Point-to-Point Owners & Riders Club (Day 1)
Conditions were testing with the going on the soft side for this first day of Barbury Castle's two day meeting. The weather was up to its usual tricks on the Marlborough Downs with the wind and rain greeting race goers as they arrived at the track. It can be a bleak place to be in inclement weather (is there a bleaker/more remote course?) and this may have accounted for a rather sparse attendance, although it did brighten up somewhat later in the afternoon.
One of the fancied runners, Killarney Prince set off at a blistering pace for Peter Mann and at one stage it was a distance clear jumping in fine style from fence to fence with only Dicks Dream really taking him on in second place. The rest of the field simply bided their time and, sure enough, Killarney Prince couldn’t possibly keep the strong pace up and was out on his feet as jumped the penultimate fence. Two that were held up and patiently ridden subsequently had the race between them as they approached the last; they were Lady Edison and Lindbergh Law and it was a good battle to the line with Lady Edison winning by just over a length in a time of 6m 54s. Jamie Snowden rode a fine race coming on the back of his double last Saturday at Larkhill and Sandown on board Kerstino Two, himself a winner here at Barbury.
Trained by John Dufosee in the rural village of Nyland down in deepest Dorset, John seems to have been training winners for many years now and it would interesting to know just how many winners he has trained. The winner is owned by her breeder Biddy Chesney in partnership with the trainer’s wife. A winner of two points last year at Hackwood Park and Bishops Court, this eight year old mare appreciated the conditions and she is improving.
As for the runner up, this was his first run between the flags and it was full of promise. Ridden by Adrian Wintle for Andy Hobbs, he was a dual bumper winner for Geoff Swinbank at Sedgefield and Market Rasen and also placed over hurdles for Heather Dalton again at Sedgefield. He never ran over fences under rules but should gain compensation soon.
The early pacemaker Killarney Prince battled on bravely to keep third spot.
Disappointment of the race was the progressive Donald Will Do, Gerald Bailey's only runner at the meeting. He was soon under pressure and given reminders from Rowan Cope, he was eventually pulled up. Dicks Dream also pulled up with only seven runners completing.
Talking of Rowan, I just heard on the forum that he has retired from racing and would like to wish him my best wishes. I backed many of his winners; he formed a successful partnership with Caroline Bailey now training under rules and together they were a formidable team particularly around the Midland courses.
The departure of the favourite led the way for Spring Grove to record his first points victory for the partnership of Tigger Barnes and Andrew Old. This twelve year old recorded six victories over fences under rules including a victory at Cheltenham for trainer Robert Alner. He finished fourth on his pointing debut behind Mel In Blue last Saturday. Always up with pace, there were no dangers and strolled home by twenty five lengths. None of the other six runners really got into the race and the second fav Home By Midnight was a major disappointment, always struggling and pulling up at the sixteenth (ground too soft?)
Club Members (Div 1)
Royal Scandal was always up with the pace and eventually saw off the challenge of Lord Trix who was another to race prominently. This was a cracking effort by the runner up for Fred Hutsby. He missed the whole of last season but won three points back in 2005 and he looks like he has retained all his ability and should be followed next time. Knighton Combe was third and Bak On Board fourth.
Club Members (Div 2)
I’m sure Sally's last winner was at Mollington back in 2004 when Native Thunder won when half the fences were missing (low sun/damaged fences) for today’s trainer Geoffrey Deacon. This was the winners first run in Points having won three times as a two year old in Ireland and two novice hurdle races both at Wetherby.
The amended runner up spot went to The Granby who was staying on strongly at the end. This thirteen year old may still find another race; Euryalus was third on his seasonal debut for Richard Burton and should improve for the run.
The well fancied Greensleeves was not fluent at many of the fences and was pulled up; Houlihans Free was running a fine race before crashing out at the third last.
Maiden (Div 1) 2m4f
Runner up in points in Ireland, the winner had only ran once in the UK, unseating Phil York after being hampered.
Held up on the first circuit, he made good headway down the back straight to join the leaders. The trainer does seem to find a steady flow of winners from Ireland and are always worth monitoring with their maidens. The runner up was Flax Hill for Peter Mann, who opened in the ring at 2/1 but soon drifted and this was a promising run from this six year old mare. Always prominent, the race will have done her good and this comes on the back of another promising run last season at Garthorpe.
History Master plugged on for third for Paul Tolman but there was one big eye catcher in this race and that was Aaron's Run.
No show in three bumpers for Martin Bosley, he’s now trained by Dick Baimbridge and this was his only runner here today at the Wiltshire venue. A 3/1 chance, Claire Allen was happy to hunt it round in rear but was still travelling strongly as they approached the home straight for the final time and was still full of running at the line finishing fourth. Had I backed Aaron's Run at these odds, I wouldn’t have been very happy given the 'considerate' ride but looks very much one to follow next time.
Alforamoor was another to take the eye, backed from 7' to 5's in the ring.
Maiden (Div 2)
Victory went to The Randy Bishop with Adam Wadlow aboard. He was clear at the last when making a mistake and finished tired, but seemed to appreciate the shorter trip today, this was his seventh run.
Runner up was Tot Of The Knar who was only having her second run of her career. She was pulled up in the same race as the winner last time (The Randy Bishop was fourth) at Black Forest Lodge in the very first race of the season and this was a promising run.
The same could be said for Bright Spirit who tried to make all before tiring to finish third. Formerly trained at Seven Barrows by Nicky Henderson, Bright Spirit should break his maiden tag next time.
Favourite backers soon knew their plight as the odds on fav Something Small (looked well) fell at the ninth to give Sam Waley-Cohen a miserable day. This left the way open for Lord Payne and Tim Stephenson to win easily by twenty lengths from Jewel Song (travelled strongly throughout before tiring) and Sweet Shooter in third. The time was the slowest of the day but the going had become testing by now.
There was no allowance for single occupancy today at Barbury Castle.
Despite asking at the entrance, it was £20 per car. There was also no discount for attending both days unlike a couple of years ago.
It was a toss up between attending Warwick or Barbury, with the Midlands venue was charging £16 to see top class entertainment including the valuable Totesport Chase, an interesting novices hurdle and a Pertemps Qualifier which could well provide pointers to the forthcoming Festival.
In the end I decided to make the longer trip to the Marlborough Downs to what is usually an excellent days racing and indeed it was but after paying the admission charge and race card of £22.50, I decided against a return on Sunday, as I wasn't prepared to pay £45 over the two days. Surely the paying public would like to simply see a reasonable admission charge? The attendance at Barbury looked thin on the ground to me and such admission prices are going to drive the genuine enthusiasts away, particularly when you can watch all the Saturday afternoon action live from the comfort of your home.
Having emailed Robert Killen, Chairman of the Point-to-Point Secretaries Association, I received a prompt reply from him regarding admission charges on Saturday. He states that he couldn’t attend Barbury on Saturday, but yesterday he asked how much they were charging and was told unequivocally £15 (a deduction of £5). He goes on to say it would have been nice if there were signs up quoting this fact and that the instructions are from National PPSA are that a discount should be offered without question. It would interesting to see at future meetings if there are signs quoting this fact. He will advise the PPORA Committee and hopes that fellow race goers do not get any further problems.
Just like to say thanks to Robert for this and keep up the good work!