DARREN EDWARDS has been runner up for the Devon & Cornwall jockeys' championship twice in recent years but looks all set to lift that title for the first time this season.
Whilst regularly commuting back to his West country roots from his job in Leicestershire, Darren has accumulated 22 winners this season, the latest of which came when he forced Mausefalle up to dead heat with Devon General in the Confined race at Upcott Cross.
Eight-year-old Mausefalle is owned by Mike Bickell and trained by Dean Summersby who said, "He needs good ground and is a spring horse. We will probably keep him for the later meetings next season".
Devon General, partnered by Matt Hampton, would probably have won outright but for less than fluent jumping over the last two fences. This seven-year-old, by Derby winner Generous, was bought as a part broken four-year-old by owners John and Ruth Burrow and is trained by Kayley Woolacott.
The Woollacott / Hampton duo struck again in the following Men's Open thanks to Robin Will whose challenge was timed to perfection as he headed Posh Totty jumping the last. "He either switches off or gets interested. He is quite tricky to train and blew hard last time when he was short of work after a month's break." reported the trainer who is enjoying a tremendous season. Will Biddick's mount Posh Totty, who was seeking her seasonal hat trick, was clearly second best this time, despite being sent off 1-3 favourite.
The Novice Riders' contest saw as equally short priced favourite, but this time Cock Of The Rock didn't fluff his lines and sauntered home at odds of 1-3 for his seventh win of the season. Young jockey Harry Cobden is in line for a clutch of National novice awards in his first season, including the Fuller's Gentleman Novice Rider award. Trainer Rachael Green is favourite to collect the Connolly's Red Mills trophy for the most successful trainer of seven horses or less. This looks like being an early wedding present for Rachael, who marries her long time partner Anthony Honeyball early in July.
Leanda Tickle holds a healthy lead for the Devon & Cornwall lady jockeys' title this year after finishing runner-up for that award twice in recent seasons. She jumped off in front on Ned White in the Ladies' Open and the gallant 13-year-old made all the running. "He likes top of the ground and his final race before retirement will probably be at Bratton Down in two weeks time," said Robert Chanin, who trains this five times point-to-point winner for owners Jacqui and Norman Elliott.
High Priority gained a deserved victory for the Keith Cumings yard in the first of the two Maidens. Bought at Goffs as a four-year-old, "He was so backward and weak last season and loves this better ground," reported connections. "He had plenty in hand," reported 23-year-old jockey Josh Newman who hopes to gain experience riding track work in America this summer. .
The other Maiden division went to 25-1 outsider Baldhu High Tide, a first training success for Lifton based Lizzie Luxton. The gelding, wearing a hood for the first time, is owned by Lizzie's mother Sandy Wevill, and was leaving some modest form behind him.. "We bought him as a three-year-old from Steve Long and he has evented all his life," said Lizzie.
Memories of the false start that caused the Grand National that never was (1993) were re-kindled in the Restricted. The 14-runner race was stopped at the end of the back straight after the field had completed two circuits. It transpired that a false start had been caused by a horse playing up as the started dropped his flag and the race was declared void. "I would have won," was a popular comment from at least three of the jockeys still going strongly as they were eventually flagged to a halt in motor racing Grand Prix style.