A welcome deluge of rain during the week ensured that the ground at the Minehead Harriers & West Somerset Point to Point was in good condition and together with wall to wall sunshine, a large crowd enjoyed some excellent racing. Will Biddick continued his march towards regaining his title with a double while Bubble O'Clock and Matt Hampton followed up last weekend's course win by running his rivals ragged.
Bubble O'Clock had impressed last week with a super-impressive round of jumping having been left on his own after his sole rival departed at the start. Reappearing quickly he once again showed that was merely a sign of better things to come and bowling along in front his opponents didn't stand a chance of pegging him back in the Restricted. Dr Rhythm who had a previous course win to his name valiantly tried but was 8 lengths adrift at the line. Bubble O'Clock is owned jointly owned by Matt and Robert and Claire Criddle for whom this is a first venture into ownership. Robert explained they had got involved via Piers Wilmot who had treated the horse and visited Paul Nicholls' yard after a friend had a runner in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham. After meeting Matt, they were keen to support him and his wife Felicity with their burgeoning pointing and pre-training yard.
Another to go into notebooks for the future was Pancrace who was the first of Will Biddick's double and took the Conditions Race. A winner at Barbury earlier in the season, he had possibly not stayed last time at Cheltenham and Will felt that yesterday's race had come quite soon after that run despite winning by 3 lengths from Doctor's Differ. "He's much better than that" said Will and this good-looking son of Laveron may head to Stratford for the Restricted Final which owners John White and Sean Finn won in 2016 with Our Chief also trained by Teresa Clark.
Chase Me provided Will's second winner in the Intermediate and a decision to travel nearly three hours from Ledbury paid off for trainer James Ridley. Owned by James' mother Heather Ridley-Gaines and Helen Wood, Chase Me was completing a hat-trick following wins at Bonvilston and Knightwick. Always in the front rank, Will explained he was forced there after none of his rivals wanted to go on but the effect of having horses behind him made his respond more. James bought the horse from Nigel Twiston-Davies last summer and thought he may possibly go for either a Conditions race or a Hunter Chase next.
Will was denied a treble on the day when the enigmatic So When declined to finish his race, cocking his jaw and running out as he was cruising round the final bend in the Open Maiden. Archirondel took advantage of this to record his first win to the relief of connections. Trained locally by Tiffany O'Dwyer in Rodhuish, the 5 year old Kalanisi gelding is for sale and this confidence boosting win has done no harm to advertising his ability. Archirondel is a first winner for Tiffany and her husband Darren who both work for Philip Hobbs'. Tiffany and Darren also worked for Joseph and Aiden O'Brien respectively before returning to work for Philip where they had first met and they were keen to thank Sarah and Philip Hobbs for all their help and advice training the horse.
The Mixed Open drew two runners but proved an exciting race to watch as eventual winner Pistol Shoot stalked front running favourite Minella Fifty until asserting down the back stretch. Trainer Nicky Martin hadn't intended running as she felt that her horse preferred more cut and only declared after realising the race could be a walkover and that the paying public deserved better. A surprised but thrilled Nicky said afterwards "Neil Harris bought him for me as a youngster at Tattersalls, Ireland and I was intending to sell him but might have to rethink now after this! I might well put him back under Rules but we could have a think about Stratford especially as he won the point to point bumper at Finals day there two seasons ago."
The Novice Riders race provided Luca Morgan with the chance to make amends for last weekend's defeat here in a similar contest. With More Than Luck and Tiger Sam forcing a strong early pace, Luca was happy to sit further back before driving Gingili past the tiring leaders to hold off favourite Willem and win by 3 lengths. Happier in company than last weeks' match, this was more like the form he showed when winning comfortably under Luca at Ston Easton.
The day's racing was preceded by an Exmoor Pony Race and 8 ponies went to post. Last year's winning jockey Anna-Claire Worsdale showed course knowledge is a bonus and held off a fast finishing Su Elsden on Kingsby Fennel who had spoilt his chances by bucking as the flag went up. A delighted Anna–Claire explained that Sweetcombe Sunny D is more usually seen in the show ring at HOYS qualifiers but found this far more fun!