The continuous drizzle that lasted most of the day did not dampen spirits or detract from some good racing at Holnicote on Saturday when a first time winner for Tom Dixon, a brace for the Braces and a Grand National legend training the winner of the last were among the highlights.
Much has been made of Rachael Blackmore's ground-breaking win at Aintree last month but it was Charlotte Budd (nee Brew) who set the girls on the road in 1977 as the first female jockey to contest the race. Now combining catering with training a few point to pointers, Charlotte managed to secure the services of Will Biddick on her Rien du Tout in the final race of the day, the Intermediate. The race was run at a more sensible pace due to the ground easing and despite a well-supported favourite in Ahead of the Game who had won his last two races, Biddick always had the winner in a handy position sending him clear from Shanoule Wood with the favourite fading into third. Charlotte explained she had bought the 9 year old from Mark Wall who had insisted he was a very sound horse but needed to be turned out every day.
Jockey Tom Dixon will not forget Holnicote in a hurry when he coolly steered his boss's Rolling Dylan to victory in the Members race. Rolling Dylan is now leased to trainer Philip Hobbs by his owner to enable the lads and girls in the yard to ride. Philip's wife Sarah explained "He's absolutely perfect for the job." This formerly classy chaser certainly enjoyed himself and jumped well for Tom to record his first ever win. "I had no choice and found myself in front a bit too soon but he was going so well" explained Tom who grew up locally and has worked at Sandhill for the last 3 seasons.
The Welsh contingent rarely leave Somerset without some form of silverware and the first of their three winners was courtesy of the Mickey Bowen trained More Bucks in the Mixed Open. Despite boasting the best form, he was only second favourite behind Los Alamos. With the rain getting into the ground, James King seized the initiative on More Bucks sending him into an early lead. With all bar the favourite and Yeats Ace crying enough, More Bucks continued to pour it on, at one stage 15 lengths clear, before eventually coasting home from Yeats Ace, the only other finisher. James explained although the ground was a bit on the slow side for him, he carefully picked his way around the inside where he felt it was quicker. Trainer Mickey thought he may run the Presenting gelding back at Cothelstone on Wednesday if he came out of the race well and that he would probably go back under Rules later in the year.
The Brace family are a familiar sight on the Point to Point circuit and Robin des People had taken this Conditions race three years ago. Again enterprisingly ridden and taking advantage of the softening conditions, the Welsh raider was sent on early and the remaining runners quickly cried enough with only Ucello Conti lasting the distance albeit a long way behind. Owner/trainer David Brace was not present but his able deputy and grandson, 12 year old Jude Brace explained that he rides out the gelding every day and oversees his training. A new recruit to the Pony Racing ranks himself, a confident Jude had been sure Robin des People was going to win and indicated that they were likely to follow up in the next race.
Restricted races often throw up a nice horse for the future and this looked the case when the Brace contender Gats and Co easily disposed of his rivals. Although Russian Invasion tried to mount a challenge, the favourite easily saw him off to coast home by 6 lengths. A half-brother to their useful Paint the Dream, he may well now head for Chaddesley Corbett before a tilt at Novice Chasing under Rules for Connor Brace.
Trainer Alan Hill and owner Nick Sutton had not ventured to Holnicote before but left suitably impressed after their Diplomate Sivola took the Novice Riders race under Nick's son Ben. Jumping well, the 8 year old French bred gelding had been purchased out of the Hobbs yard by Nick on the recommendation of owner David Maxwell. This was the third win for the horse and jockey combination after scoring at Dingley and Barbury and he should win again before the end of the season. Ben who was riding his 6th winner of the season is leading the Novice Men's Championship and works full-time for Alan intending to stay amateur for the time being.
The Maiden race was the largest field of the day with 11 runners and the closest finish. With Boss Baby sent off odds-on favourite, it looked for a long way that there would be another Welsh success. But jockey George Hiscock fresh from announcing his engagement to girlfriend Olivia Ford, had other ideas and he collared the favourite over the last to deny him by a length at the finish. The winner, Forty Acres is trained by Jo Hepburn, who is Chair of Wincanton Racecourse, for a syndicate made up of friends from South Dorset and committee members from Wincanton as well as her husband. She was quick to thank Will Biddick who had helped out so much with the horse who she had bought from Padraig O'Connor in Ireland. Needing plenty of time after arriving, she chose to give the horse last season off and he should progress again as George explained he was pricking his ears when he hit the front.
Clerk of the Course Mike Harding wished to thank the huge effort, time and resources that Philip Hobbs, assistant Johnson White and their team had put into getting the course ready as well as all the hard work done throughout the year by the secretaries Jo and Gemma.