THE course at Upcott Cross had been well watered to counteract the long dry spell. The organisers were duly rewarded for their efforts when a total of 48 runners contested six competitive races.
Will Biddick's double took him to the 42 winner mark for the season, giving him a seemingly unassailable lead in his quest for a seventh National jockeys title with just a handful of fixtures left during June.
Ballyknock Cloud defied a 6 lbs penalty with a good exhibition of jumping in the Simpkins Edwards Mixed Open. The Truro born rider soon had the grey in pole position, and he shook off his only serious rival Imogens Thunder after the third last. Jade Barber trains the winner for the Ballyknock Cloud partnership. The eight-year-old was setting up his seasonal hat trick in points after a spell under rules. Representing his wife, Jack Barber said, " They have done a fantastic job here watering. This horse was dossing a bit in front. He may come back to me for summer jumping.
Will Biddick's other winner came in the two and a half miles FC Cleaning Systems Open Maiden. His mount So When had failed to finish on five occasions from his six runs with a special party trick of running out when in contention. This time Biddick needed to produce one of his best rides of the season, nursing his blinkered partner in the slip stream of the leaders until asking for an effort down the hill. So When forgot all his wayward tendencies to score going away without breaking sweat. The home bred Geordieland gelding is trained by 21-year-old Christopher Barber for his grandfather, legendary point-to-point trainer Richard Barber, who was unable to be present due to ill health.
The two tone green Barber colours have been well known in point-to-points and hunter chases for many years, and another familiar set of colours graced the winner's enclosure when Willaldo justified favouritism in the three miles PRJ Engineering Open Maiden. This eight-year-old Black Sam Bellamy mare is owned by Anne Carter, and trained by Leslie Jefford, who also saddled runner up Businessman in this race. Willaldo's jockey Bryan Carver wore the silks associated with the owner's grandfather Oliver Carter (oldies will recall such as his Whitbread Gold Cup winner Ottery News, Otter Way and Lucky Rock). "Willaldo has improved all along and loves it," said Carver who is looking forward to turning conditional jockey under Paul Nicholls this summer.
Payhembury trainer Leslie Jefford had earlier saddled Ryves Rocky to win the Dodson & Horrell Novice Riders Condition race under Millie Wonnacott. A quartet of the six runners came to the second last with a chance, but long time leader Ryves Rocky would not be denied and this well backed favourite stayed on strongly to hold the game mare Cloudy Music and Clondaw Bunny.
Ballyhowne looked held in fourth place rounding the top bend in the quality 10 runner Conditions race sponsored by Penbode Veterinary Group, but Tom Chanin's mount was left in a challenging position when Skinflint fell two out, and eventually wore down the tiring leader Sixteen Letters in the shadow of the post to win by a head. "I was content to hold him up and the pace sorted them out. He jumped so well and is so game," reflected the rider, whose father Robert trains the ex-Irish gelding for the Stone Valley Racing Club.
Josh Newman narrowly missed out on Sixteen Letters, but enjoyed a smooth success as Minimalistic drew clear of Golander from the third last to score by 12 lengths in the Coodes Solicitors Restricted. Nikki Frost saddled this improving seven-year-old for Susan and Edward Darke, who commented, "He stays well and jumps but would be better left handed. He will be put away now for next season."