by Mal Davies
Photos by Mal Davies

Well that’s the Weston Park season done with for 2004, and another well attended meeting it was too. The sun came out and the congregation were rewarded with any amount of last fence drama. Had organisers known what was coming, they could have booked Stuart Hall for a stint in the commentary booth. APROACHING LAND won the Needwood Racing Hunt Cup from the veteran Young Tomo. I do have a soft spot for the Hunt race at this meeting, after the famous fiasco in the fog back in 2001, but this was a straightforward race, with no search parties out in the gloom looking for missing horses and riders! 

Benbow really ought to have won here last time when wandering before the last and allowing Master Club Royal to inch past him. With this in mind he was sent off a warm order in the first heat of the Confined Maiden, punted in to 6-4 favouritism. Backers were not rewarded however, as Ben Shaw’s mount took a crashing fall on the fence in front of the crowds. This really left matters between the Gary Hanmer ridden NO REMORSE and Arctic Summer (Jon Trice-Rolph). The Hanmer horse has been quietly hacked out back for most of the first two circuits, but with three to go looked well in command before a very deliberate jump two out handed the advantage to his rival. No Remorse was still behind over the last, but an inspired finish from Hanmer saw him extract a half-length verdict, though it looked very close. Ladora was fifteen lengths back in third place for Tessa Clark and she ought to be up to winning a maiden.

The second division of the maiden was run in a time ten seconds faster than the first, and Ben Shaw made amends for his previous race tumble as WELCOME NEWS, narrow runner up here to Home Tor two weeks ago just got the best of Uncle Ada. The Richard Burton ridden runner up has now finished second in no less than five maidens, and whilst he’ll probably nick one soon, his lack of resolution in a finish would be a worry when taking on better animals in Restricteds. Twenty lengths back in third was Will Hill on Karinga Lane. Mount Sorrel (Robert Cooper) went well and would be of interest in a sub three-mile event.

Ridware Rose and Sue Sharratt lead eventual winner and runner up WELCOME NEWS and Uncle Ada over the fourth

Another fine finish came in the Confined, where the unheralded 20-1 shot Westcoast nearly pulled off a shock win, just failing by a couple of lengths to peg back MARSTON MOSES (Ashley Bealby). The winner was entitled to start a lot shorter than 3-1 given his fast time second to Nautical Lad at Thorpe Lodge, but punters preferred to get stuck into the Crow-Burton combination Involved, who could only manage a disappointing fourth; whilst he is a horse of considerable potential, he’s not managed a win from three attempts already this term. For the record Dainty Man took a good third, five lengths behind Westcoast. Old warrior Whatafellow was pulled up before the last when beaten; he’s now left the Crow yard to join Gordie Edwards but he has been such a star that it would be premature to write him off just yet.

On the first circuit in the Confined; eventual winner Marston Moses is well up with the pace in second

MARSTON MOSES under Ashley Bealby walk back in after a hard fought win in the Confined

The Mens’ Open was a fierce betting heat, with most of the lumpy bets for the very useful Mickthecutaway. Coming to the last, he had a fair field well cooked, before falling with the race at his mercy, allowing old STEP ON EYRE, still useful in this grade to land the spoils by a good eight lengths from Picket Piece, who again looks a useful pointing recruit, having been more than useful under Rules for David Nicholson. Wild Edric plodded on for third, 25 lengths back. Two horses (Chadswell and Do It Again) took purlers of falls at the last fence on the first circuit, and galloped off leaving their riders down for a fair time. The loose horses then charged back across the inside of the course and into the spectator rope, nearly garrotting a young spectator in the process. Happily, he seemed fine after the paramedics attended to him. It was just as well that the rope got in the way as both horses were galloping into the area where the crowd was thickest.

A somewhat fortunate STEP ON EYRE makes his way into the Winners’ Enclosure, having benefited from the last fence fall of Mickthecutaway

SUPREME CITIZEN was sent off 1-2 favourite in the Ladies’ Open, but again benefited from yet more last fence drama when Cascum Lad ran out, leaving the twelve year old Supreme Leader gelding to make his way home three lengths to the good of Jackie Jarvis, with Class of Ninetytwo a further six lengths back in third. I noted Slaney Native as one to watch after his run last time. He seemed a fair bit fitter in the paddock was in the process of running a much better race, challenging for the places when coming down three out. Still worth persevering with, and was on offer at 25-1 and 33-1 in the ring. The time was the best of the day at 6:48.

Class of Ninetytwo sets a strong pace in the Ladies’ Open, run in the fastest time of the day

After all the earlier drama, the last race, the Restricted just had to have a ‘sure-fire winner‘ fall at the last, and so it proved. The very well backed Misty Ramble led the field a merry dance yet made errors at the same fence in front of the crowds on each of the first two circuits. Given those errors, and the day’s earlier dramas he must have been odds on to depart third time round, and so it proved, the horse getting it all wrong and decanting Graham McPherson. This opened the door for HIJACKED and Stuart Morris (who had in fairness been making inroads) to capitalise from Kasilia (Miss V.Simpson) and Donrico (Alistair Beedles). 

Though I did not count the number of fallers, run outs and divers through the wings at the ‘last’, it must have approached double figures, which is very strange, given that the remaining fences out in the country hardly claimed more than a victim or two. Perhaps it was the vociferous crowd, or the poached nature of the ground on take off, but it was just as well that there was no ‘in running’ betting, as several fortunes would have been lost over the last!

Action from the Mens’ Open as Walter Puddifer parts company with Chadswell at the meeting’s ‘bogey’ fence

In terms of the meeting overall, the books were not over generous, but a tad better than the Albrighton meeting. Main gripe of the day was the amateurish rider’s board. The names were very slow to be displayed, and contained frequent errors (e.g. ‘R.Bustog’, A.Beagles’- answers on a postcard please…). Matters were not made better by the failure of the otherwise verbose announcer to give the jockey details. The racecard was a bit hit and miss, with many horses’ ages not given. Whatafellow is still only 14, the same age as Step On Eyre, yet one had his age printed, the other was down as ‘aged’. 

Oh and we had a parade of hounds; deep and unbounded joy. Probably the highlight of some people’s day, but not this correspondent’s. The words ‘preaching’ and ‘converted’ come to mind.