CORBETT CELEBRATES AS SUN GOES DOWN ON HACKWOOD
After the postponement of the Easter Monday meeting, organisers were rewarded for their endeavor in restaging the fixture on a Saturday evening with a cloudless sky, warm weather and competitive racing. The six contests over jumps were preceded by four pony scurries, the first of which was won by Jaspar Bandey, six-year-old son of local trainer Richard, who had enjoyed success at Cheltenham the night before. And, at what is likely to be the last point-to-point at the Hampshire venue, it was fitting that local owner Peter Corbett signed off with a double, both trained by Fred Hutsby and ridden by Sam Lee, at what he happily described as his favourite track.
The Corbett-Hutsby-Lee brace came in the two Maiden races. Twelve, the largest field of the day, went to post for the R Hunt Ltd Open Maiden and market leader Kalinite, fresh from a recent second at Kingston Blount, won it comfortably. Always prominent despite a mistake at the tenth, he went in front at the 14th and quickened clear three out, coming home unchallenged from outsider Hanibal Lector, who just got the better of Emergency Speed in a close battle for the runner-up spot.
"It's great to have a winner at my local track," beamed the delighted owner, who lives at Binley, near Andover. Asked how many of his charges he has seen win here, he laughed, "I couldn't tell you – quite a lot! Fred's always liked him," continued Peter. "He bought him from Ireland in October and we've already been third and second twice. Doesn't he jump well?" Winning jockey Sam Lee, enjoying a good season and likely to be crowned South Midlands leading jockey, confirmed that the step up in distance suited the six-year-old. "We've been waiting all year for three miles on good ground," he smiled. "He's a typical Kalanisi – narrow as a board – and doesn't want it soft, so we'll either kick on with him now or bring him in a bit later next season."
Peter Corbett completed the double – his first since Medic and Golden Tangle won at the same meeting in 2012 – when Kinlochspelve won the five-runner Fullers Brewery and the Jockey Club Mares Maiden. Odds-on favourite Country Legend (a third such jolly to be beaten on the night) looked to have the measure of Fred Hutsby's mare when joining her three out but jockey Sam Lee had more in the tank and the game little grey – placed nine times previously – was never headed, keeping on to score by about seven lengths, with Come On Harriet back in third.
"They ought to call Peter Sheikh Hackwood al-Maktoum!" cheered one of his friends as the visibly emotional owner came back into the unsaddling enclosure. "She's a good little mare who likes her hunting, the sun on her back and good going," Peter told me. "Kinlochspelve (named after a village on the Isle of Mull where the owner has a house) was the last horse bred by my late wife Muff, who died six years ago – she'll be so chuffed. We've still got her dam, Doli Cygnus, at home." The winning trainer also pronounced himself "chuffed" with the victory. "It's great for Peter," Fred smiled. "All his friends are here. She won it well – she's tough and she didn't back off her fences. I think blinkers made a difference."
Another in double form was jockey Zac Baker. His first win of the night was on hot favourite Templebraden – also a winner at the last meeting here – in the five-runner JM Finn Mens Open over three and a half miles. Always prominent, he quickened clear after three out and stayed on – despite jumping left up the home straight – for a bloodless victory over Done A Runner, with Otto The Great a long way back in third.
"He seems to like it round here, despite the different ground conditions," admitted winning owner Sarah Oliver. "Zac was happy when he walked the course and, as for jumping left, well that's just one of his peculiarities!" Templebraden has changed stables since his last win and new trainer, Droitwich-based, Max Young confirmed, "It's been a great season. We've had three winners and several knocking on the door." Max, who confessed to not being from a racing background and to becoming a trainer, "Because my other half had a yard," was quick to thank the Olivers – Sarah and husband Michael for sending him Templebraden and Green Winter, as well as bloodstock agent, Michael's brother Martin. His yard is a mix of young and older horses and he smiled as he told me, "I like to get young ones to sell on, but they all get trained, ridden and fed the same way!"
Zac completed his double with a patient ride on the night's only winning odds-on jolly, Alan Hill's Changeofluck, in the concluding BFJ Consultants Ltd Conditions Race, in which five ran. Held-up, he looked to be tapped for toe when Presenting Beara went on after the third last, but he always had the leader in his sights and jumped to the front after a mistake by Presenting Beara two out, scoring cosily, with Ginuwinefizz the only other finisher.
