BALLYRATH BATTLES CLEAR IN CRUDWELL CUP AT COLD HARBOUR
The Radnor & West HH were understandably discouraged when their beautiful riverside course only attracted 64 entries for 7 races, but the meeting itself was far from disappointing. The air may have been on the cool side, but the racing and the atmosphere were anything but.
The only race over four miles in the Welsh Borders, the Mens Open for the historic Crudwell Cup, is the Area Classic, and though only 4 horses went to post for this epic,, it was a nail-biting finish. Sarah Oliver's Green Winter, now 11, is a star of the sport, and was bidding for a fifth course victory at Cold Harbour. Zac Baker settled him comfortably as usual, while Mighty Leader set a decent pace at the head of affairs. Heading out for the final circuit, Huw Edwards sent Heidi Brookshaw's useful performer, Ballyrath to take control, applying pressure to the opposition. The valiant Green Winter responded, but a couple of less fluent leaps made his task more difficult. Turning for home, it looked as if he would collar Ballyrath, but Ballyrath was not for passing, it was HIS day, and he gave owners Teresa and Colin Moore a memorable meeting, staying on courageously, the first two pulling 15 lengths clear of Big Casino (Charlie Dando) in 3rd.
It was a day of frustrating near-misses for Zac Baker, and though the points he accrued from his placings earned him the Leading Rider of the meeting award, he very uncharacteristically collected a £75 fine from the stewards for striking Draft Pick after the line in a close finish with Castle Cheetah (Alice Stevens) and Get Rio (Tabitha Worsley) in the Leominster Construction Ltd Restricted Race.
Emma Alvis, trainer of Castle Cheetah, confessed frankly to being 'Very Surprised!' with the eleven-year-old's storming run, having pulled up on his only two outings previously this season. This was the second leg of a double for Alice Stevens, who had earlier partnered Joanne Priest's Chu Chu Percy to win the Maygothling Waste Ltd Ladies Open race in a similar fashion, flying past the front-running grey Cloudy Joker (Izzie Marshall) to win by 2 lengths, with Cheltenam De Vaige (Hannah Lewis) in 3rd. Chu Chu Percy was fulfilling Joanne Priest's ambition for the season, to win with all 5 of her inmates at her Upton-on-Severn stables, taking her seasonal score to 6. "I must admit, I wasn't holding out too much hope for Percy to realise the dream!" said Joanne, "Life's one big joke to him, he doesn't take anything too seriously!" 'Percy' was an ex-National Hunt horse gifted to Joanne via Jason Maguire.
Lorna Brooke was another rider in flying form with a double, partnering her mother's River Purple to free-wheeling success in the Tallis Amos Members Race, ahead of Ballyburke and Lauren Poulton.
In a welcome change of luck for Max Young's stable, Lorna sent his charge, King Willie into a similar early lead in the next (Confined) race and made all, holding the late challenge of Thoonvalla ('Phine Banks), with Buffalo Sabre (Zac Baker) in 3rd. Heart-breakingly, Thoonvalla collapsed and died seconds after crossing the line.
Ben Jones gave Beni Light an assertive ride, cruising Amber Mathias' charge clear of his two rivals at flag-fall in the Angel, Kingsland Open Maiden Race, giving a faultless performance over the three miles to win by a distance (93 lengths). The home-bred 4-year-old, My Bobby Dazzler pleased Alex Edwards to skip clear of Phoenix Park (James Jeavons) between the last 2 fences for all 3 to finish safely.
Bradley Gibbs is rarely off the score-sheet, and partnered Thomas Faulkner's athletic 5-year-old to a convincing victory, stalking the leaders before taking control four fences from home in the two-and-a-half mile Maiden for 4, 5 & 6-year-olds.
There had been plenty of interest and excitement for the three pony races that preceded the action between the flags, as ever, so ably organised by Pauline Duggan. It was certainly a big day for the Johnson family, as 10 year-old Willow Johnson, made her debut in the Novice race. Her marvellous all-round pony, Village Magic-nine years her senior – was led up by her father, Richard, recently re-crowned Champion NH Jockey. The race was won by Shoot The Stars and 11-year-old Harvey Barfoot-Saunt, from Captain Hurricane (Katie Perks, 14) and Rebel Raider (Tom Hutsby, 11). Village Magic was in the thick of the action until outpaced by hotter-blooded opposition, all these races being invaluable for giving the horsemen (and women) of the future invaluable experience- and pleasure.
Tom Hutsby capitalized on his experience of the previous race to partner Churchill to an emphatic success in the 138 cms race, with the speedy Fair N Square in 2nd and Tigga (Izzy Caldwell) 3rd.
Local rider, Jess Samuel-Stewart (15) and the game mare Pick Pocket led for much of the 148 cms race, with the crowd screaming encouragement, but she was just headed by Tiny Dancer and Lucy Aspell (11), Shorties Story (Izzy Caldwell) in 3rd. Though he was out of the placings, 13-year-old William Maggs gave his mare Caecolley Quickstep a very mature ride, realising that something was not suiting her, and let her coast home calmly and sympathetically. Heartening to witness that horsemanship is not only honed by winning.
During the afternoon, clerk-of-the-course, Alan Rogers, who had yet again done such a superb job, was surprised with a well-earned presentation to mark his 40th year in that position. The fact that there were so very few non-finishers was an accolade to Alan's skills.
'The Radnors' must be applauded for the huge efforts made by the well- practised team in providing such an efficient and excellent days sport, defying the weather, disappointing entries and various uncertainties in their usual industrious manner. Bravo all!