A damp and windy afternoon for the Exmoor fixture at Bratton Down culminated in hill fog descending on the course during the Men’s Open, and led to the abandonment of the sixth and final race.
Fortunately Men’s title contender Richard Woollacott had already ridden two winners early in the afternoon, keeping himself in pole position for the National Male Riders’ championship.
The first leg of Woollacott’s double came when the much improved Johny’s Way took the Restricted. The rider took over the training of six-year-old Johny’s Way at his Rose Ash yard only a few weeks ago after he had failed to complete the course on five occasions. “He is just enjoying himself now”, said the trainer/rider, explaining that intensive schooling had also helped the gelding who is owned jointly by his breeders John and Greer Norman and Graham Foot.
The Devon rider completed his double when Sally and John Alford’s Karley sprinted away from Weather Permitting up the hill to win the Intermediate. Karley’s trainer Polly Gundry had put Richard in for the ride to help his quest for National honours. “I am very pleased that Richard won on him, he is such a good jumper and the owners have been very patient with Karley”, commented Polly, who later dashed off to Stratford to ride in a Ladies’ hunter chase that evening.
Darren Edwards also made the journey to Stratford to partner Southwestern, but was out of luck in the afternoon when his Hunt race mount Polinamix failed to cope with sole rival Deloughtane in the Hunt race. Alice Pearn made all the running on the consistent Deloughtane. “I could hear Darren chasing me but my horse jumped really well on the second circuit and is very game”, said Alice, who was recording her fourth win of the season on her father’s 10-year-old.
A frustrating five hours car journey in the holiday traffic for 24 year old Katherine Hobbs paid off when she drove her mother’s popular grey Croix de Guerre home in the ladies’ Open. “He was on a going day today”, said Sarah Hobbs, adding that the 10 year old could return to the same track again next Sunday if the ground stays dry.
The Men’s Open provided a bizarre scenario when the fog that had hung like a curtain all afternoon over the surrounding hills swirled across the course. The race started in reasonable visibility with Lulumar immediately striding well clear of his eight rivals. Joe Tickle’s mount set up a 30 lengths lead by half way, and still held that advantage as fog enveloped the course during the final circuit. Lulumar eventually re-appeared with his long lead still intact at the final fence where his distant pursuer Beau Supreme ran out through the wing. Rockwithacaveman eventually took the runner-up spot with Lord Tee the only other runner to complete the course in what proved to be the fastest time of the day. .Lulumar’s owner/trainer Carol Lawrence bought the gelding at Ascot sales last June. He had won five races in France in his younger days, but had lost his form in recent years.