by Brian & Gill Armstrong

The decision to water the Point-to-Point course at Badbury Rings, near Wimborne, for the first time proved a triumph for all concerned as not only did a large crowd attend the annual running of the Portman Hunt meeting but also competitive racing was enjoyed by racegoers. The highlights of the six race card were the success of Woodlands Beau in the Mixed Open race and a first riding double for Ryan Bliss in the final two races.

The meeting began with a triumph for Susieís Melody ridden by Guy Weatherley in the Confined Hunts race. This was trainer Kate Buckettís first winner of the season from a much-reduced stable from last season. Guy, who was enjoying his fifth career success, rides out for licensed trainer Brendan Powell at Upham near Winchester. Guy received the Eric Dymott Novice Riders Trophy later in the afternoon for being the leading Novice Rider at the three meetings held at Badbury Rings.

Badger Beer was a popular winner for local owner and supporter of point to point racing Sue Woodhouse in the Portman Hunt race. Nick Mitchell, the successful rider, followed a course on the inner where the going was firmer as the horse prefers much faster ground than the majority of his rivals.

The Novice Riders race resulted in a victory for Oscar Wilde ridden by Dan Drake for owner Robert Alner. He survived some jumping errors particularly at the open ditch and then had to await the outcome of an objection by the second horse Primero ridden by Tim Eades for taking his ground after the last fence. The stewards overruled the objection and retained the runner-up riderís deposit.

The Mixed Open was won in good style by Woodlands Beau, who saw off his main rival, Hallís Mill, with some ease to give rider Nick Mitchell a riding double on the day. The horse is leased by local owner David Briers to Club Ten and, like Oscar Wilde, is trained by Sally Alner.

The Restricted race was the first leg of Ryan Blissís first ever career double aboard Neil Thomasí The Chain Gang. Neil, who hails from Stanford in the Vale in Oxfordshire, was given the horse last year by owner/breeder Pam Froud as he used to look after him. The horse was following up his initial victory at Kimble last month and has considerably improved, mainly due to better jumping.

Ryan completed his double aboard Hill Trail, which he partly owns with his grandmother, Enid Wicheard, and friends Rick and Caroline Ellinger. He bought the eight year old for 1700 guineas at the Ascot Sales in 2001 and the horse, who had had a wind operation since he last ran, looks the type to progress further judged on this performance. Hill Trail is a half brother to Grand National winner Earth Summit and numerous other winners in the family. Ryan, 20, trains the horse at Ditcheat near Castle Cary and currently works for Guy Landau. He had his first winner at Badbury Rings in 2000 aboard Dantes Gold and this was his fourth ever career success.