For once, an inclement spell of weather was actually an advantage to the Golden Valley Hunt prior to their fixture. Just as their beautiful riverside course, meticulously prepared by Dennis Price and his team, looked as if it was firming up too much, the heavens opened as forecast, and the result was near- perfect ground on the day.
Bredwardine is a popular course, and the efforts of the organisers were rewarded by plenty of runners (one maiden had to be divided) and a very decent crowd, who enjoyed the late Spring sunshine, and possibly the ice-cream man went home even richer than the bookmakers.
The Hunt Members races are always of great importance in the Welsh Border Area, and the three entries for The Rhydspence Inn GVH Members Race all turned up with high hopes. Claire Lloyd-Davies' strong chestnut, Russian Empire was sent off odds-on favourite under James King, but Karen O'Driscoll's 13 year-old, Oscar Delta, who had been placed in a hunter 'chase earlier in the week, was also a short price. The outsider, Bermuda Boy, a stalwart performer, and owner/rider Lauren Poulton did their best to stretch the two rivals for three-quarters of the race, but the pair jumped past along the riverside back straight, leaving Bermuda Boy to jump round for a creditable 3rd. Bradley Gibbs responded to Russian Empire's bid to dictate the pace, sending the willing Oscar Delta into a narrow lead. Russian Empire was always then playing catch-up, and the short run-in gave him no chance to get in a challenge after the last fence, getting within 21/2 lengths. It was a fitting victory. The veteran gelding is handled by Clive Price, the father of Katy Price who has recently started to train under NH rules with great success, and the constantly-busy Katy is Entries Secretary for the meeting. It then transpired that Oscar Delta will now retirel from racing on a high note. It was a masterful ride by Bradley Gibbs, who now is within three of his career century of winners.
There were a surprising amount of Welsh raiders amongst the declarations, who had nort opted for their more local fixture at Pyle the previous day, and they cheerfully carted off the spoils for 5 of the 8 races on the card.
Welsh champion rider, John Mathias recorded an excellent double for Dewi (owner) and Bridget (trainer) Lewis when Edgar Jones found conditions to his liking to take the Beauty Mill & Primo Equus Restricted race, and later won the first division of the 'Young Horse' Maiden with the promising five year-old, Tinkers Hill Tommy.
Not to be outdone, John's compatriot, Byron Moorcroft then notched a back-to-back double, prevailing by a very short head with Daffern Seal in the PPORA Members Conditions Race for 9 year-olds + from Abbeyview (Paddy Gerety) who did him no favours by hanging on the run-in. Daffern Seal hopefully heralds a return to form for Andy Leyshon's stable. "We don't know what was wrong, all the horses were out of sorts, so I decided to turn them out and do nothing for 10 days or so, then start from scratch again. It seems to have worked!" The 12 year-old has fragile legs, and is only lightly raced.
Byron then enjoyed another enthusiastic reception to the winner's enclosure when Michael Bassett's 11 year-old Really Unique gave a superlative display of front-running to take the Balfour Men's Open. Byron, who works for David Brace, was recording his 5th winner of the weekend. Murphy's Fusilier was a gallant 2nd with Charles Frost, giving the 'rookie' jockey his first placing, much to the delight of connections, particularly trainer Pip Hooley.
The tiny but tough mare, Gale Force Lucey was sent to the front by rider Hannah Lewis from the outset of the Susan Guest Memorial Ladies Open race, determined to test the opposition, particularly the dual winner, Hall Kelly with Abigail Banks. Hall Kelly was clearly not enjoying the occasion, and was eventually pulled up. Meanwhile, Gale Force Lucey was making the most of her 7Lbs allowance, and despite a howling mistake at the second-last fence that tested every ounce of Hannah's survival technique, she galloped 3 lengths clear of Cousinade (Emma Moseley), with Mr Melodious (Ali Galliers-Pratt) 3rd. Gale Force Lucey is trained by Amber Griffiths for Michael Price, and the win was a weekend double for Hannah who had won the Ladies Open at Pyle the previous day.
The second division of the 'Young Horse' Maiden was an all-the-way win for Julie Mansell's charge, Isthatthetruth, owned by Messrs Hawkins & Wright, under a positive ride by Alex Edwards. The six year old finished 10 lengths clear of the only other two finishers, Kinlochspelve (Ed Austin) and Mooragh (Jake Launchbury). There was unwelcome drama when Mooragh collapsed when leaving the paddock, but he was attended to instantly by veterinary staff and got up to walk away none the worse ten minutes later, to relieved applause from spectators who had been anxiously watching the hastily-erected screens.
The 8 Year-Old + Maiden was a very convincing win for the nine year-old Irish-bred Boher Lad (Ali Stirling), to the delight of Alan (owner) and Hannah (trainer) Phillips from Callow End. "We share the work!" explained Hannah. It was a particularly satisfying victory for Alan "I've got some great memories of riding here at Bredwardine – I think I won this Cup with Micksdilemma in 1996!"
An enjoyable day for all concerned, for which The Golden Valley supporters should be congratulated.