two that finished.  This is great stuff and I might have to borrow Ruth’s little black bag but I will not be seen with it over my shoulder, as she will no doubt volunteer to help me collect the investment returns! 

The next is a Restricted race with 6 entries and again I choose one to beat the favourite the Faulks’s TONY’S TIME (N Mitchell).  I settle for Miss Burrough’s PARK END (M Sweetland) to do the business for me.  He recently won his maiden at Cothelstone, jumped well and has been consistent in running and gradually improving.  I managed to get three to one so on went a total investment with that earned from previous good selections.  Off they went and from number one commentator came the good news that mine had started favourably, along with others of course.  Now I could see them and PARK END was leading with Miss Guilfoyle on her UNCLE JAMES and the best turned out Mr Awdry’s INDIAN MUSE following closely but the favourite, TONY’S TIME not liking the going and whipping in at the moment.  I have watched a few pointers closely this season but not many of them have jumped as well as PARK END.  This is excellent news, as this horse can gain a length at every fence. With two circuits to go, PARK END was leading and being well held.  On coming into sight again the order had not changed very much except that TONY’S TIME was improving a little but the jointly owned ABLINGTON DOWN (L Jefford) was not.  On coming into view for the final time the order was the same and now the adrenalin starts to cruise around me finalising with shouts of ‘keep it up PARK END’ and many more words of encouragement which really were not needed as PARK END had it all in hand and continued the excellent jumping display and proceeded to the finishing line four lengths ahead of UNCLE JAMES who was half a length ahead of EAGLE HILL (C Heard).  Another winner – life is such a bowl of cherries! (again!)

Three divisions of Open Maiden Races were to follow, the weather improved but I did not seem to bother too much as ‘the bag’ continued to get fatter, I laughed a lot more and Ruth even got a winner.  Of course I selected David Barlow to bring me even more riches in division one which he did in no uncertain terms bringing home Tessa White’s NICK’S WAY a distance clear of Mr Burbidge’s ARDMORE (A Bush) with Miss Barrable’s WHINHOLME LASS a further distance back in third place after being lifted over the final fence by some spectators.  This was a really tired horse and should have been pulled up before the last and the stewards took a dim view of this and relieved the mares’ jockey of a few fifties.  Amateurs should not be fined they should be banned for set periods. That’s my thoughts!  What’s yours? (

A horse I watched run well up at Ston Easton was made favourite for division two when nine went to post. Mrs Hawker’s SOOTSIR (R Hawker) was taking the money.  Again I was not convinced this was the one and Mr Shear’s OLLY MAY might have improved but surely Mandy (Hand) will be rewarded for her perseverance with JO’S WEDDING soon.  Could today be the day?  Only these two horses finished this race and it really was a fight to the line.  When Mandy raced past me her yellow cap flew off and landed at my feet – now surely this is the message that she will repay my investment with bonuses.  There were only two lengths in it at the line but it was in the required order and I was a very pleased punter as I returned the bright yellow cap to the owners – Mandy and Mrs Edwards.  Well done! 

For the final race I settled for Mrs Hutchings’s SMETHERDS TOM (N Mitchell) to bring ‘the bag’ to overflowing status but this was not to be the case as the going definitely did not suit. Eleven went to post and of these, three were to race to the line together making a very exciting finish. With Jenny Congdon doing her bit at Newton Abbott (from reports, doing it very well!), Lin Hawkins got the ride on A Cottle’s ESKIMO GOLD and from the investing arena this one is fancied with Miss Green’s FORTYSIXALLOUT also taking some money and will probably start favourite.  My horse took the lead at times but could not match the challenges of others.  At the second of the ditches I thought I might be in with a good chance as ESKIMO GOLD and SMETHERDS TOM took it together a little to the good of the following pack but the final circuit really took its toll and on taking the final turn to lead into the home straight it was ESKIMO GOLD, FORTYSIXALLOUT and SECOND BITE (J Barnes) who were left to fight it out.  It was for the judge on the line between these three and a well deserved win went to Lin Hawkins on ESKIMO GOLD with Ollie Green on FORTYSIXALLOUT half a length back in second just a head in front of J Reynolds’s SECOND BITE.  A very good race on a track that if they start the repair work now it may be ready for next year – it did cut up a little!

A good treble by Mr Barlow, please come again and let me know when you do.  I have made a few quick ‘phone calls and we will not be going home tonight but staying again at Kathy’s down at Cloutsham, dining on good local food and relishing in the fact that as we relax in front of the big log fire it will be ‘the bookies’ that are paying the bill.  This is the life!  To ‘the cyclists’ who sent Mum to introduce herself – thank you - but you too are invited to have a chat!  We will be at Bratton Down for the Exmoor Foxhounds meeting next week followed by the South Tetcott at Lifton on Tuesday (Wendy! be there!) and if the success of picking up a few winners continues we may not be at home in between.

See you ALL there.  Cheers Fred & Ruth