The Cottesmore Point- to- Point opened the Garthorpe races season on Sunday when 60 runners contested 7 races on ground officially described as "good". A fair crowd was in attendance and the weather was mainly dry with just a little bit of light rain for a time during the afternoon.
Legal Legend continued his progression from winning an Intermediate in February to land the Men's Open feature sponsored by the Barnsdale Group; Barnsdale Lodge and The Events and Tents Co. Ltd. The Connell family's 8 year old took the lead in the straight but had to battle to shake off the attentions of the second horse Gonalston Cloud and win by half a length. Ridden by Tom McClorey Legal Legend has now qualified for the £7500 3 miles ½ furlong Bonham's Men's Open Point-to-Point Championship Final Hunter Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday 29th April. Speaking in the winner's enclosure after the race Jonathan Connell said "I would think his next race will be a Hunter Chase. We will consider going to the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham as a longer term target." Roger Jackson's Gonalston Cloud ran an exceptional race to finish second; ridden by Tom Strawson who is sponsored by AGHAUL Ltd Haulage Contractors, the 8 year old grey has moved through the ranks from Maiden to Open in three starts and in less than a month and is one to note for the future.
A minutes silence in honour of the recently deceased Jill Dawson, who won so many races at Garthorpe, preceded The Robert Loomes & Co Ladies Open race. Mike Dawson sent out His Excellency to run in the race but sadly he was unable to fill the frame pulling up before the finish. The race was won by It Was Me who was handed the race when Top Smart unseated his rider at the last fence. It Was Me finished alone for owner Nick Wright and a delighted rider Carey Williamson. "I love this horse; he jumps so well and it's nice to come to Garthorpe and have a winner as I have had a bit of bad luck here." She said. It Was Me scored points for the AGA Lady Riders iTotal Control Championship.
Another horse to put in a superb round of jumping was She's Real who took the opening Mallard Jewellers & Pawnbrokers Garthorpe Hunts Club Member's race for Helen Connors and John and Tom Chatfeild – Roberts. This was the first race in the Garthorpe series which this year is being sponsored by Navitron and the Belvoir have gone into an early lead with both She's Real and the third horse, the pace setting Elsafeer qualified with the Belvoir. The second horse Bach To The Wall scored some points for the Cottesmore.
There was a local winner in the Larkfleet Homes PPORA Club Members race for Novice riders when Lough Inch and Kelly Morgan made most of the running; they beat Jetnova by four lengths with Stonethrower in third. Trained by Kelly's brother Tommy at Waltham- on- the- Wolds and owned by Tommy's partner Lizzie it was a real family affair and was Kelly's first ride and first winner of the season. "This horse is a family horse; everyone loves him and everyone rides him which is what makes it so special." Said a very happy Kelly Morgan.
Trainer Gerald Bailey saddled the first two home in the Nine Year olds and Over Midlands Area Club Members Conditions race sponsored by Stamford Garden Centre. Bailey who is known as "the fastest milkman in the west" at DBS where he buys so many of his horses trains the winner Mr Madeit for Countess Cathcart and her rider / son George Greenock. Sandpipers a recent runner up in a Hunter Chase at Leicester filled the second spot again for Alex Vaughan- Jones with In the Dock in third. "We don't like running them against each other but it couldn't be helped." Explained the trainer's Mother- in- Law Pam Saunders in the winner's enclosure.
Bailey's son Jonny was delighted to win the closing Dickinson & Morris Open Maiden race with Push Ahead for owners Jo and Robert Hankey and trainer Gary Hanmer. Dream Mistress looked the likely winner at the last before running out through the wings and leaving Push Ahead to fight out the finish and beat Black Sambuca by three lengths. There was some confusion over the third placed horse which was in fact Treacyswestcounty. This was former Midlands Area Leading rider Jonny Bailey's first winner of the season and the first since a nasty back injury sustained last January which kept him out of action for the remainder of last season. "That was a big relief! It's been a slow start to the season for me and I can only thank Gary Hanmer and Stuart Morris and their owners for their continued support." Said the winning rider.
Rocky Island was given a confident ride by good novice jockey Tommie O'Brien to take the Savills Restricted race by 6 lengths from Carrigkerry and Page Fuller. Silver O' Reilly finished third ridden by Dickie Barrett who is sponsored by AGHAUL Ltd Haulage Contractors.
The next meeting in the Midlands Area is the Belvoir Point-to-Point at Garthorpe on Sunday 29th March, first race 1.30pm.