GLOUCESTERSHIRE owners Clive and Eileen Bennett ended a long wait for a first success in one of the sport's four "Classics" when Iberico justified odds-on favouritism in the Lord Ashton of Hyde's Cup.
Sam Jukes, who trains for the Bennetts at Dymock, near Ledbury, gave the 12-year-old gelding a patient ride before setting him alight going to the third-last fence in the 3m 6½f Smith & Williamson Men's Open. Despite a slight stumble after the final obstacle, the son of King's Theatre had four lengths to spare over Legal Legend (Nick Meek), with According To Trev (Sam Burton) three lengths back in third. Clive Bennett said: "It's the first time we have won a 'classic' and it means a lot. We would love to win the Lady Dudley Cup. We have been placed several times with the likes of Stone and Iberico." Jukes added: "It was a very steady pace, and to be honest his jumping was not quite up to speed. However, he did what he needed to do. I'm inexperienced over these long distances and I spoke to my sponsor, Martin Jones, who used to ride and breaks in horses now, about what to do."
Dabinett Moon, trained by Fran Marriott at Chipping Norton, landed the Skinner's Ladies' Open in tremendous style to set up a potential defence of her crown in the series final at Stratford on June 8. After the 15-year-old Carruthers and 14-year-old Start Royal had made much of the running in the 3m 4f contest, Claire Hardwick sent Dabinett Moon, a mere youngster by comparison at the age of 10, into the lead four fences from home. Her mount quickly strode clear, coasting home by 12 lengths from Carruthers with Start Royal three lengths further adrift. Meeting secretary Christopher Marriott owns Dabinett Moon in partnership with his wife, Fran, and he said: "I was very worried that the ground was against her because it is quite sticky, and I was not certain she would stay the extra distance against horses like Carruthers and Start Royal." Quite taken by the unusual trophy for winning the final last year, Fran added "That's where the daughter of Midnight Legend may end up this term. I rather like the lovely silver dog bowl that we have sitting on the sideboard," she said.
Following a great spin on Carruthers, Lily Bradstock went one better when Damby's Star completed his comeback from a broken pelvis two years ago by taking the Wurzel High Speed Broadband Six-year-olds And Over Open Maiden. The eight-year-old gelding, owned and trained by Bradstock's mother, Sara, at Letcombe Bassett, near Wantage, battled to a two-and-a-half-length victory over George Herbert (Sam Morgan) - the only other finisher from the 13-strong field. Lily, 21, who was riding her second winner, said: "He is Coneygree's work partner and is the best work horse with him, but he never shows it on the track. He did a lot of rehab and working on the flat at home. That has made a massive difference." Sara added: "It is a really lovely story. He broke his pelvis and Lily nursed him and has got him believing in himself."
Nikki Stubbs recorded a winner on her first ride when Kashmir Peak triumphed in a thrilling finish to the King's Head Inn, Bledington PPORA Club Members' Conditions race for Novice Riders.
The 22-year-old, who hails from Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire and now works for Dan Skelton at Alcester, took up the running on the Nick Pearce-owned and trained nine-year-old at the final fence. However, Tempelpirate (Sam Burton) fought back and looked as if he may get up only for Kashmir Peak to prevail by a head. Stubbs, who has a background in eventing and also worked for Steve Gollings, said: "This was my first ride and he was absolutely amazing. He carried me round and did everything." Pearce also works for Skelton, and he added: "He was a good hurdler in his day - rated 135 - and he is there now to give the kids their first ride."
Howard Pauling, who trains at Chadlington, near Chipping Norton, ended years of trying to land the Knight Frank Heythrop Hunt Members', Subscribers' and Farmers' race when En Passe carried his colours to a convincing victory. The nine-year-old mare, who won the intermediate race at Cocklebarrow 12 months ago, jumped her way into the lead seven fences from home under Peter Mason, before sealing a three-lengths victory over 2016 winner Buck Magic with a fine leap at the last. Pauling, who recalled he had been second several times as a rider and owner, said: "You always want to win your members, but it seems to have taken me a long time." Mason is based at nearby Ablington, and he added: "It's the first time I have won it and the first time Howard has won it. He has done a good job with this mare."
Sixteen-year-old Milo Herbert, from Abergavenny, notched his third winner when Ballycahane, owned by his mother, Sara, took the Carter Jonas Restricted race by ten lengths from Double You Be.
The nine-year-old gelding is trained by Nicky Sheppard at Eastnor, near Ledbury, having been bought out of Arthur Moore's yard in Ireland. Shrewsbury School pupil Herbert said: "All credit to Nicky and her husband Matt for sourcing such a horse." The young rider sported historic family colours of rose and white diamonds, with Sara explaining: "Reggie Herbert lived in the 19th century and wrote a book called When Diamonds Were Trumps. He was an unbelievably good sportsman."
There was another special connection for the Herberts as the race trophy - the Daly Cup - was presented by the Daly family, who are close friends.
Clerk of the course Nick Phillips admitted luck was on his side after partnering Silent Warrior to victory in the Red Savannah Four, Five And Six-year-olds Open Maiden over 2m 4f for Bibury trainer Dibby Brown. The six-year-old looked held when Shaman Du Berlais blundered at the second-last and unseated Charlie Price, leaving Phillips's mount to come home four lengths clear of Mistercobar. "It was fortunate today with Tim Vaughan's horse falling, but hopefully he will win more points for us," said Phillips, who heads the Kilkenny Racing Partnership, owners of the son of Yeats. Silent Warrior was previously trained by Charlie Longsdon, and Brown added: "Charlie said that he would be a nice horse, and the big key to him is the massive drop in grade and jumping fences rather than hurdles."