Photos by Alun Sedgemore
Rhys piles on the pressure for title bid
On an afternoon that felt more autumnal than spring like, the large bank holiday crowd at the Banwen Miners picturesque racecourse in the Vale of Neath were kept warm by competitive racing involving many finishes that changed order between the last three fences.
Rhys Hughes was the jockey to follow when taking four of the days races, in his quest to retain the South Wales Champion Jockey title he won last year. He is able to call upon some serious ammunition from several stables with Rob Scrine’s powerful yard providing him with the first two winners, Overlut in the Members, who made all and was never under pressure from his four rivals and a hard fought 2 length victory on the Edna Hussey owned Bob Bites Back in the Men’s Open, who, having won the Dunraven Bowel Hunter chase at Chepstow the week before, showed race goers why he is the leading young horse in Great Britain when refusing to give in to Dai Jones on Lady Mafanwy and Luke Price on It’s Definite in a great battle over the last three fences.
The dogged determination of John Mathias to keep up with Rhys in the title quest lead to an inspired piece of race riding from the 18 year old in the Confined aboard the Phil Williams trained Up The Boreen. Owner Anthony Brown has been a property surveyor for 36 years in his offices at Llantwit Major and has never seen such poor economic times, so a win at 7-2 was a big lift. After the commentator reported several jumping errors at the rear of the field very little was mentioned of the Pistolet Bleu sired 7 year old until he ‘arrived’ with a well timed run two out to win by 3 lengths from Paul Tolman on Verchoyles Lad.
Only three went to post in the Ladies Open which saw another comfortable victory for the all conquering Chestnut Annie, recording her tenth win of the season bookmaker reflected the ease of her task when those, who were taking bets, offered her at 1-10. The National Point to Point dinner is at Stratford on the 27th June, owner Beth Roberts and jockey Isabel Thompsett have their tickets booked.
Winner number three for Rhys came in the restricted aboard the Abbi Vaughan trained 6 year old Micks Prospect, who was making it two wins from two starts. A private buy over the winter by the trainers husband Tim, the Accordion ½ brother to Apocalozzo, a multiple chase winner for the Vaughan team, will have another run pointing before a summer jumps campaign for owner Robert Thomas.
The Tom Austin owned Doctor Supremo looks to have sealed the Champion Area Maiden title after putting an official distance between himself and closest rival Banbury Babe in the Intermediate. The fences, described by trainers and jockeys during the day as very upright forced several jumping errors from the front running 8 year old but he overcame them to provide Rhys with win number four.
In the final race of the day, the ‘maiden’ it was a different Hughes in the winners enclosure, this time the turn of jockey Jodie Hughes and trainer Steve Hughes with Colorado Storm. For those who invested a generous 8-1 was returned, Jodie however admitted to not being over confident when jumping the first as the combination that were teaming up for the first time had been left at the start. However they steadily made their way through the field which were taken along at a strong gallop by Dai Jones on the favourite Canndar & Ruth Birt-Llewellin on Mr Who, the latter folded over the second last leaving Colorado Storm to overhaul Canndar at the last and go on to win by six lengths.
Racegoers will be hoping for a warmer end to the season with the final West Wales meeting being held at Letterston Nr Fishguard by the Pembrokeshire Hunt on Saturday June 6th. Start time 2pm.