by Arthur Shone

The Albrighton Hunt fixture at Weston Park last Saturday was one for the die-hard point-to-point enthusiasts. It was a cold day with blustery showers throughout, no wonder the crowd was down on recent years. Racing is a funny old game, last week the clerk of the course Martin Kemp had been the watering the course to produce Good ground, the rain the course took last week did not even change the going, it was still Good on the day.

All in all it was good afternoons racing but a few more runners in the Open races would not have come amiss. There was all the usual thrills and spills that one associates with our sport, but the afternoon finished on a very controversial ending, which will probably be the subject of debate in many of the local watering holes for the rest of the season.

The Getting Out Stakes, the Manby & Steward Open Maiden race went off with a field of 8 runners. The Caroline Robinson trained Uncle Ada with Richard Burton in the plate went off the well backed 6-4 jolly, with Sharlom and Willie Hill next best in the market at 2-1.Coming to the last, Sharlom had a slender lead but stumbled on landing which gave the initiative to young Burton on Uncle Ada, who appeared to have got up by half a length on the line. I was not on the line by my pressroom colleague Rory Alkin was and he was adamant that the jolly had prevailed by half a length. There was a look of astonishment around the ring when the judges Mr R Mercer and Mrs J Bishop gave the verdict to Sharlom by a short head. Nobody was more surprised at the verdict than Burton who was fuming, he said, ”I won the race by half a length and I was even congratulated by the other rider (Willie Hill) on winning the race .I am going to see the judge.”

Despite asking the judges to change their mind, the result stood. Anthony Perry, chairman of the stewards and a very experienced official with many years standing, took a very different view, he said, ”I am very happy with the result, it was very close. I was with my colleagues and I turned around to one of them and said the horse in the maroon colours (Sharlom) looks to have just got it. The judges conversed for some time before they reached their decision and as far as I am concerned the decision was the right one.”

At the end of the day I know the judges decision is final, but surely if the call is so close in a point to point race, where there is no photo finish, the fairest decision is a dead heat. However, take nothing away from the winner Sharlom who was providing owner Mark Harris from Berrington, nr Shrewsbury with his first winner at the course, which is trained for him by Charlotte Jones in the West Midlands. Change Agent, trained by Paul Jones at Wolverhampton, was a prolific winner for Mark last season.

However it was not all doom and gloom for Shrewbury rider Richard Burton and trainer Caroline Robinson after the combination landed the spoils in the Mens’ Open with Jemaro who beat the only other finisher Whatafellow by a distance. This was Burtons 28th winner of the season and cements his lead at the top of the national riders championship. As for the Sheriffhales handler this was her 6th winner of the season and the plan is run Jemaro in the Bangor Final in a fortnight. The Tidaro gelding is owned jointly by Carolines’ father Jeremy Beasley and Richard Mapp from Bridgenorth.

Just under an hour later Richard Burton’s uncle Steve Brookshaw was in the winners enclosure after his charge Home Made made every yard from flag fall under Sammie Beddoes to win easily by 3 lengths from the only other finisher Jimmy Jumbo under Sarah Johnson, who unfortunately lost a weight cloth on the second circuit, which resulted in her weighing in 5lbs less and getting disqualified in the process. This was a brilliant training performance from Brookshaw who stepped the gelding up from Maiden to Open class. As a reward the winner goes to the Doncaster Sales in a fortnight and on this evidence he will probably be snapped up before, but I expect his price has now gone up. As for Sammie Beddoes, the daughter of the clerk of the course at Eyton on Severn, John Beddoes, this was her 5th win of the season which should be enough to secure the ladies area championship.

The Restricted race was won by Sapega with Jane Williams in the plate. They benefited from a last fence blunder by Joe O’Brien on Killcarroll Lady to prevail by three parts of the length. This was the riders 6th winner of the season on horses trained by her mother Diane at Enville, nr Kidderminster.

Mister Moss made every yard in the Morgan Homes Confined to win unchallenged by a distance from Borderline Breeze. The winner was ridden and trained by Gary Hanmer from Worleston, nr Nantwich for owner Derek Malam, who as well as this winner will also have Hanakham in the Bangor Final in a fortnight.

Roy Swinburne, who lives at Pattingham, nr Wolverhampton won the Members race last year with the mare Dunnellie, who he sold last year. This time around he won the race again with Fullopep, a handsome son of Dunbeath who he purchased privately from Mary Reveley’s yard. As with last year the winner was trained and ridden by Paul Morris from Wolverhampton.