"I wanted him to be handy," admitted trainer's son Joe, "But he couldn't go any quicker. Zac gave him a lovely ride – he's one of the best around – and he did it with minimal fuss. I really like this horse – he'll go for one of the Maiden Hunter Chases at Fontwell next, and I think he's a John Corbet horse on good ground." Joe – of course – is Changeofluck's usual rider, but has been laid off since two heavy falls in February. "I'm coming along and have been riding out and schooling a bit – but I won't be back until next season," he added.
Zac, who had his first ever winner at this course in 2011, was moving on to nine for the season between the flags plus ten under rules, where he is one behind Alex Edwards and Lorcan Williams in the amateurs title. Quizzed on his chances of winning, he laughed, "I'd better give Nige a call," referring to Mr Twiston-Davies, for whom he won on quality animals like Benbens and The New One last season. Charity seems to be all the rage among the pointing fraternity at the moment and this summer, Zac is staying on terra firma and keeping his clothes on, as he heads to Ireland after Royal Ascot to cycle round 26 racecourses in 11 days, covering 1,400 kilometres. "We're doing it for the Injured Jockeys Fund and mental health charity MIND," Zac told me. "It's me, Hugh Nugent, Ed Bailey, Ed Henderson – who'll be the butt of the jokes – and Stan Sheppard driving the support car, as he hasn't learnt to ride yet!"
The Hill yard had odds-on favourite, my own Broken Eagle, in the two mile four furlong At The Races Ladies Open, but suffered disappointment as the 4-7 shot was beaten for the first time in three years when completing between the flags. As usual, he raced up with the pace, but could never burn off the opposition in this competitive seven-runner contest and the writing was on the wall when Katy Lyons took Starkie into the lead three out and, though Broken Eagle battled back, Starkie held on by a head with Boygojumping not far away in third in the closest finish of the day.
"I didn't think we'd beat Broken Eagle," admitted winning owner-trainer Anthony Ward-Thomas. "But Katy gave him a perfect ride – they went very quickly, but she kept some petrol in the tank. I train him from home (at nearby Hawkley)," continued Anthony. "He's an out-and-out two-miler who I bought from Dan Dennis and he's my first project as a pointer. I train him from home and there's no science to it – he lives out, like all my horses, I just gallop him round! We may go for the two mile Hunter Chase at Fontwell next." Anthony also confirmed that – having ridden in the Aintree Foxhunters in 2012 and completed the Mongolian Derby, he has definitely retired from the saddle!
"He's lovely," confirmed winning jockey Katy Lyons of Starkie. "They were going a fair old clip but he travelled really well and is very genuine – I knew he'd pick up when they came back to me. You almost don't have to see a stride with him, but when he does, he wings it!" Katy was complimentary about both the course and the race, saying, "They've done a really good job. It's the best ground we've had all year and you'd run anything on it – that's the best Ladies Open I've ridden in."
The opening event of the evening, the J Passey & Son Novice Riders Race, may have only had five runners but it was a competitive contest, with the whole field still tightly bunched three out. The well-backed Tom Barton was still in the lead at this point, going better than odds-on favourite Tempelpirate, but Connor Brace – who had held the splendidly-named Itchymei'mscratch up in rear – jumped to the front after the fence and was never headed subsequently, holding off the dogged pursuit of Tom Barton, with Tempelpirate never able to land a blow in third.
"This is the third year I've had him," winning owner Keith James told me afterwards. "He won four in 2016 and was favourite for the Restricted Final at Stratford, but was in and out last year and has been unlucky with the ground this time round. Connor (who, with 13 wins, is in pole position to be National Novice Champion this season) has ridden him all season and I'm so pleased for him." With winning trainer Carlie Packwood absent "doing evening stables", she was represented by John Moore, who owns her Bridgend yard. "It's the second time we've been here," he told me. "Last time, six years ago, we brought two (including the marvellous Cannon Bridge) and won with them both. We came this time because of the ground and because we knew we could get Connor." Fulsome praise for this young rider who's going places.
Visit www.pointtopoint.co.uk for full results from this meeting.