North Herefordshire at WHITWICK MANOR
Sunday 27th February 2000
by Mal Davies

10 races, 271 entries and 143 runners (if the arithmetic is correct), and battle fatigue was creeping in come the last race. Going was given as "Good with GTS patches", which was very accurate, certainly based on race times.

Performance of the day came early on as Mickthecutaway, trained and ridden by Andrew Dalton demonstrated again what a superb young stayer he is, coming home 5 lengths clear of Forest Fountain (Julian Pritchard), with outsider Three Saints (Mike Worthington) plugging on for third. Whilst a number of the hot-pots amongst the entries failed to declare (Class Of Ninety Two, Solba and Well Ted amongst them), one can’t take anything away from the Dalton horse, back to winning ways on his third start of the season.

One of the shocks of the day was the defeat of 1-3 shot Bankhead in the Ladies. Caroline Spearing’s mount never looked to be going as well as the eventual winner Karaburan (Fiona Wilson), who had 4 lengths in hand at the finish. Bankhead certainly looked to be labouring up the Whitwick undulations, though did finish well up a stiffish finish at Mollington recently. There was a distance back to third placed Dalusman who shaped well until 4 out. Highway Five, a first ever ride for Miss L.Brooke was several distances out back but stayed on strongly for fourth. This one could be interesting over a marathon distance.

If the running of Bankhead was disappointing, arguably a bigger shock came in the Hunt race opener where Mr. Hitchings’s Perfect Light, the impressive 1998 winner of the Dudley Cup was sent off at 2-5 in his bid to overcome a season-long absence. And for nigh on two circuits, he looked capable of doing so easily, but then came to grief at the last open ditch, three out, to leave last year’s winner Basil Street (Dai Mansell) to come home 25 lengths ahead of Kingofnobles (Ray Rogers)

The 15 runner Confined race was a lively betting heat, and it was the David Barlow ridden Maggie’s Brother, a restricted winner at Dunthrop two weeks ago, who won in a driving finish from Dai Mansell’s Merger Mania, with Mr. Knipe’s La Kabyle (Andrew Dalton), who shaped very well at the front for most of the race, a further two and a half lengths back in third. Favourite Capstown Bay (Julian Pritchard) ran disappointingly and was pulled up.

Both the Restricted and Maiden had three divisions. The first leg of the Restricted looks to have been the classiest and was taken by One Man’s half brother Wejem (Andrew Dalton) by a neck from the Julian Pritchard ridden Connors (this one a half brother to Twiston-Davies’s useful, if unpronounceable, Ghia Gneuiagh). The seven year old runner up looks to have more scope than the four year older winner, but both of these will surely follow up. Richard Burton’s mount Holmby Copse got a little warm in the paddock, but ran very well back in third.

Division Two of the Restricted saw David Barlow notch his double for the afternoon on Ian Anderson’s West Shropshire horse Roll With It, who came home four lengths in front of Ten Bob Note, who was running his best race for some time, despite some of his customary shenanigans on the way down. Claymore Lad was 10 lengths back in third.

For two or three minutes during the third leg of the restricted we were treated to the sight of Gt Hayes Pommard looking as if he was going to win only his second point from 32 starts. He ran really well, handling the undulations better than his rivals only to fall three out, clearing the way for Steve Bush’s V.W.H. horse Viking Flame to take the heat by two and a half lengths from Lordinthesky (Robert Cooper on his first ride back since breaking a wrist), with the Julian Pritchard ridden Who’s Your Man back in fourth. The time was 7-04, compared with 6-47 in Wejem’s division, which probably says it all in terms of comparison.

On to the maidens. Division One was collected by Philelwyn, beautifully paced by Adrian Wintle, a seven length winner from Tedstone Fox (Dai Mansell in the frame again) and outsider All Things Nice (Tim Stephenson), a half sister to Kettles a couple of lengths back in third. This one ran a really nice race, and left her previous form behind. The bare result does not do justice to the late drama, as Philelwyn was badly hampered at the second last when a loose horse ran right across the course in front of him, handing the initiative to Richard Burton’s Missed Call, only for that one to crumple at the last, though Philelwyn was eating up the ground in behind and probably would have won anyway. Andrew Dalton after his success earlier in the afternoon had the misfortune to be aboard a pig of a horse, NineteenOFive who dumped him at the start, took off round the course and when caught, was unruly again, jumped off reluctantly and then unseated! The word round the paddock was that NineteenOFive, running loose, had been the cause of the problems at the second last but this could not be verified. Anyway, definitely one not to watch…

Division Two, run in the same time, was however the more impressive as Julian Pritchard got his only winner of the day on 4-6 shot Philtre, who won really well, and certainly far more comfortably than the official three and a half and thirty lengths he had in hand over the placed horses Loc A Lua (Adrian Wintle) and Autumn Blunder (Tim Stephenson)

The tenth and final race of the day, the third division of the maiden fell to Hijacked (Tim Stephenson). The Worcester Hunt horse won by 7 lengths and 8 lengths from Gorsey Bank (Robert Cooper) and interesting outsider Brown Wren (S.Lloyd).