Easter Saturday 23rd April 2011
by Brian Lee
Racegoers turned up in their thousands at sunny Bonvilston in the Vale of Glamorgan for the annual Pentyrch Hunt Point-To-Point Steeplechases last Saturday.
And it seemed nearly all the scribes from the national press had travelled to Wales to join them. Spotted in the crowd were Carl Evans (Racing Post), Martin Harris (Point-To-Point Racing Company), Carolyn Tanner (Weatherbys), Catriona Edwards (Hunter Chasers & Point-To-Pointers) and Racing Post Weekender photographer John Beasley.
Farmer Tudor Harris and his band of happy helpers had watered the course on a daily basis the week before - some 100,000 gallons of water in total - and this ensured some decent sized fields.
The feature race was The Dunraven Windows Point-To-Point Grand National over three and a half miles first ran in 1983 when it was won by Cowbridge farmer John Llewellyn on Donald Dix's Mr Moneybags the only five-year-old-until Saturday that is - to have won this prestigious race.
The odds-on favourite was Paul Miles's Findlay's Find and given a confident ride by Ogmore's Nick Williams, 25, this remarkable five-year-old chesnut went clear three fences from home-they jumped 22 fences - to win by a distance from Wyn Morris's Backstreet Lad (Nathan Deakin) with last year's winner Galtee View (Joseph Williams) a further 20 lengths away in third place. Findlay's Find, who was landing a four-timer, is trained by Mr Miles's wife Myfanwy.
Williams soon made it a double when winning the next race, the Restricted, on Gwynne Phillips's homebred Books Review. A seven-year-old bay gelding trained by Shan' Mandryka' Farr in the Rhondda, Books Review, a former inmate of Debbie Hamer's yard, won by ten lengths from the pacemaking Diddle'Em (Paul Tolman). "He's a big awkward b...... '' said Williams who had recently notched-up his 150th winner.
Only three of the twelve entries went to post for the AGA Ladies Open, but all three are prolific winners. Oca De Thaix (Charlotte Evans), Chesnut Annie (Isabel Tompsett) and Lady Myfanwy (Claire Hart) finished in that order after Oca De Thaix, a nine-year-old bay gelding and the 5-1 outsider of three, had made every yard of the running to win by six lengths and five lengths. Charlotte, 18, rides out for Pembrokeshire trainer Keith Goldsworthy. As a spectacle, the race was a big disappointment as the three runners finished in the same positions they held throughout the race.
Laura Grey, 21, having only her second ride in a point-to-point, won the Members' race on that grand old National Hunt performer 13-year-old Celtic Boy who got up on the run-in to win by three parts of a length from the odds-on Chandlers Cross (Bradley Gibbs). And Celtic Boy's former owner, Ffos Las Racecourse supremo Dai Walters, was there to see him do it. Laura, who rides out for Tim Vaughan, will be going to Bristol University to train as a veterinary surgeon. Celtic Boy was a first winner for trainer Rebecca Dando who also saddled her father Philip's homebred Spring Haze (Evan David) to win the Maiden race. Spring Haze was left in front when Gouranga Society (Paul Sheard) fell four fences from home.
Jack Rowsell's Stoneriggs Merc, a winner of an amateur riders' race at Ludlow when trained by Tim Vaughan a couple of seasons ago, was a 16-1 winner of the Novice Riders race. Well ridden by Joseph Williams, Stoneriggs Merc disputed the lead throughout and the ten-year-old grey gelding held off the late challenge of the odds-on Kisha King (Wayne Maskill) to score by a length-and-a-half.
Dewi Lewis's Balearic Star (Paul Tolman), winner of the Confined here last year only to be disqualified, made up for it this time and despite a bad mistake at the second last - "It was my fault" said Tolman - went on to score by four lengths from Power King (James Stephens).
What they said
Celtic Boy - "He really knows his job." - Laura Grey, rider
Balearic Star - "This is the first time we have tried him in blinkers." - Dewi Lewis, owner
Oca De Thaix - "That was fantastic" - Charlotte Evans, rider
Stoneriggs Merc - "We bought him three weeks ago from Tim Vaughan." - Robert Rowsell, trainer
Findlay's Find - "When I looked behind I was 15 lengths clear." - Nick Williams, rider
Books Review - "John Mathias who won on him last time told me how to ride him." - Nick Williams, rider
Spring Haze - "I had to work hard as she didn't want to go to the front." - Evan David, rider
Starting prices: Celtic Boy(7-2), Balearic Star (1-2 fav), Oca De Thaix (5-1), Stoneriggs Merc (16-1), Findlay's Find (1-2 fav), Books Review (9-4), Spring Haze (5-2 jt-fav)