by Arthur Shone

The Meynell & South Staffs meeting between the flags at Weston Park on Sunday February 16th 2003 opened up the season in the North West in style. Racing had to be put back an hour because there was still a touch of frost in the crossing at the far end of the course. Clerk of the course Richard Froggatt and his staff did a tremendous job to get the course in such good shape for this fixture. A huge crowd of around 8,000 who braved the bitterly cold weather were treated to a cracking afternoons’ racing, full of the usual thrills and spills with a hint of controversey thrown in for good measure.

The opening Members Race was a remarkable contest by any standards. The jolly, Approaching Land with the experienced rider Major Milo Watson in the plate looked to have blown his chances after a mistake at the second fence which left him a fence behind the rest, but after two circuits the winner made up ground and actually led at the last fence to go a length and a half up, but Needwood Neptune under Peter Bennett rallied to draw level, but in the shadow of the post Approaching Land got back up in the final stride to win a thriller by a head. The winner is trained by Stuart Shaw at Tutbury, Nr Burton on Trent.

The was a controversial finish to the first division of the Confined Maiden. Fair Idea, trained at Whitchurch by Steve Wynne and ridden by Michelle Hugo passed the line several lengths to the good over the well backed favourite Dambusters with Gary Hamner in the plate. The winner won the race on merit but the rider went the wrong side of the doll at the 5th fence from home which left the stewards with no option but to disqualify Fair Idea. This promoted Dambusters to first with Emperor Roscoe second and Miss Foley placed third. The winner is owned by Lisa Williamson and trained by her husband Mark at their yard at Saighton, Nr Chester.

The second division of the Confined Maiden was much more straightforward. It was probably the worst kept secret in Shropshire that Involved was a bit tasty from the powerful Sheila Crow at Hadnall. That was clearly evident after Involved only had to be pushed out with hands and heels under Richard Burton to beat Airoski readily by 4 lengths. Aunty Norma was a further distance back in third. This was an impressive performance that delighted his trainer and local owner Richard French alike. Richard is a lucky owner in the yard as he had Templebreedy with the Crows last year. Sheila said afterwards that was the winner was a serious horse who stay further and added that he loves the soft ground.

Richard Burton went on to complete a treble at the Shropshire course, which was celebrating 20 years as a venue in the North West. The second leg came with Cascum Lad in the confined for owner trainer Pam Sykes from Bishops Castle. Pam said afterwards, ”He is a lovely little horse who jumps for fun. He loves this soft ground and he should win more races this season.”

Burton went on to complete treble in Getting Out Stakes (Restricted Div 2) with insulting ease on Coole Venture who did not come on the bridle to beat Mrs Sherman by 6 lengths. The winner is owned by Aled Griffith and trained at Hadnall by Sheila Crow, who completed a double on the day. She said afterwards, ”He was not right last season, I knew he was back to his best this time because I ride him out in his work most days and he has been sparkling at home.”

What goes around comes around, was certainly the case for Edmond who provided 21year old Holly Campbell with her first ever winner in her second season. Holly trains the former top class chaser herself at her father Stuart’s yard in Leicester. Her father broke in the winner and got him ready to go into training with the late Captain Tim Forster and then he was trained by Henry Daly, the Captains successor, who was also on hand at the course to watch his former charge win his first race between the flags.

The most popular winner of the day was Marston Moses in the first division of the Restricted. The winner is owned by the joint master of the Meynell Bill Foulkes and trained by his daughter Helen Connors at Melton Mowbray. Helen also rode Wild Sap, the dam of the winner to victory at this course.  

**(Edward Crow was spot on with his dark horse Knock Lord - won at Market Rasen on 8/02/03 and his next best selection Involved in the 10 to follow,won at Weston Park 16-02-03)