The opening meeting of
the new 2004 season by the Albrighton Hunt at Weston Park was dominated by
huge fields, good competitive racing and a few class horses thrown in for
It was just the sort of
start to whet the appetite for point-to-point enthusiasts for the rest of
the season. Despite the recent bad weather leading up to this fixture it was
never in doubt according to the Albrighton clerk of the course, Martin Kemp,
who had told everyone who enquired from Thursday last week that there was no
plans to inspect and he did not anticipate any problems. He was spot on; I
walked the course beforehand. The official going by Kemp was soft but there
were plenty of good ground out there.
seasons’ national and area champion gentleman rider Richard Burton got off
the mark in this neck of the woods by winning the opening Members race on
Ashgan, a shade comfortably by a couple of lengths from Sharlom, which was
Burton’s fourth winner of the season. This victory was sweet revenge for
Burton as Sharlom was given a short head victory over his mount Uncle Ada at
this meeting last year when his mount had clearly prevailed by a neck to
half a length. The winner is trainer at Shifnal by another former champion
rider Andrew Dalton and is owned by Alan and Liz Brazier from Inkberrow in
Worcester. With the exception of a year with Ian Williams, Ashgan has been
with the Daltons since he was a four year old and he used be trained under
rules by Andrews’ wife Heather.
Island, a former inmate of the Daltons, made every yard a winning one in the
Mens’ Open under Adam Wadlow to win unchallenged from the jolly, Irilut,
by 8 lengths with Sam Waley-Cohen in the plate, with An Capall Dubh under
Alistair Crow finished a distance behind in third. The winner is owned by
Bernie Perkins from Shifnal and trained by Tom Forge at his Shifnal yard,
which was formerly owned by trainer Willie Jenks. Bernie had his winner
under rules with the Daltons before deciding to go pointing and this was his
first winner with his first ever runner between the flags. Not a bad start
and all-in-all Forge will have 6 pointers to train this season.
Waley-Cohen and his trainer father Robert did not leave the Shropshire
course empty handed as they landed the Intermediate with the former Newbury
bumper winner Mel In Blue, who had too much in hand for the runner up
Finders Keeps. It was a good training performance by the Warwickshire
handler as his charge had been off the track for almost two years.
prospect of a Paul Nicholls owned horse running at the Shropshire course had
semi professional punters coming out of the woodwork including the
Shropshire Star’s racing correspondent Sam Turner who turned up with more
readies on him than a football agent and got on at 8-11. The horse in
question was Ask The Natives who hammered the opposition in the Ladies Open
under Chloe Roddick, winning by 10 lengths from the fast finishing Cascum
Lad from the Bishops castle yard of Pam Sykes, with Euro Bob from the Sheila
Crow yard a further 12 lengths back in third. This was the winning riders
first success as a trainer from her yard at Wellow, Nr Bath and Nicholls
said afterwards that if the horse stays sound, he has had dodgy legs in the
past, the plan was to qualify him for the Cheltenham Foxhunters at the
Cricket landed a good old-fashioned gamble in the Restricted race under
young Henry Oliver. The son of Primitive Rising was backed off the boards
from 20-1 to 4-1 and duly landed the touch by a distance from Sutton
Courtenay. The winner is trained at Kington, Nr Hereford by Caroline Walker
for joint owners Ron and Stuart Addis from Lyonshall, Nr Hereford. This was
their first winner at the course.
rider Sammie Beddoes owed much to her success as the area champion rider
last season to riding winners from the Heidi Brookshaw yard at Shrewsbury.
The combination were on form again in 2004 when Home Tor held on grimly by a
neck from Welcome News to land Beddoes’ first winner of the season. Heidi
will have only two horses in training this season, the other being the
prolific home bred winner Pennyahai.
The second division of the Maiden was the fastest of the day by 8 seconds which was won by Master Club Royal under Gary Hanmer, finding a second wind to run on again to beat Benbow by 4 lengths, who looked all over the winner two out. The runner up is trained by Gordie Edwards at his Sommerton Stud, Nr Shrewsbury and on this evidence he should soon find the winners enclosure soon. The winner is trained by Don McCain Junior at Cholmondley for the flamboyant entrepreneur Derek Malam, who plans a possible tilt at the Bangor Final with his charge in May. Malam has won the race twice previously with Warleggan and Nodforms Wonder.