by Dom Bradshaw

An eight race card and back home by 4.30… surely not? Well, on this occasion the answer was yes, as I attended Sunday’s meeting at Welbeck, the most recent addition to the point-to-point circuit and a relative stone’s throw from my home in Sheffield.

The approach to the track itself (once we found the entrance to the course!) is arguably one of the most attractive in the country, winding through woodland surrounded by blooming daffodils.

Lady Anne Bentick has kindly given the Grove and Rufford permission to set up the new course on her estate and they’ve already invested wisely, purchasing the fences and running rails from the defunct Wolverhampton Point-to-Point course. The track itself is an undulating right hand circuit and the fences are well built but fair.

The course was in immaculate condition and everyone I spoke to was extremely impressed with the set up… the Grove & Rufford must be the envy of their neighbouring hunts!

A bumper crowd was in attendance and the ice cream stall and beer tents did a roaring trade, thanks to the pleasant sunshine, but sadly, the meeting wasn’t given the support it deserved from owners and trainers and the fields for the eight races were sparse.

The privilege of riding the first winner on the new track went to Eoin Linehan aboard Highfield Lady, who out jumped her two rivals to take the Members by four lengths.

Upham Lord made it four wins for the season and an amazing fifteen on the trot, taking the Ladies Open under Jill Dawson. However, they didn’t have things their own way as Anneka Louise (Louise Allan) bravely took them on, but when push came to shove, Upham Lord produced his trademark turn of foot to win comfortably. What can be said about the remarkable winner apart from bring on the challengers!
Pennyahei (Sam Beddoes) was six lengths back in second with the battle-tired Anneka Louise a further fifteen lengths back in third. Anneka Louise looks to be coming back to form and ran with great credit on her first appearance in Ladies company. She will appreciate the extra weight off her back and should go well on an easier track with quicker ground.

Keeper’s Call took the three-runner Mens Open under a driving finish from Guy Brewer to deny the favourite Stoney River (Nick Kent). The winner consistently out jumped the favourite throughout and battled on gamely to score by half-a-length.

The PPORA Club Members race was a poor affair with only two runners and went to the 14-year-old Tom Pinch (Mark Bennison) who came home twenty-lengths to the good of the maiden Springfield Sparky (Mark Ollard).

The Restricted was a modest affair and victory went to Saxon Victory (Richard Armson) who put in a bold front running to score by eight lengths from Mezzo Princess (Mike Lurcock) with Kings Choir (Hannah Phizacklea) a further fourteen lengths back in third. The favourite, Redsands (Simon Walker) travelled well until making two bad mistakes on the final circuit and was pulled up soon after.

The older maiden went to the 10-year-old Patagonian Passion, who scored at the tenth time of asking, thanks to a power-packed ride from Clive Mulhall, with the debutant Shalabibubbly (Nick Kent) a length back in second and Joe Smoke (Eoin Linehan) third.
The winner is exposed and will have to show dramatic improvement to take a Restricted and the one to take out of the race is Shalabibubbly, an 8-year-old by Hubbly Bubbly, who ran green but was doing his best work at the finish. He’ll know more next time.

Division One of the 5,6 & 7yo maiden (2m5f) saw possibly the most impressive winner of the day in the shape of Novel Idea, an unraced Phardante 5-year-old from the Andrew Dalton yard. Ridden by Ben Shaw, he was heavily eased after the last to score by ten lengths from Ravensworth (Patrick Millington).
The winner did this with the minimum of fuss and must go onto better things.
Ravensworth seems to find one too good every time, but his turn may yet come.
Third place He’s In The Doe (Karen Pickersgill) continues to show improvement compared to his efforts in 2002, but will need a soft race to score.

Holywell Girl completed a double on the day for Richard Armson, taking Division Two of the 5,6 & 7yo maiden (2m5f) out-battling the short priced favourite Fast Lane Harry (Steve Charlton) to score by a length. Eight lengths back came Marciano (Louise Allan), just denying Karinga Lane (Clive Mulhall) of third place by a head.
The winner has shown improvement on every run this season, but will need to improve a bit if she’s to take a Restricted.
The runner up and favourite gives the impression that he isn’t totally in love with the game and doesn’t represent value at short odds, though that doesn’t mean he won’t win!
The one that caught the eye here was fourth placed Karinga Lane, who was handled with care by Clive Mulhall and was running on well at the death. He should take a maiden.

The Grove and Rufford are to be commended on their efforts, which are much appreciated by this reviewer. The small touches, such as the Introduction to Point-to-Pointing in the programme, the clear announcements between races and marshalled traffic in and out of the course are what make first time visitors come back for more.  

If there were to be a criticism, it would be the lack of signs and general directions for getting into the meeting! I attempted to enter the course from the A60, but was (rightly) turned away by the one of the cadet leaders, who unfortunately sent us totally the wrong way with his vague directions. Fifteen minutes later, we found another entrance, only to be turned away again by a pair of cadets. After circumnavigating the whole of the Welbeck Estate, we eventually found the entrance, which if we’d have been told about on our first enquiry, we’d have got to in five minutes! We weren’t the only ones who had the problem, as it seemed that most people who approached from the North experienced a similar dilemma. Next year, can we please have more signs and directions, which of course, I won’t need as I now know the way in!