DARREN EDWARDS rode his 200th point-to-point winner as the Devon & Cornwall area got the new British season under way at Black Forest Lodge on Sunday (27 November)
His success on Porlock Bay in the Intermediate enabled the rider to join the select band of only 20 British jockeys to achieve a double century of pointing winners. Nicely backed from 9-2 to 5-2, the nine-year-old Porlock bay shook off runner-up Mister Serious on the downhill run to the last to score by seven lengths.
A Doncaster sales purchase, the winner is owned and trained by At The Races TV pundit Luke Harvey, leading up his charge on this occasion.
Edwards had earlier steered Ryves Rocky into third place in the three miles Open maiden. Despite being heavily supported in the market, this six-year-old could not get near the winner, The Wexfordian, who made nearly all the running under Claire Hardwick. The winner set up a long lead only to be headed two out by eventual runner-up Desert Roe before rallying to regain the advantage before the final fence.
Better known in her maiden name as Claire Hart, the accomplished rider finished runner-up for the National Ladies' title last season, and owns and trains this winner from her Stow-On-The Wold base. "I got married in the summer and it is good to get off the mark for the new season", said the rider, who bought The Wexfordian privately. "He is a lovely horse and has shown plenty at home but he pulled my arms out today, she laughed.
Very Intense took the opening race of the season to set up a double for jockey Johnny Bailey and trainer Laura Thomas. The five-year-old runs in the colours of the ten strong Banbury Bunch Partnership and his useful form under rules meant that he started odds-on. "He travelled well and quickened nicely," reported the 27-year-old jockey, who is assistant trainer to Richard Spencer at Newmarket.
The yard's double was completed after a tight finish to the Mixed Open when Full Trottle got the better of Grove Pride by a neck, with ex-chaser Benvolio a further neck away third. "He pulled and wouldn't settle but jumped brilliantly," reported jockey Johnny Bailey of the sturdy seven-year-old who is owned by the trainer's father Norman. "He had a wind operation last December and took time to regain his form. "I knew he was coming back when he was naughty and tried to climb out of his box," smiled the Barbary castle based trainer.
Gus Levinson partnered the beaten favourite Benvolio in the Mixed Open, and had earlier opened his account for the season on the prolific Premier Portrait in the Club Members'. This nine-year-old had given the 17-year-old Ridley schoolboy his first winner in the corresponding race last season. "We use Kim Bailey's hill gallop next door and I thought he was fit. He got a bit wound up though today and bucked Gus off leaving the paddock, said the rider's father, joint owner Charles Levinson.
Boygojumping took the Restricted in good style to narrowly deny the Bailey/Thomas combination a treble with runner-up Urban Storm. Owned by Martin and Kathryn Peaty, the Midnight Legend four-year-old Boygojumping had lost his maiden status at Bradbury Rings in April, and gave a sound display of jumping here under veteran rider Martin Peaty. "He is home bred and we do it all ourselves', said Peaty, a Wimborne based vet, adding,"I will be 50 in January. I even shod him myself yesterday when he pulled a shoe off."