Morning drizzle gave way to a pleasant, mild afternoon at Buckfastleigh, which featured eight quality runners for the £1,000 West Country Champion Steeplechase Mixed Open.
Rye Cross and Dicky Bob battled for the lead throughout on very testing ground. It was the useful Ledbury qualified Rye Cross (Sam Jukes) who finished just the stronger to narrowly deny the local hope Dicky Bob (Jo Supple), with Miss Gotaway (Will Biddick) well held in third. Rye Cross is owned by Clive Bennett and trained by Emma Alvis. Winning jockey, 28-year-old Sam Jukes was enjoying his sixth success of the season and reported, "He likes this ground and stays well. He is probably better going left handed."
Dicky Bob's rider Jo Supple soon bounced back when winning on Sue Trump's Ballybruff in the first section of the Confined Maiden, which had to be divided on the day. The owner's grandson Alistair Harvey was booked to ride, but suffered a burst tyre en route, so Jo Supple stepped in as a late substitute. Always well placed, Ballybruff was sent into the lead at the second last and stayed on strongly to hold Sixteen Letters. Bought in Ireland as a three-year-old, the sturdy looking winner is trained by Leslie Jefford at Payhembury near Honiton, who said. "I thought the shorter trip (2 miles 5 furlongs) might not be ideal but he stays well and the heavy ground helped."
Will Biddick initiated a double in the other Maiden division following a patient waiting ride on seven-year-old Wallabrook. The champion jockey favoured a wide course seeking better ground before his mount strode clear approaching the final fence. The lightly raced gelding is trained by Ed Walker for owner John Jordan, who bred Wallabrook from his useful point-to-pointer Lady Misprint. "He was broken as a four-year-old and finished second in a Maiden here last year, but got injured at home last May and needed lots of physio," remarked the owner.
Will Biddick went on to complete his double in the Mares Maiden on One Big Love, trained for the Withyslade Partnership by Sally Alner. The Tamure mare is also home bred by part owner Helen Pease who said, "She seems to love the ground and the plan is to breed from her eventually."
Lady Kingsmill finished a promising runner up to One Big Love, but her jockey Rex Dingle had earlier steered Navanman to a comfortable success in the 11-runner Confined. Bought out of David Pipe's yard, this triple hurdles winner is trained by John Heard on behalf of a small syndicate and looks sure to score again.
Palmaria followed up her Chipley Park win by successfully stepping up to Intermediate company with an emphatic six lengths win over Inch Rock and Little Billy Boy, who dead-heated for the runner up spot. Caroline Keevil trains the useful looking Palmaria for Newbury based owner Lady Sutton. Bryan Carver was happy to make most of the running on the winner, who eased clear of her rivals round the last bend. The 20-year-old County Cork born jockey works in the Alhampton yard of Will Biddick, who was partnering the beaten odds-on favourite Inch Rock. "After that I might not have a job on Monday," joked Carver, who shows plenty of aptitude in the saddle.
The imposing grey Ballybane gave a very sound display of jumping to win the Restricted, providing a welcome training success for Claire Harris, who has taken over the pointing licence for the Kayley Woollacott stable. Claire was supervising the yard's Larkhill runners, but landed first and second here as the gallant Blazing Bouncer chased home the winner. A winning Irish pointer, Ballybane was bought quite cheaply at Ascot sales just over a year ago by former jockey Ben Dixon on behalf of his wife Melanie, who explained. "I was doing some pre-training at our place near Williton when I broke my back last September, so we sent Ballybane to Kayley's yard. It's all credit to her." The eight-year-old was ridden by David Prichard who said, "I was happy to be handy. He was pulling too much. He gave me a great feel and I was always confident."