IT was non stop action as the rain clouds scurried across Chipley Park on Sunday. (Jan 29th) A total of 102 runners contested the eight races with the going becoming progressively more testing as the rain refused to relent
The £1.000 Mixed Open was the area qualifier for the newly founded Timico Gold Cup series culminating in a valuable hunter chase final at Cheltenham in May. The six-year-old Welsh mare Frelia was a worthy winner under Bradley Gibbs, staying on gamely to hold the strong finishing Winter Soldier and Miss Gotaway.
The winner's trainer David Gibbs is currently in hospital and the winning jockey's partner Claire Sherrin explained, "David is awaiting an operation and I gave him a running commentary on the phone. Frelia will probably go hunter chasing with the Dunraven Bowl at Chepstow, which we won last year with My Corrana, a likely objective "
Sean Houlihan had ridden the Mixed Open runner-up Winter Soldier, and had earlier given a positive ride to Sammy Blade to take the 14-runner Restricted. "I tried to drop him in but he jumped deadly," reported the Irish born jockey who is doing well as stable amateur to Philip Hobbs. Claire Cook trains the imposing chestnut Sammy Blade on the Brendon Hills and said, "We were told he was useless when we got him, but he is an incredible horse. He won for us at Cothelstone last year and is owned by three families including ours which we call The Mad Moose Partnership."
Will Biddick is getting into his stride for the season and followed up a Larkhill success on the previous day with a double in the Chipley mud. The Kayf Tara mare Palmaria made virtually all the running to set up Biddick's double with a 20 lengths success in the Mares and Fillies Maiden. Caroline Keevil saddled seven-year-old Palmaria for owner Lady Flamma Sutton and commented, "We bought her as a four-year-old at Doncaster. She had run well over hurdles but needed further. We were worried about the ground here but she jumped beautifully."
Restless Rebel stayed on strongly to complete the champion jockey's double in the first division of the Open maiden. This half brother to the useful Restless Harry is trained by Ed Walker on behalf of owners John Dorse and Mike Roe.
The judge could not separate Blazing Bouncer and Morpet in the other section of the Maiden. Morpet led from an early stage, and battled on grimly up the home straight until joined by Blazing Bouncer (Jamie Thomas) in the last stride. Morpet runs in the colours of Sally Hutchings and is trained by Christine Gray. Jake Bament was partnering his second winner of the season on rangy eight-year-old Morpet. Blazing Bouncer was home bred by his owner Rita Heard and proved a welcome first winner of the season for trainer Kayley Woollacott. "He has had all sorts of problems and had been off the course for 1,000 days," commented the relieved trainer.
The Woollacott yard and jockey Jamie Thomas had earlier seen the useful Jepeck make a promising seasonal debut when runner-up to Cotillion in the Hunt race. The winner, who started odds-on after his recent eye catching run at Barbury Castle, is trained at Chippenham by Michael Hawker for owner Tony Nash. "He needs holding up and James King did a good job," said the trainer. The 21-year-old jockey is attached to the Neil Mulholland yard and is making a good impression under rules.
Another young rider making a name for himself is Lorcan Williams, successful at Larkhill on the previous day, and now in the winner's enclosure again thanks to the good old campaigner Join Together in the 16-runner Novice Riders' contest. "He carried out our instructions to keep him out of trouble in front. He will stick to Novice Riders' races ," said trainer Rose Loxton. This was a gutsy performance by Join Together, whose winning margin was a short head over Blazing Whale.
Chosen Lucky also produced a game display to set up his seasonal hat trick in the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate. Darren Edwards was again in the saddle and made the most of the six-year-old's stamina. "This was a massive step up but he is a tough stayer and 100 per cent genuine," enthused trainer Dean Summersby.