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South Dorset at Milborne St Andrew
Sunday 2nd February 2020

by Bob Bracher

There was some excellent racing at the popular Milborne St Andrew course on Sunday with a total of nine races for racegoers to enjoy. A large crowd encouraged by the sight of the sun as the time of the first race drew near flocked to the South Dorset meeting and they were certainly rewarded with some high class racing. Both Open races drew quality horses and with both Will Biddick and Tommie O'Brien recording riding doubles and the latter notching up a memorable landmark there were numerous highlights. A first riding winner for Scott Malson in the final race after a dramatic conclusion to the Novice Riders race was a fitting end to a memorable day.

The Ladies Open race was won in convincing fashion by Tom Barton ridden for the first time in public by Millie Wonnacott. Setting off in front the ten year old hardly saw a rival as he jumped from fence to fence for his talented pilot. Recording his ninth career victory Tom Barton clearly enjoys the front running role and with Millie on board this looks like a partnership to follow in Ladies races for the rest of the season. She did say that she had schooled him about a year ago when she brought Liam Harrison down to Sally Alner's stable (before Liam passed his driving test) but did not imagine that she would get a chance to ride him in public. The victory should have given Sally Alner a tonic as she missed the win as her husband Robert is not at all well.

The Mens Open race was expected to be a clear cut victory for the Tom Malone trained Art Mauresque ridden by Will Biddick. After his easy win at Cottenham he was sent off a short price favourite to follow up. However he was a beaten third after the second last fence and the race became a duel between the mare Fishy Story ridden by Darren Andrews and Sixteen Letters ridden by Josh Newman. They were together all the way up the run in and flashed past the judge virtually in unison. After some deliberation the mare was given the verdict by the narrowest of margins, a short head, to the delight of connections who let out a great cheer in the paddock. This has been a tremendous training performance by Stuart Sampson to get the mare back on the course as she had not been seen since May 2018. Recording her ninth career victory for owner Martin Tucker she is a credit to all connections and her dam who is also responsible for her full sister River Myth.

The shorter Maiden had already been divided when entries were received and the first division produced another easy winner in the form of Queen's Legacy which was the first leg of Will Biddick's riding double. Bred by his owners June Fear and Jackie Abbott and trained by Will her dam never raced but she is the daughter of Panda Shandy and granddaughter of Panda Pops who was the dam of the prolific Hops and Pops.

The other division of the shorter Maiden was won in facile fashion by the Tom Lacey owned Velasco ridden by Tommie O'Brien. As the only four year old in the field he made full advantage of his weight allowance of at least a stone and won by a distance. Bought by Tom at the Tattersalls August sales in Ireland for 32,000 Euros as a three year old he is a son of Bilboa who won five hurdles for Francois Doumen and has already produced five individual winners under rules. Tommie advised that this was his 100th career winner consisting of 61 point to points in England, two in Ireland and 37 under rules. Recalling the start of his successful link with the Lacey stable he had phoned Tom for rides and this has soon developed into a formidable partnership.

There was an eventful conclusion to the Hunt race won by Imogens Thunder giving Will his second winner of the day. Jumping the last fence in the lead he looked to have the measure of his rivals but then hung sharply right allowing both Bricks and Beams and Our Henrietta another chance to challenge. He just held on and then deposited Will on the turf a few strides after the line. Trainer Mary Tory was rather relieved to welcome her charge into the winner's enclosure.

Tommie O'Brien completed his double in the first division of the divided on the day Open Maiden race when winning aboard Trea Newell's mare Lagonda. Previously third in a Maiden at Barbury in December she put that experience to good use and despite the attentions of Baignard ridden by Fergus Gillard from the second last she drew right away on the run in to win very comfortably. As a home bred she is likely to remain in Trea's ownership but plans are uncertain if she will continue pointing or have a career under rules.

The second division of the Open Maiden was won by Port O'Clock who was given an enterprising front running ride by Darren Edwards. Trained by Dean Summersby who was paying his first visit to Milborne he was bought by Dean and then sold to his owners John Gardener and Torbyn Hughes, mine host at the Clovelly Inn at Bratton Clovelly. Dean described his charge as being a bit quirky and in need of the hood he wore and the experience of Darren who bounced him out from the start. Despite the effort of the favourite Tristan de Gane ridden by Martin McIntyre he still had five lengths in hand at the winning post.

Another first time visitor to Milborne was Alex Edwards who made the eight hour round trip from his Shropshire base to partner Fleur du Pommier in the Restricted race. Already twice a winner this season at Larkhill she showed that she is still a progressive mare and Alex explained that ' she seems to keep something back in the tank when she is challenged' after recording another victory from her eleven rivals. Trained by Harriet Waight and owned by Harriet and Stan Rawlins she was bred by Wally Sturt and Jim Old and raced by the late Godfrey Maundrell with limited success.

The most dramatic outcome was saved for the final race, the Novice Riders race. Lip Service ridden by Katie Sinclair and trained by Sally Randell had dominated the race throughout and had drawn clear of his two remaining rivals who were struggling in his wake. However the combination got the final fence wrong causing Katie to be unseated and the whole complexion of the race changed. Markers were placed in the fence so Mister Dick ridden by Scott Malson and Dan's Wee Man ridden by Georgina Davies then had a slow motion finish which Mister Dick won. Owned and trained by Jason Warner he was giving Scott, 29, his first career winner after three seasons of trying to break his duck. Describing himself as a work rider for Luke Price and Peter Bowen and also a carpenter he was delighted to have ridden that elusive first winner.

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