The three-month hiatus in Point to Pointing meant that a return to the popular course at Cothelstone for the Quantock meeting would inevitably be well supported and with 78 runners over the afternoon, that was certainly the case. A riding double for Cheltenham Festival winning trainer Will Biddick, a training double for Chris Barber, a stylish winner of the Mixed Open by 16-year-old Daniel Ellis and an 11-year-old horse finally breaking his maiden were the highlights of the day.
There has long been a close connection between Pony Racing and Pointing with many jockeys cutting their teeth in the former before going on to have careers both Pointing and under Rules. Owners Richard and Dawn Prince has been the most incredible supporters of Pony Racing for many years not only as an important sponsor but also providing ponies for children who otherwise would not get a chance to ride at that level. Their input cannot be appreciated enough and this was further seen when 16-year-old Daniel Ellis took a competitive Mixed Open on Fifty Shades owned by them. Sponsored as usual by Evolution Equine, the race saw 14 runners with Ballyknock Cloud and Coco Live vying for favouritism. After early leader Ballyknock Cloud dropped back, it looked as though Coco Live would add to his Charing win with former decent novice, Country Legend also threatening. However, Daniel kept his cool and forced Fifty Shades clear after the last to record a two-length win. For Daniel this was a second win this season on only his fifth ride and he very much looks to be a jockey for the future. His mother Sarah, explained that Daniel is based with Christian Williams and the Princes had specifically bought Fifty Shades from Christian so that Daniel who won over 40 races while Pony Racing, could ride this season. She said, "I am just eternally grateful to Richard and Dawn for giving Daniel this opportunity." She also added that after winning at Barbury early in the season, they journeyed to Higham on a five-hour trip only to lose the weight cloth mid-race and were disqualified from second. This was welcome compensation.
The Hunt Members race was generously opened to other hunts to compensate losing their meetings and 6 horses went to post. For co-owner Andy Pollard this race is the highlight of his Pointing year and he had won it four times previously with the very popular Little Cornham. On the horse's retirement, Andy asked Will Biddick to find him a replacement. It proved a good move after Will purchased the 7-year-old Florrie Webb from the all-conquering Henry de Bromhead yard in December. The gelding had been unlucky not to win when falling on debut in Ireland and since then had not enjoyed the heavier conditions. With Mixboy on better behaviour than last time, Will allowed the leader to go 20 lengths clear at one stage, settling in fourth on Florrie Webb. Joining Mixboy with three fences to go, he moved clear quickly to record a six-length victory over Mixboy with Niteinshininarmour back in third. It was a nice UK debut and he should go onto better things.
Pointing in Ireland has been slower to resume than in the UK and it was this decision that prompted jockey Tiernan Power Roche to move a small string of horses over to base himself with trainer Chris Barber. A union that has already yielded three wins, the formerly unraced Kindofabigdeal made it four when taking the Mares Maiden from another promising debutant in Lassue. Chris explained that connections had paid 12,000 Euros for her at a store sale and although she was a bit weak last year, jumped really well and like the rest of the horses brought over, is for sale. Chris stressed it was very much a team effort between himself and the jockey and this partnership is really paying dividends.
The Restricted Race brought up a riding double for Will Biddick on the second of Chris Barber's winners. Famous Clermont looks to have a big future and has been carefully handled by both jockey and trainer. He won nicely at Larkhill in December under a patient ride from Will and when pointing was suspended he moved to Kayley Woollacott to run under Rules. He was placed twice over hurdles but then returned to Chris who took him to Kimble where he was second. Running him back so quickly Chris explained "we just needed to take the gas out of him." Jumping into the lead two fences from home, Will was at pains to contain him as he comprehensively outclassed his field. The plan is to put him away now until next season with the target being the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham.
The Conditions Race drew a field of 16 and Lucy Mager was winning for the eighth time on board Moscow Prices who she trains and part-owns with Kim Tripp. Now 11, they have had the Alflora gelding since he was a five-year-old and explained what a joy he was to have at home. Kim also felt that a small wind operation this year and a good run at Maisemore had put him spot on for today.
The Open Maiden was divided and the first race went to Clever des Assence under Natalie Parker in the faster of the two divisions beating the odds-on favourite Transition Period by a length and a half. The second division went to 11-year-old The Mighty Ash ridden by George Hiscock. A relieved Tacky MacGregor who owns and trains the horse said "It just proves that there really is a race out there for every horse! We had him in training with Fiona Shaw previously but he hated running under Rules so we decided to try pointing and it's paid off first attempt!" She went on to thank Fiona for all the help she had received from her as the horse can be a "bit of a monkey" at home!