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Sunday 13th May 2007
by Lucy Johnson

SEA Snipe was the star of the show on the rain softened ground at Vauterhill, collecting her 8th win of the season in the Men’s Open. The experienced Richard Darke, standing in for regular jockey Nick Scholfield, who was committed to riding under rules, was content to track Frontenac and Concert Pianist in the early stages. Concert Pianist was sent on by Richard Woollacott after half way, but once Sea Snipe made her move after the fourth last, the race was all but over. Sea Snipe came home with four lengths to spare over Concert Pianist with Frontenac a distant third.

Sea Snipe was consolidating her lead for the National Leading Horse title, but owners Ben and Sally Messer-Bennetts missed seeing their mare in action. The couple were away on holiday in Spain, but their mobile phone enquiry was soon answered in the winner’s enclosure, with trainer Becky Kennon, jockey Richard Darke, the press, and anybody else who cared to join in, soon relaying the good news.

Richard Woollacott turned the tables on Richard Darke when Big Brendan, owned by Brian and Anne Watts, just got the better of Abseal in the Confined. Richard was partnering his 21 st winner of this campaign on the giant 10 year old. This was also a notable training performance by the jockey and his partner Emely Thompson, since the gelding has broken down on more than one occasion in the past and missed the whole of last season. “That was very pleasing,” said the rider. “We only had him this season after Rose Vickery gave up training and he was unlucky not to win at Kilworthy”.

Polly Gundry added two more winners in her quest to regain the Ladies’ title. She landed evens favourite Blackcomb Mountain home by three lengths in a section of the Mares Maiden, before Let’s Fly became her 18 th winner of the season in the Ladies’ Open.

Five year old Blackcomb Mountain, whose owner/trainer Brad Clarke has recently moved to a new yard at Chipping Sodbury, ran on well to hold the promising Primitive Lass, while Let’s Fly was not hard pressed to beat the only other finisher Reviewer in the Ladies’ feature. This was the sixth success of the season for Let’s Fly, a fitting 68 th birthday present for his owner/trainer Ross Oliver.

Ian Chanin clocked up a first and last race double with two previously unraced horses from the Sally Alner yard. Pitchfork was backed from 7-2 to 5-4 in the first Mares Maiden, and duly obliged at the main expense of Menarow. Seven year old Pitchfork, bred by her owner Sherilyn King, is by Relief Pitcher, one of the stallions standing at Graham Heal’s Vauterhill stud where this point-to-point takes place.

Five year old Shillingstone completed the stable double when mastering The Real Boss up the home straight in the Open Maiden, when only 11 jumps were taken, due to waterlogged ground. “We didn’t honestly expect it” said Mrs Alner afterwards, but 19 year old Ian Chanin jockey enthused about the sturdy home bred youngster. “He changed gear so quickly I nearly came off,” laughed the rider, who was achieving his 14 th pointing winner of the season.

Another 19 year old, Ryan Mahon, rode his first ever winner when steering the Richard Barber trained Brown Cockle home in the Intermediate Novice Riders’. The young jockey, who comes from Stratford on Avon, and has had only a handful of rides to date, caught the eye of Barber when riding out for him on an occasional basis during the winter. He kept a cool head when Brown Cockle survived a last fence blunder, before coming home with 20 lengths to spare over Brendan’s Surprise.

Sweet Shooter found conditions to her liking when ploughing through the mud to take a good Restricted, chased home by Miss Morfire and River Heights. Sweet Shooter, a half sister to the useful Twenty Degrees, was scoring for the first time since winning a Buckfastleigh Maiden a year ago. She was ridden by her owner Richard Hawker, who also trains his mare at Rode, near Frome.

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