Racing was delayed for 35 minutes for the last remnants of overnight frost to disappear from the course. Luckily the sun did its job and in fact stayed around to make for a pleasant afternoon for the large crowd at this popular Devon track.
A combination of the frost and the recent wet spell meant that the very soft ground put a premium on stamina on the old Buckfastleigh racecourse.
The Totnes & Bridgetown Mixed Open saw the seasonal re-appearance of top hunter chaser Caid du Berlais. Will Biddick exuded confidence on the 11-year-old, and was content to track Marcle Ridge, himself a Cheltenham hunter chase winner last May, until the second last. Once asked for his effort Biddick's mount soon bounded clear to score by five lengths.
"He was too fresh at home and I was glad to get a run. That was plenty soft enough for him but it was a good prep for Cheltenham," said trainer Rose Loxton, who confirmed that the Foxhunter in March followed by the valuable Punchestown champion hunter chase he has won for the last two years is the plan. "He will be my Foxhunter ride," confirmed Will Biddick immediately after the race.
Sam Jukes had steered Marcle Ridge into the runner-up spot behind the odds-on Caid du Berlais. He went on to partner the quaintly named Gottagottagetaway to win the Favis of Salcombe sponsored Open Maiden before completing his double thanks to Shometheway, who took the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate. The successful 30 year old rider also trains his two winning mounts (and Marcle Ridge) at Dimmick near Ledbury.
Although he had failed to complete the course in his previous three runs, 14-1 chance Gottagottagetaway drew right away from his pursuers down the hill to win by 12 lengths. He had decanted his owner Daniel Garlick on his last appearance at Larkhill. "He jumped well today and has a good engine," reported Sam Jukes who expects the owner, a farrier, absent in Ireland for this victory, to be back in the saddle for a novice riders contest next.
Jukes rode his fifth winner of the season when the seven-year-old Presenting mare Shometheway followed up her easy Ffos Las success with another convincing performance in the Intermediate. The Presenting mare, a full sister to Marcle Ridge, runs in the familiar pink colours of her owner and breeder Clive Bennett, who also owns the property where Jukes trains in Gloucestershire. The owner is a fairly regular visitor to Buckfastleigh despite the three hours trip, and when asked about the plans for the useful looking Shometheway, the owner said with a wry smile, " We will go home, have a drink and think about it." It probably won't take too much thinking about because this mare is a half sister to the exciting Nicky Henderson trained Shiskin, and is from a top jumping family.
The two and a half miles Open Maiden for four to six-year-olds, sponsored by Tony Glynn Scaffolding, had to be divided on the day, resulting in nine runners in each section. Taunton bloodstock agent Tom Malone supplied the first winner as Will Biddick steered home the well backed Song of the Hunter. No doubt the rangy six-year-old will appear in the sales ring, as will the winner of the other division, the aptly named Freezing Point, who provided jockey James King with his fifth winner of the season. "That was a very professional performance," remarked the rider of the Fran Nimmo trained four-year-old.
It was good to see jockey Rob Hawker back in the winner's enclosure as Five Gold Bars found the better finishing pace to take the Stanley Carpets Restricted. Frome based Hawker, who also trains the winner on behalf of former Euro Millions winner Wayne Rowles and Dick Grant, suffered a perforated bowel and liver damage in an accident a year ago. "We could aim him for the Dunraven Bowl at Chepstow," he commented.
The Jockey Club & Retraining of Racehorses Veteran Conditions race saw a game front running performance from 12-year-old Three Faces West, owned by the Notre Cheval Partnership and trained at Carhampton by Beth Childs. The winner had lost his form after a fruitful career under rules from the Philip Hobbs yard. He was certainly not for passing here under the talented Frenchman Nathan Vergne, and battled on well as such useful horses as Dicky Bob and Unioniste were seen off.