It was a cold but mainly dry day at Charlton Horethorne on Sunday when the Blackmore & Sparkford Vale held their annual point-to-point, with the occasional hail flurries thrown into the mix. A good crowd watched some quality racing, with the highlights being a double for Jack Barber and jockey Will Biddick and a bold jumping performance from Minella Fifty to win the Ladies race for owner Claire Hitch.
The Hunt race was won in the end comfortably by Join Together ridden by Bryony Frost for owners Ian and Wendy Fogg. Approaching the second last, Theatre Evening (Tom Bishop) looked to have the race at his mercy but was headed at the last and beaten by four lengths. The winner holds an entry in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, along with stable mate, Current Event, and trainer Rose Loxton is uncertain at this stage if he will be given the chance to run in the Cheltenham race.
The biggest field of the day of 14 ran in the Open Maiden. There was no real pace for the first circuit of the race, with all of the field still standing as they jumped the final open ditch. As the field turned for home approaching the third last, Athreeothree (Will Biddick) had taken it up, but was being challenged by the 4 year old Limoncello who fell at that fence. Athreeothree maintained his lead to the line but was chased by Don't Wait for Me and Emperor Renard who both ran most encouraging races on their debuts this season. The winner, named after the famous road that runs from Hampshire into Devon, is owned by Terry Hamlin, John Snook and Martin Dare and trained by Jack Barber, was bought by Jack originally in June 2014 at the Landrover Derby sale and subsequently at the Doncaster sales in May 2015 when the original partnership decided to sell after his first season.
The Restricted saw a smart performance from Bill And Barn and completed Jack Barber and Will Biddick's double. Explaining afterwards that he had changed his tactics at the last minute, Will rode a waiting race on the winner and did not get involved until the 14th fence. Tracking market rival Swincombe Scorchio, Will took it up at the second last and stayed on well to record a three length success. The winner is now likely to be moving to Paul Nicholls for a career under Rules and on the evidence seen the five year old looks an exciting prospect for connections.
Jack was expected to complete a treble in the Ladies Open, with Aikideau starting an odds on favourite. However, the horse did not seem to enjoy the testing ground and made a bad mistake on the final circuit which did not help his chances. In the meantime, Minella Fifty had been jumping boldly in front and looked to be in control when his only serious rival, Rotablade, fell at the last fence. Claire Hitch, who owns and trains the gelding on Exmoor said "Taylor [Pook] gave him a peach of a ride and should have a big future as a rider." Her normal rider, Charlotte Prichard, had been claimed to ride at Garnons, but Claire was thrilled with the way Minella Fifty had jumped for Taylor.
The Mens Open was won in good style by Iberico (Sam Jukes). Having already won on Stone at Didmarton the previous day, this was a good weekend for Sam, trainer Kirsty Adcock and owner Clive Bennett. Paying her first ever visit to Charlton Horethorne Kirsty explained "it was a 3 hour journey here, but we were looking for a left handed flat track and this fitted the bill exactly." Sam, who works for Kirsty, based near Ledbury, was recording his fifth career victory.
The final race of the day proved to be a tussle between Jepeck (Jamie Thomas) and Kernel Victor (Josh Newman), with the former coming out on top by 1½ lengths. Trained by Kayley Woollacott, who was paying her first visit to the course, and owned by John Pike, the gelding stayed on strongly on the run in. John was delighted with his improving winner and said this was his 11th winner in 2½ years of having horses with the Woollacotts. The runner up ran a game race in defeat following the sad news that one of his joint owners, Ray Targett, had died last week.
Two pony races followed the point-to-point card with Calypso, ridden by Ben Godfrey and sponsored by Racetech, supplementing his Larkhill victory when cosily winning the 148cms race from Hawkesfield Flyer ridden by Fergus Gillard. Fergus then had to settle for the runner up spot again in the 138cms race when Veno Star was beaten by Churchill ridden by his new pilot for this season, 10 year old Olive Nicholls, daughter of trainer Paul.
Hunt Members (5 ran)
1 Join Together 1/2F Miss B Frost; 2 Theatre Evening 10/1 T Bishop; 3 Champagne Rosie 4/1 L Drowne. 6mins 41s. 4l, 12l. (Rose Loxton)
Open Maiden (14 ran)
1 Athreeothree 4/5 W Biddick; 2 Don't Wait For Me 33/1 D Andrews; 3 Emperor Renard 14/1 S Houlihan. 6mins 58s. ½l, 1l. (Jack Barber)
Restricted (8 ran)
1 Bill And Barn evensF W Biddick; 2 Swincombe Scorchio 9/4 Stan Sheppard; 3 Tikkeche 25/1 J Newman. 6mins 41s. 3l, 12l. (Jack Barber)
Ladies Open (8 ran)
1 Minella Fifty 4/1 Miss T Pook; 2 Aikideau 4/6F Miss B Frost; only two finished. 6mins 37s. 30l. (Claire Hitch)
Mens Open (5 ran)
1 Iberico evensJF S Jukes; 2 Ghizao evensJF W Biddick; 3 Foynes Island 11/2 D Andrews. 7mins 00s. 2l, 2l. (Kirsty Adcock)
WAPP Club Members (6 ran)
1 Jepeck 7/4 Jamie Thomas; 2 Kernel Victor evensF J Newman; 3 Alright John 12/1 N Lawton. 6mins 47s. 1½l, 20l. (Kayley Woollacott)