POLLY Gundry was crowned the national champion at the last point-to-point of the season held at Umberleigh on Saturday having ridden 39 winners. She just failed to match Polly Curling’s all-time record of 40 winners set in 1995, but she became the country’s most successful-ever champion having now won the title a record seven times.
The Torrington Farmers Hunt gave its usual fine finale to the season and thousands of people turned out to the north Devon venue to join in the celebrations for the new champions.
“I’m thrilled and it’s been a wonderful season, but I couldn’t do it without all the support I have,” said Gundry who is also the Devon and Cornwall area champion.
Long-time supporter Ross Oliver had taken two horses for Gundry to ride at the Devon track – Wee Fly and Let’s Fly. Let’s Fly, who has now been retired, was unplaced in the ladies’ which went to Fruitfull Citizen and Wales-based Lucy Jones was subsequently crowned the national novice champion with nine winners.
Cornwall-based Oliver said of his brilliant veteran Let’s Fly: “He’s run in 63 races, won 25 and been placed 23 times. He’s jumped over 2000 fences and he’s never fallen in his life, but he won’t jump at home! Polly has won 13 races on him and he gave Will Biddick his first ever winner. He’s been a wonderful horse to have and I’m please to have helped Polly win the championship again.”
Richard Woollacott was crowned the Devon and Cornwall area champion for the fourth consecutive year having ridden 34 winners. “I’ve been very lucky with my owners and I have had a lot of support. Emely (Thompson) and the staff at home are all fantastic and I couldn’t do any of it without them,” said the 31-year-old.
Woollacott finished second in the national championship to Oliver Greenall who added two more winners to his score of 54 at Umberleigh and thus beat the all-time record set by Ashley Farrant of 54 set in 2004.
North Island landed the odds in the seven-runner men’s open and Special Order was the easy winner of the restricted – both for trainer David Easterby who had made the long trek to Devon from Yorkshire.
Merv Woodward’s ride on Ninah in the last race of the season – the open maiden - earned plenty of plaudits not least from Grand National-winning trainer David Pipe who judged him to have given the best ride of the day. The seven-year-old mare is trained by Rodney Grant.
The only other local winner on the six-race card was Claire Howarth’s Here Comes Harry who took the confined with Ian Popham on board.
Confined: Here Comes Harry (I Popham) 1; Quick (Will Biddick) 2; The Quarry Man (Richard Woollacott) 3. 6mins 16.4s, 12l, 1½l.
Restricted: Special Order (Oliver Greenall) 1; Alexander Musical (G Barfoot-Saunt) 2; Quantocks Lastbrat (M Wall) 3. 6mins 10.1s, 12l, 2l.
Men’s Open: North Island (Oliver Greenall) 1; Mvezo (R Hughes) 2; Valjean (R Flint) 3. 6mins 09.1s, 3l, head.
Ladies: Fruitful Citizen (Miss L Jones) 1; Gudlage (Miss V Shaw) 2; Uncle Max (Miss C Stewart) 3. 6.01; 15l, 1l.
Intermediate: Present Star (R Hughes) 1; Charabang (G Barfoot-Saunt) 2; Assignation (J Kwiatkowski). 6.10; 15l, hd.
Open Maiden: Ninah (Merv Woodward) 1; Duggans Forge (Mrs L Jones) 2; The Buddle (Mr D Edwards) 3. 6.09; 15l, 8l.