Green Winter Carries Off The Cold Harbour Crudwell Cup Classic For The Third Time
In the space of days, Welsh Border point-to-point followers swung from furry hats and frostbite at Bitterley to skimpies and sunburn at Cold Harbour, the soaring temperature bringing out a large and happy crowd to picnic and party.
The unaccustomed heat provided a different set of challenges for the Radnor & West Hereford Hunt team, and they dealt with them all magnificently –from the prowling new secretary Nicki Jones instantly summoning a doctor to a spectator overcome by heat, to busy teams regularly replenishing the huge tanks of water for the cooling of horses. Even so, there were still the odd occurrences that would never be found in any Manual, and they were met with skill and efficiency. It was a Baptism of Fire for Richard Eckley, who obligingly shouldered the demanding job of clerk-of-the-course when Alan Rogers was hospitalised for surgery. The going was gloriously 'Good' with a luxurious carpet of best Herefordshire grass.
Pauline Duggan had organised three well-supported Pony races, which were thoroughly enjoyed by spectators, who were entranced by 'racing in miniature'. The Treehouse Sporting Colours Novice Riders race was a convincing and popular success for 14-year-old local girl, Jess Samuel-Stewart aboard her game mare, Pick Pocket, clear of Captain Hurricane (Kaitlin Perks) and Talgoed Total Elation (Lowri Morgan).
Molly Landau was also partnering a new mare who showed the 7 other runners in the 138 cms race the way home. Edward Vaughan (10) was second on Nomoreanun, garnering easily enough points for the partnership to top the Area 138 Championships, with Jackets Magician (Kelsie Bealby) 3rd.
Class Act Annie (Jessica Llewellyn) lived up to her name again in the 148 cms race, besting her nearest rival The Mumbler (Ivor Herbert) to gain the Area Leading Pony award for that category, though Ivor accrued enough points become Leading Rider. Humbel Mind (Edward Vaughan) was 3rd.
The Tallis Amos Group Ltd Hunt race was also for members of both the Teme Valley Hunt and United Pack, but it was a long-serving Radnor & West subscriber, Cynthia Bibbey who fulfilled her ambition to own the winner of the 'Local' race when Namako strode home clear with Alex Edwards, Black Jack Jaxon running a promising race in second. It looked as if the scene was set for another handful of winners for the team, but racing is fickle and it was not a day for the favourites, though they mostly made the frame.
There was a ding-dong battle at the finish of the Phillip Jones Financial Solutions Confined race, with Mirs Choice (Sarah Bowen) running her usual gutsy race, and The Wells Road (Sam Jukes) equally dour. Bitterley winner, Emtidaad (Bradley Gibbs) challenged at the last, but stumbled and buckled his fetlock on landing, giving Bradley no chance to defy gravity. In the fight to the line, both jockeys felt they had won, but it was the Bennett/Jukes team who celebrated when the verdict was announced. Jane Alfrey's In The Dock (James Jeavons) ran a good race to be 3rd.
Kazuri Kate (Claire Hardwick) made the most of her mare's allowance in the Maygothling Waste Ltd Ladies Open to make all from the consistent Expanding Universe and the gallant grey, Senor Alco (Natalie Bower).
There was unlooked-for drama in The Corners Inn, Kingsland Open Maiden race, though the race was over before the gravity of the situation became apparent. Sophie Lacey's debutante, The Triple Pillar (Tommie O'Brien) was made favourite, and it looked justified as the 4-year-old made his way through the field to challenge Mark Wilesmith's unfancied front-runner, Jack's Ranger. The nine-year-old had put in a bold performance, though he took a chance at a couple of fences. Despite conceding almost a stone and a half in weight, Jack's Ranger would not give up his advantage and galloped clear of The Triple Pillar, with Henry Daly's Tekap (Alex Edwards) having warmed to his task in 3rd. Across the course beside the 7th fence, the screens were up around Peter Corbett's home-bred mare Upton Lara, where she was having expert veterinary attention from Graham Potts and team. Byron Moorcroft, partnering the 6 year-old for the first time on only her second run, had instinctively felt something amiss and swiftly pulled her up, moments before she suffered a seizure, a rare neurological episode similar to Edwulf at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Though the worst was feared, she had to be given time to try and recover, and could not be moved. With three races still to run, chief steward Bob Davies went across to assess the situation and consult with the veterinary team. It was felt it would be safe for the screens to remain in place around Upton Lara, attended by Graham Potts, and the fence by-passed, which it was for the remainder of the meeting.
The Jacques International Mens Open was only slightly delayed, and the 5 riders set off over the 4 miles well-briefed. Sarah Oliver's ten-year-old Green Winter (Zac Baker) was bidding to win this coveted Area Classic for the 3rd time, and skipped into an early lead, where he dictated affairs happily. Heading out on the final circuit, it looked as if Heidi Brookshaw's handsome Ballyrath (James King) might spoil Green Winter's party, decisively taking up the running. But having taken a breather, Green Winter loomed alongside again three fences from home, and strode away to make his history. Ballyrath was a heroic second, Victoria Collins' Love Rory (Patrick Sankey) in 3rd. Connections were greeting their second winner in 24 hours, Templebraden having won in Sarah's colours at Hackwood Park the previous afternoon. "Keeping him (Green Winter) from boiling over in the paddock was the hardest thing!" commented trainer, Max Young. "He was so on his toes and wanting to get on with it!"
Zac Baker enjoyed a mostly unexpected double when partnering Jo Priest's 6-year-old Buffalo Sabre to an emphatic victory in the Connop & Sons 'Young Horse' Maiden over two and a half miles, to the delight of his owners, The Holdfast Partnership. Phillip Rowley's 4-year-old debutante, Mr Knowitall ran promisingly in 2nd, with Milliondollarbill (Ali Stirling) 3rd.
There was quite a tussle from two fences out in the Leominster Construction Ltd Restricted race over two and a half miles. It was Francesca Nimmo's Heated Debate (Alice Stevens) who battled 2 lengths clear of Phillip Rowley's useful mare, Gadrose (Alex Edwards) and Chris Hooley's capable Sham From Milan (Bradley Gibbs).
The heartening news at the end of racing was that Upton Lara was improving, upright, and was carefully loaded into Rodway Heathfield's horse ambulance. Against all odds, she made it home to Ryan Bradford's yard, and her progress is nothing short of miraculous. A great relief for her owner/breeders who were devastated by worry. Her survival of this rare episode (the vet has only seen two in his entire career) is testament to the care and skill of the people who were around her. For some of us 'oldies', the anxiety that is being shown for her by so many on social media is restorative. The sport has become increasingly professional in every respect, which has somehow de-personalized it – the potential heroes are often sold before we can revere them. Winners are sometimes expected, not celebrated. But horses are unpredictable, flesh and blood... So the genuine expression of concern by so many is reassuring. "We've been overwhelmed by all the calls and messages," said her trainer. "She really is our Miracle Mare."
Well done team Radnor & West Hereford Hunt. Warm, hearty and wholesome fare with no bitter after-taste.