The incessant wet weather relented at last as Exmoor is bathed in sunshine for the Dulverton West meeting.
It was the turn of fast ground horses as Cecile De Volanges and Fourstar River swallowed up the leader Reliable Richie at the last jump to fight out the finish of the four miles plus feature race. The well backed Fourstar River (Matt Hampton) just held the advantage on the climb to the post, but edged right close home as the mare Cecile De Volanges (Rob Hawker) squeezed through on the rails to snatch the lead in the shadow of the post.
"She has to have top of the ground," said the jockey's uncle Michael Hawker of his out and out stayer, who was runner up in this event last year. "I was given her by Tor Sturgis and she was accident prone originally, but Mark Wall deserves credit for schooling her and getting her jumping," added the Chippenham based owner/trainer. There was a sting in the tail for both riders as Rob Hawker faced a £100 fine for excessive use of the whip on the winner, and Matt Hampton incurred a £75 fine for careless riding on the runner up.
Matt Hampton gained some consolation when Uber Alles snatched the Intermediate race in the last stride from odds-on favourite Back In June. Barry Sanderson handles the German bred winner, who was bought at Ascot sales last July. "He hated the soft ground at Buckfastleigh, and lost a shoe at Badbury Rings," explained Mary Sanderson of the useful looking eight-year-old who runs in the colours of the Devon Diamond Friends syndicate.
The winning jockey was expected to complete a double on 4-7 favourite Whenharrymetsally in the Mares race, but had to settle for the runner up spot behind Marlpit Oak. "We purposely didn't run her until Easter Saturday as she needs better ground," said the mare's owner/trainer James Young, who had made the three and a half hours journey from Brockenhurst in the New Forest.
Keith Cumings trains Whenharrymetsally, and went one better when What About Will just held the late challenge of Ballybough Gorta in the Conditions race. "He had no back end when he came to us and we have built him up mainly by hunting. We will probably run him again here in three weeks time," remarked the Bishops Nympton trainer. The seven-year-old, who was winning his fourth point-to-point, was ridden by Vicky Wade for her father Keith.
Cinevator made all the running under his 19-year-old owner/trainer Ella Pickard to take the PPORA Conditions race. Yet another to relish the fast ground, his win clinched this years Howden Novice award for the Princess Royal Trophy, awarded to the leading lady novice rider under 21 who had not ridden a winner at the start of the season.
Leanda Tickle hit form with a Fontwell hunter chase success three days previously, and rode Tempeststatefloresco to a comfortable Intermediate win for her brother Joe Tickles yard. "We have probably been running him on the wrong ground, but Leanda gets on well with him," said the trainer. Exmoor based Paul Nicholas bred the gelding and now heads the owning group called The Patchole Syndicate which includes Lesley Nicholas, Raymond Davey, Alison Stone and Ann Cull
A field of 14 went to post for the Bob Pittard Memorial Maiden race, but Fountains Cider came right away from his rivals to score comfortably in the hands of Martin McIntyre. This is another syndicate owned horse who fares better on decent ground. Teresa Clark trains the eight-year-old for the Culverwell Racing Club.