THE British point-to-point season drew to a close at Umberleigh last Saturday against the background of the traditional end of season party atmosphere. The Torrington Farmers' meeting ended the six and a half months Devon & Cornwall area campaign stretching back to last November's opener at Black Forest Lodge.
The prolific Welsh pointer Findlay's Find has been a great servant to Paul and Myfanwy Miles and showed his liking for the track by repeating last year's Men's Open win under David Mansell. The sturdy nine-year-old was scoring for only the second time this season, but his illustrious career CV now shows 22 pointing wins plus a hunter chase.
"We nearly didn't come after it rained on Friday because he needs fast ground and the firmer the better for him. Dave kept him to the outside for better ground and he really appreciates a test of stamina," said Paul Miles. Jockey David Mansell is of course vastly experienced but has had a lean year by his standards. "This is my first pointing winner since Barbury Castle last December so I have doubled my score," joked the rider.
The South Pembrokeshire qualified Rosies Peacock (John Mathias), bidding for his eighth success of the season, started favourite and was prominent until weakening up the final climb to finish last of the four runners. It was left to the Cheshire trained Threapwood (Oliver Greenall) to chase home the winner, with the only West country representative Bathwick Scanno a creditable third...
Florence Mary is another fast ground specialist and found conditions to her liking when taking the Ladies' Open. The ten-year-old looked in trouble down the back straight but was sent past leader Skating Home after the final ditch to score readily in the colours of Jeff Fear, who described his mare as, "a late season horse."
The winner was a third pointing success for 17-year-old jockey Lucy Mager, a recruit from pony racing, who has just completed her first year of A levels at King's Wessex. Florence Mary's Wedmore based trainer Emma Mellor, due to give birth in two months time, has done well to rejuvenate her charge "She has always been a monkey and was not a great eater. I have changed her diet and her therapist and she lives a bit like a mountain goat. She checks the cows and sometimes goes to the beach at Burnham," smiled the trainer.
The Confined field was reduced to two when Just Seven crashed out after a circuit, leaving odds-on favourite Robin Will well clear. 10-1 outsider Lucys Girl looked a forlorn hope until the favourite's stride shortened dramatically after the last ditch, allowing Lucys Girl and young rider Jake Bament to sweep past. The winner, bought cheaply at Ascot sales last July, is owned and trained by Dan Farr just two miles from the course at Atherington.
Carry On Nando finished alone in the Restricted to give Irish born jockey Sean Houlihan his fifth career winner. His mount was well clear when sole opponent Gouranga Society unseated Paul Sheard at the final fence. Owned by Jenny Luscombe and Richard Candy and trained by Gordon Chambers, the winner was also sourced from Ascot sales last July. "He needs top of the ground and would make a super schoolmaster. We gave Sean (Houlihan) his first winner in March," reported the trainer.
Heidi Lewis is another pony racing recruit and steered Kawana Cove home in the Intermediate. Nine-year-old Kawana Cove is jointly owned by the rider and her father David, and is trained by her mother Maria. The gelding had undergone a lean spell this season after taking the Restricted on this card last June. "He doesn't like it soft and hates tacky ground," commented the 18-year-old jockey who works for Kayley and Richard Woollacott and was partnering her fourth career winner.
After finishing runner up on his only other mount of the day, Oliver Greenall celebrated his retirement from the saddle by winning the final race of the season on 12-1 outsider Come On Louis, a horse he also trains near Malpas, Cheshire. The rider has happy memories of Umberleigh having set the then record total of 56 winners in a season with a double there in 2008 (since equalled by his brother Tom in 2009 and recently considerably upped by Will Biddick this year). Sitting in the changing tent afterwards with some relief showing, 28-year-old Oliver with over 200 career winners to his name explained, "This horse is owned by my box driver Andrew Ralphs who couldn't be here today. My brother Jake bought him as a four-year-old and he has had all sorts of problems. This is the first season we have had a clear run with him. My plan is to concentrate on training pointers next season and to take out a full trainers licence after that.
We look forward to the next Devon & Cornwall meeting in 24 weeks time!