A total of 91 runners contested the seven races on the popular old racecourse at Buckfastleigh which looked in great shape. The card featured the West Country Champion chase with £1000 in prize money.
The big race winner Blazing Whale was given a typically patient ride by Robbie Henderson, making steady progress and staying on tenaciously in the testing conditions to hold the sustained challenge of Rye Cross (Jeremy Mahot).
"He definitely needs soft ground. He is an improved horse and is jumping better now," remarked Ottery St Mary trainer Ed Walker who shares ownership with Francis Read.
A field of 19 went to post for the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate, but as the pace quickened just two shades of grey dominated their rivals down the final hill. Long time leader Argentato looked like pulling off a 33-1 surprise, but he was collared by another imposing grey in the shape of Impact Area running down the hill after the second last. Argentato lost second place to the fast finishing Roseyroo on the run-in.
The winner is nine-years-old, but was having only his fourth race. He is owned and trained on Salisbury Plain by Harriet Besent and was ridden by Louis Muspratt. The delighted young owner said, "I bought him off the internet as a hunter. He finished four fences behind in his Hunt race last year so I didn't think he was a racehorse. He has now won all three races this season which is astounding."
Tom Chanin followed up his Wadebridge win on Saturday with a double. The Devon rider took the opener on Sue Trump's Kirkleigh, who returned to his best form on the soft ground, and just held the favourite Indiana Bay (Josh Guerriero) in a driving finish. Trainer Robert Chanin said, "Kirkleigh had a virus last year and had a wind operation in the summer. He pulled some muscles when he slipped on the bend at Wadebridge before Christmas and his back was wrong."
Dicky Bob proved more of a test for the same rider when winning the Confined Maiden. Chanin sent his mount clear round the top bend, but a jolting mistake at the second last meant that the reins went right over the horses head and the rider lost his irons. This is where his hunting experience paid off. Chanin somehow retained the partnership and steered his gallant mount home in a style I recall from an old cowboy film. Yelverton based Verity Nicholls owns and trains Dicky Bob (not to be confused with her father's former superb pointer Dicky Blob). " Dicky Bob was bred by Jethro and was a gift horse as a yearling, We call him Bob at home and it is nice to keep the old name in mind," said Verity who trains him on the moor. Hannah Welch, currently leading the area novice title, was concussed when Great Camanoe came down four out in this race.
Darren Edwards continued his good form at the weekend when Infamous Grouse survived an objection and stewards' enquiry for possible interference on the run in to take the Restricted at the expense of the well backed Carheney River (John Mathias).
It was a weekend to remember for 17-year-old Olivia Hutchings. Fresh from riding her first ever winner on the previous day, the Saltash jockey denied Darren Edwards a double when Ziggerson Hill took advantage of some wayward antics of runner-up She's Dapper in one of the divisions of the mares and fillies maiden. Olivia works for Ziggerson Hill's owner/trainer Jackie du Plessis, who bred her winner.
Another home bred mare took the other section in the shape of Audrey Goodwin's consistent Miss Gotaway. Trainer Kayley Woollacott remarked, "She is a strong mare but was like a baby last year. She stays well and likes the mud,"