An exhilarating day's racing took place at an initially damp Milborne St Andrew where the South Dorset Hunt held their point-to-point. Fortunately the weather improved and spectators were able to enjoy some good finishes on fairly testing ground. The highlight of the meeting was a tremendous battle for the Ladies Open race won by Bryony Frost aboard Queens Bay, the middle leg of a treble for trainer Jack Barber. Will Biddick rode the other two winners for Jack's stable, keeping up his momentum to retain his Championship title.
The AGA Ladies race became a two horse race from some way out, with Queens Bay leading until being headed by Pacha Du Polder, ridden by Victoria Pendleton, at the 10th fence. Victoria's mount jumped superbly for her and she led until after the second last. On the downhill run to the final bend Bryony had made up the four lengths deficit and secured the inner line; this proved significant. Victoria, on the instructions of Paul Nicholls, Pacha Du Polder's former trainer, came wider seeking better ground and there was little between them at the last fence. Both horses and riders gave their best efforts on the run-in, with Queens Bay prevailing by a head. Lucy Dickinson who owns Queens Bay with her husband Robert was thrilled with the performance of her mare. "Jack insisted we come to Milborne and it has paid off. Our colours are very old and have seen much darning over the years," she added.
The Mens Open proved little more than a schooling exercise for Chapoturgeon, ridden by Will Biddick. Opposed by only Latalanta, Will made all the running and, after being left solo by his rival pulling up after the 13th fence, was able to come home in his own time. This was a confidence booster for the popular grey after his recent fall at Larkhill.
Will's other winner came from the promising Bill And Barn in Division One of the 2m 4f Maiden. Surviving a bad mistake at the last, the 5-year-old Presenting gelding held off the attentions of Woodfleet, ridden by Claire Hart, by ¾ length. Bought at Doncaster in May 2014 for 70K by Ryan Mahon for Jared Sullivan, this looks one to follow for the future.
Division Two was an all the way success for Tommo, ridden by Oz Wedmore and trained by Bill Smith for Winchester owners Michael and Carolyn Poland. The gelding established a clear lead during the race and although both The Oppidan (Claire Hart) and Brice Canyon (David Maxwell) closed on the run-in, Tommo held on to win by half a length. Oz, who was recording his 10th career victory, is reading Geography at Reading University.
The Hunt race proved to be a tremendous training success for George Hiscock and his partner, Charlotte Brown, of Plush. Riding the 10-year-old Tin Pot Man for owner Carol Sevenoaks, George was able to dominate the race from the final circuit and eventually won by a distance. Having not raced since June 2014, when he was trained by Evan Williams, the gelding clearly relished the testing going and belied his long absence. Carol, who lives near Longtown in Herefordshire, is a family friend of George and Charlotte and asked them to train him after his spell under National Hunt rules.
The Open Maiden proved a gruelling event, with only three of the 16 starters completing. The Jacquie McCullough owned and Jo Buck ridden Master Baker drew right away from In The Tub (Will Biddick) to record a comprehensive victory. Trainer, Leslie Jefford, indicated that the gelding should be better on decent ground but clearly acted on this soft surface. Bought from Stewart and Monique Pike as a two-year-old, he ran with promise on his two starts last season and is a good advertisement for his dam, Fashion House, who won a chase and three point-to-points for the Pikes.
The Restricted was a high class affair, with Kernel Victor getting the better of Innocent Girl by 2½ lengths. Sea Current (Gina Andrews) set off in front but was beaten by the second last fence. Kernel Victor (Josh Newman) and Innocent Girl (Will Biddick) then had a good battle until Ed Walker's charge prevailed on the run-in. Owned by long standing owners of Ed's yard, Raymond and Evelyn Targett, the Old Vic gelding has clearly improved since last year, but Ed added "we did not think we would beat Jack's horse [Innocent Girl] and would have been happy to have finished in the first four." The first and second in this race look sure to go on to better things.
The final race of the day proved a triumph for the Simon Gilmore trained Jakros ridden by his owner James Jackson-Stops. Instructed by his trainer to 'go hunting and give the outside to no one', James followed instructions to the letter and gradually picked off his rivals one by one until taking it up on the descent after the second last. His main rival, Imperial Circus (Nick Lawton) had every chance but went down by three lengths at the line. Simon, who trains at Banbury, smiled when he said the "three hour journey home won't seem nearly as long as the trip to Milborne." James, who has just established a property development business in London, hoped the horse was fit to run well, as he had been off the course last season with an injury.
Open Maiden (Div 1) 45&6yo 2m4f (10 ran)
1 Bill And Barn (IRE) 4/5 (W Biddick); 2 Woodfleet (IRE) 12/1 (Miss C Hart); 3 Bells On Sunday (GB) 3/1 (Tommie O'Brien). 6mins. ¾l, 10l. (Jack Barber)
Open Maiden (Div 2) 45&6yo 2m4f (7 ran)
1 Tommo (IRE) 4/1 (O Wedmore); 2 The Oppidan (IRE) 4/1 (Miss C Hart); 3 Brice Canyon (FR) 6/4
(D. Maxwell). 6mins 04s. ½l, neck. (Bill Smith)
Hunt Members (5 ran)
1 Tin Pot Man (IRE) 2/1 (G Hiscock); 2 Seenigora (GB) 10/1 (Miss A Goschen); 3 Turtle Boys (IRE) 4/6 (M Legg). 7mins 22s. Dist, 10l. (George Hiscock)
Open Maiden (16 ran)
1 Master Baker (GB) 10/1 (Miss J Buck); 2 In The Tub (IRE) 5/2 (W Biddick); 3 Thymeandthymeagain (GB) 20/1 (Philip Thomas). 7mins 08s. 20l, Dist. (Lisa Jefford)
Restricted (13 ran)
1 Kernel Victor (GB) 8/1 (J Newman); 2 Innocent Girl (IRE) 4/6 (W Biddick); 3 Tikkeche (GB) 25/1 (M Legg). 7mins 14. 2½l, 15l. (Ed Walker)
AGA Ladies Open (12 ran)
1 Queens Bay (GB) 5/4 (Miss B Frost); 2 Pacha Du Polder (FR) 5/2 (Ms V Pendleton); 3 Terra Bleu (IRE) 50/1 (Miss A Goschen). 6mins 54s. Hd, Dist. (Jack Barber)
Mens Open (2 ran)
1 Chapoturgeon (FR) 1/5 (W Biddick); finished alone. 7mins 28s. (Jack Barber)
CA/PPORA Club Members (Nov Rdrs) (12 ran)
1 Jakros (IRE) 12/1 (J Jackson-Stops); 2 Imperial Circus (IRE) 4/5 (N Lawton); 3 Lord Of The Dunes (GB) 25/1 (E Doggrell). 7mins 18s. 3l, Dist. (Simon Gilmore)