A strong wind kept the marquees flapping and the temperatures down at Flete Park, but the capacity crowd warmed to some exciting racing and close finishes.
A background of pony racing proved its value as four of the eight races went to horses ridden by teenagers who had emerged from the local pony racing circuit.
Pride of place goes to 18 year old Heidi Lewis who not only enjoyed her first pointing success on Pasternak Jack, but went on to secure a double thanks to her family owned Nudge The Nugget in one of the Maiden divisions.
Heidi made all the running on Pasternak Jack to win the Restricted in the familiar colours of Dick Westacott. The winner is trained by Kayley Woollacott who said, "It was great for Heidi who works full time for us. Mr Westacott has not been well but is here today. Pasternak Jack is very capable but very quirky but he won his Maiden here and loves the track."
Heidi completed her double with a hard fought success on Nudge The Nugget in a blanket finish to the concluding Maiden. The sturdy seven-year-old just got up to beat Kit Hill with Rainbow Stripes a fast finishing third. The winner was bought by Heidi's parents David and Maria Lewis last summer and is trained by her mother. "He is not an easy ride but stays well and it was brilliant for Heidi," said Maria.
Pippa Glanville, also aged 18, followed up her first two wins at her local track last year with a short head Hunt Race success on Ambitious Pursuit. Pippa's mother Lee trains the gelding and explained, "I was disappointed with his run on Tuesday at Exeter, but hunter chasing is a bit different. He was about to be turned out but we are only ten minutes away and decided to bring him at the last minute." The winner was given a good ride by his young jockey. She kept her cool when Robbie Henderson issued a strong challenge on hot favourite Before The War, and did well to snatch the verdict on the line.
Bryony Frost has had plenty of race-riding experience since her very successful pony racing days. Currently the reigning Devon & Cornwall lady jockeys' title holder, Bryony made all the running to win the Conditions event on Malcolm Denmark's Knight Pass. Trainer Nikki Frost said of this four times winner under rules, "He has been with us for six months and has been working well. He had a broken elbow fixed a couple of years ago and is a lovely, kind horse."
Robbie Henderson, the leading male rider in the area last year, helped himself to a double with Hameldown Tor and Level Spirit. The pair are owned by The Otter Club and trained by Ed Walker. "It is our first double as owners," commented Club spokesman Ken Edwards. "The ground came right for us and the course has been beautifully prepared." he added. Hameldown Tor was given a perfect ride, creeping through to lead at the top of the hill before staying on to win easing up.
After Level Spirit had defied a penalty in good style in the Confined, Robbie spared a thought for fellow rider Ed Barrett, who was seriously injured in a fall at Upcott Cross last weekend. No doubt including his colleagues, he said, "Our thoughts are with Ed every morning."
In a close finish to the first division of the Maiden, the luckless Follow The Paint was just denied by the late thrust of Sedgemoor Top Bid. Jamie Thomas is riding at the top of his form at present and conjured a renewed effort from this seven-year-old to get up near the post. Joe Tickle, who trains the winner for Danny Kenealy said, "He has been running well with no luck until now. The sunshine and good ground has helped."
A field of 13 lined up for the two and a half miles Maiden for young horses which was won in good style by Applesolutely. Sean Houlihan was partnering his third winner of the season on this four-year old filly who looks a nice prospect for her owners Lucy Fielding-Johnson and Ces Mitford-Slade.