LASHINGS of mud both on the track and in the car parks meant testing ground for horses and spectators at Black Forest Lodge on Sunday (Jan 17)
Fortunately the quality of racing brightened up a dank and drizzly afternoon with a total of 84 runners in the eight races..
A field of 15 went to post for the Men's Open, but Sir Du Bearn soon turned the race into a procession, with only Imperial Circus keeping within hailing distance of the Welsh trained winner in the final mile.
20-year-old Michael Bowen saddled the winner, and looks to be following in the footsteps of his successful trainer father, Peter ."I trained 13 winners last season from my Haverfordwest yard which is adjacent to dad's. I have five to run this year, and Sir Du Bearn will probably tackle hunter chases," said the young trainer. Richard Patrick, who works for Peter Bowen, is also 20-years-old and made virtually all the running on the ten-year-old to gain his fourth career winner.
The 11-runner AGA Ladies' Open produced a blanket finish with Phine Banks coaxing a strong late burst out of Horsham Lad to get up near the line, just denying veteran Coombe Hill (Millie Wonnacott) and the favourite Penmore Mill (Hannah Watson). Victoria Pendleton had been well in contention until past half way on According to Sarah, but eventually pulled up after the second last.
On a brighter note, the former Olympic cycling gold medallist had completed a jumps course for the first time in the Confined by finishing fourth on Supreme Danehill. She exclaimed, "I finished ! That was a great thrill and everybody has been very supportive, particularly my fellow riders." Local rider Emma Watson won the race and gave herself an early birthday present (she is 27 on Wednesday (Jan 20) Emma steered home Chris Pike's Delphi Mountain to a 15 lengths success in the quickest time of the day. "I work in Stuart Sampson's yard at Culmstock (Devon). This horse gave me my first winner at Ottery last year and we will probably go back there this season. He is a lovely horse and I ride him out at Stuart's every day."
Robin de Souza followed up his recent Wadebridge maiden win in a decent Restricted under Darren Edwards. This six-year-old looks a sound prospect for owners Tony and Eileen Worth. Trainer Dean Summersby said, "He is an out and out stayer who works like a good horse. It was a big step up today. There is plenty to work on and he will go back to Wadebridge next month."
The times got progressively slower during the three Maiden divisions. Zephyr stayed on strongly to win the first section on his first run over fences. Jockey Chester Williams was put out of action in a nasty fall at Kilworthy last season and was making a successful return to race riding on Zephyr. He is studying at Bath University and rides out for Paul Nicholls twice a week. His mother Jane, who owns and trains the horse said," I bought Zephyr at Ascot last April really to go summer jumping. We are a bit short of pointers so I take this horse out hunting and fiddle about with him."
Only two of the 11 runners finished in the second Maiden division, with the favourite Whatastormnorm following home Creative Inerta, who had been runner up in the opening race of the season on this course. Ben Clarke had the mount on the 25 lengths winner who is trained at Woolminstone near Crewkerne, Somerset by Ben's partner Harriet Brown. "We bought him privately in Ireland last summer and he handles soft ground. He was tongue tied for the first time today," reported the rider.
It is not often that four times champion jockey Will Biddick rides a 10-1 winner, but he did so when Bruton, backed from twice those odds, landed the final leg of the Maiden for owner/trainer Fiona Read The workmanlike Bruton, qualified with the Blackmore & Sparkford Vale, had failed to finish on his two previous outings, but is out of prolific winning mare Hops and Pops so has a lot to live up to.
Big Georgie followed up his recent Chaddesley Corbett victory when just mastering Paddycards in the Intermediate which was run in gathering gloom (ie nearly dark) at the end of a busy afternoon. James Ridley trains the winner at Bromyard for owner Alastair McLeish, and took the mount on the progressive nine-year-old.