Will Biddick and Darren Edwards are neck and neck in their quest for the Devon & Cornwall jockeys' title, and each landed a winner on the softish ground at the Eggesford meeting.
It was Conor Houlihan who stole the headlines however with a first and last race double as he chases the Area Novice Riders' championship.
The tall Irish born jockey, who works for Will Biddick, opened his account for the day when Raddon Top, conceding 10lbs, got home by a head after a sustained battle with Charlotte Summersby's mount Cloudy Music in the Chris Hodgson Engineering Area Conditions race. By coincidence these two jockeys are currently in pole position for their respective Area Novice riders' championship.
Raddon Top is trained at Payhembury by Leslie Jefford for owner Sue Trump and said, "He appreciates some cut in the ground but will go out in the field now." The eight-year-old had won at Wadebridge before Christmas, but blotted his copybook when running out at the last fence in a good Open at Cherrybrook last month. "He was brilliant today, really gutsy and stuck his head out to get there," reported the jockey, who has set his sights on the local Area Novice Riders' title.
Conor Houlihan's double was completed when Imogen's Thunder was virtually presented with the Totnes & Bridgetown Races Company Conditions race for riders with no more than 15 wins. The South Dorset gelding, trained by Mary Tory for owner Wendy Jarrett had more letters than numbers to his name in the form book this season, but came from well back to win as his rivals fell by the wayside.
River Myth had let her supporters down when last seen at Trebudannon, but put matters right with a sparkling performance in the Simpkins Edwards Mixed Open to get her trainer Stuart Sampson off the mark for the season. Owners Terry Hamlin and John Gardener have now seen their mare win 10 races, with jockey Darren Andrews explaining ," She is a genuine, tough mare who had colic in the evening after that Trebudannon race." The jockey was fresh from a six hours trip from Hexham on the previous day where he had ridden Dr Kananga to win a hunter chase.
Darren Edwards chased home River Myth on Honest Deed, but enjoyed a pillar to post success on Party Tunes in the Waie Inn & Ford Fuels Restricted. Rita Underhill and Ruth Burrow share ownership of the Dean Summersby trained seven-year-old who gave a fine display of jumping to beat Man of Means (Jack Andrews). "He will probably run again this season. He is my fifth winner of the season but I have had four seconds this weekend," said the trainer, whose yard is at Broadwoodwidger, near Launceston.
Where's Wilma was impressive in winning the Bridgetown & Totnes Races Company Intermediate by 15 lengths under Matt Hampton. "She gives her all and Matt gets on well with her," said Michael Watson of one of the two pointers he trains near Tiverton for the Not So Innocent Partnership. "She was flat out all the way and really tries," commented the jockey, partnering his fourth winner of the season.
Will Biddick kept his championship hopes alive by scoring on four-year-old debutant Hermes Du Gouet in the first section of the C & R Construction Maiden. Littlewindsor, Dorset based trainer Christopher Barber described his four-year-old as, "Very green. I bought him at Goffs Land Rover sale. It is the first time he has been away from home as I have not been able to give him the usual build up. He will go back to the sales".
The Barber/Biddick team came close to a Maiden race double, but five-year-old Wandering Soul failed to read the script and gave Will Biddick a crunching fall at the last when looking the winner. The race went to the lightly raced eight-year-old Don't Ask Us in the hands of Josh Newman, still celebrating the birth of his daughter a few days ago. The winner is owned jointly by Peter Clarke and Bishops Nympton trainer Keith Cumings. "It is our first winner of the season," remarked Keith's daughter Nicky Boundy. "He has had all sorts of issues since we bought him as a three-year-old at the (Goffs) Land Rover sale. He is a heavy topped horse who overheated on that hot day at Maisemore (30th March)".
There was unanimous approval for the state of the track (officially good to soft, soft in places) produced by the Heard family on this popular North Devon stayers course.