Sunday’s Albrighton Hunt meeting at Weston Park produced an excellent days racing. With the exception of the Members contest, there were good fields and the modest crowd had plenty to cheer on a very cold afternoon. If the rest of the 2007 season in the North West is as good as the opener then point-to-point enthusiasts are in for a real treat. The fact that this meeting took place at all was down to all the hard work that the Albrighton clerk of the course, Martin Kemp and his team, had put into getting the course raceable. It seemed strange watching the horses and riders racing right handed after they had raced the opposite way since 1983. The run in was only about 80 yards, there was no jam stick but two poles about the height of Rugby posts signalled the finishing line, but I am sure we will all get used to the new lay out of the track.
Richard Burton, the National and Area champion rider had a very mixed day in the saddle. He was aboard the Sheila Crow Kong King in the Restricted, who was backed off the boards. However the Classic Cliché gelding whipped round at the start and refused to race, which resulted in a huge groan from the crowd. The race was won in good style by Coppingers Court, who beat Port Salon readily by 7 lengths under a very confident ride from Adrian Wintle with Tip Away a further 5 lengths away in third. The winner is trained at Handley Swan by Andy Hobbs and owned by a syndicate of 6 people from the Cheltenham area called the Three Counties Racing Partnership; the syndicate also own Royal Hector and Scarface under rules, the former has won seven races and the latter two.
Adrian Wintle completed a double after partnering Abbey Days to a two length success from Tom’s Prize in the Men’s Open. Unfortunately the winner was dismounted after the line as he appeared to be lame just before the post. However his Shobdan handler Steve Flook was much more upbeat about his charge afterwards. He said, “I have had a good look at him and it does not appear to be tendon damage. He knocked himself on a couple of fences and is a bit sore but hopefully he should be ok. He will have one more run in a hunter chase and he will then be aimed at the Cheltenham Foxhunters at the Festival. I also hope to run Beauchamp Oracle in the same race at Cheltenham.”
Andy Hobbs completed a double when Emma’s Boy won a very incident packed division one of the Maiden. The winner won a thriller by half a length under Adam Brown beating China Chase under Adrian Wintle in the final couple of strides to win by half a length. The winner is owned by the riders mother Maria Brown from Ledbury. Hobb’s charge was a very fortuitous winner as History Master was a distance clear under Paul Tolman with the race at his mercy only to fall at the second last. In the same race Burtie was on the red hot favourite Master Of The ward from the Ginger McCain yard, but the combination got no further than the second fence when his mount refused.
There was some respite for Burton when the Sheila Crow trained Oscar Owen was a very cosy winner of the Confined Maiden beating Beautiful Dawn by 10 lengths with the long time leader Murat a further 4 lengths back in third. Victory was even sweeter for the trainer as this was the first success for her son Alistair as an owner. The former dual national champion rider has two horses in training with his mother this season. Sheila Crow was recording her second winner of the season; the Hadnall handler clearly thinks a lot of the winner. Speaking after the race, she said, “I am really pleased for Alistair. I bought him in Ireland last year and I offered him to Alistair; if he didn’t want him, then he would have run in Edward’s (Crow) colours. He is top class and he jumped really well and he will improve a lot from this race.”
Burton went on to complete a double when the Caroline Robinson trained Jemaro walked over in the Members.
There was some compensation for the luckless rider Paul Holman, who worked for Shifnal trainer Heather Dalton after he landed the spoils in the second division of the Maiden aboard the Gearod Costelloe trained No More Tom. This was also the riders first winner in the plate. The winner is owned by Mrs Liz Brazier from Evesham, which is where Costelloe is based. He will have about 25 horses in training this season and is man to note because he only sent two horses to the track and was unlucky not to complete the double with them.
Berkeley trainer Dick Bainbridge got off the mark for the season with the prolific winner pointer Titus Bramble, with the Puissance gelding never coming off the bridle to beat Dimitri under Hannah Kinsey by 12 lengths.
Everything comes to he who waits is a saying that is very apt when describing the Cannock veteran trainer Patrick Johnson, who recorded his first ever winner in over thirty years of trying when Hopesarerising landed the opening Intermediate race beating Dobbiesgardenworld by 10 lengths with Airoski from the Caroline Robinson yard a further five lengths back in third. This was Airoski’s first race for two years and should be noted next time out. The winner was ridden by Luke Johnson who is the great nephew of the trainer.
The Albrighton’s long serving secretary Mrs Margaret Tomkinson retired after this meeting after 14 years in office. She succeeded Jeremy Beasley in 1993, after he’d held the post since 1977 and he presented her with a very handsome bronze sculpture of a huntsman and a hound. The lady was clearly moved by the large ovation and three cheers she got from the race goers during the presentation. It was fitting that the award took place after the Ladies Open as the race commemorates her late sister Rosemary Maddocks.