THE Cornwall Club pre-Christmas point-to-point had to take place behind closed doors due to continuing COVID-19 restrictions.
Apart from participants, officials, press, and three bookmakers, only owners of runners were allowed to watch the action at a gloriously sunny Royal Cornwall Showground. It was a pity that the normally enthusiastic crowd of spectators could not attend, especially as the competitive nine-race card attracted a healthy total of 97 runners, a record for the Wadebridge track.
Top jockey Darren Edwards landed the Men's Open with an enterprising ride on the useful Honest Deed. This Dean Summersby trained 11-year-old has a liking for the showground and stayed on strongly to beat The Dapper Fox and Dr Des. "He is nimble round the corners here and although it wasn't the plan I had no choice but to go on down the hill," reported the rider.
The popular Navanman started odds-on favourite here, but could only finish fourth on one of his rare off days. Will Biddick had the mount on Navanman, but gained some consolation for a blank day in the saddle by later sending out Hotel Du Nord to win the Restricted under novice rider Charlie Sprake. This young rider, just short of his 18th birthday, works in Biddick's yard, and was partnering his first point-to-point winner after much success in the pony racing sphere.
It was a good day for Will Biddick's academy of young riders, since another prodigy Conor Houlihan steered Sue Trump's Raddon Top home to take the opening Conditions race for novice and veteran riders. This was the tall young jockey's sixth career winner. The Houlihan name is well known thanks to the National Hunt successes of brothers Sean and Niall. Leslie Jefford trains Raddon Top at Payhembury and said, "He is a progressive seven-year-old who acts very well here and will keep finding."
Izzie Marshall is yet another promising rider on the point-to–point circuit and went home with a double thanks to Back Bar and Getting Closer, each saddled by Alan Hill.
Back Bar took the Ladies' Open in good style with the rider reporting, "He is a big horse who keeps galloping and handled the tight bends really well. He is a good jumper and showed a massive turn of foot near the end. The course is brilliant."
Getting Closer justified favouritism to win the Exeter Racecourse Intermediate in a blanket finish with the first six horses separated by less than two lengths. It was a race readers and judges nightmare with the six in front charging up the hill spread across the track like the finish of the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket. Video evidence showed that the correct result had been called and a relieved Izzie Marshall claimed the spoils. Trainer Alan Hill said, "This horse belongs to a small syndicate mainly farmers in the Suffolk area. It would be nice to aim him at the Exeter final ."
Ian Chanin had given up his riding career to train and the Thorverton based handler was also rewarded with a double care of Rossderrin and Tip Top Mountain in their respective divisions of the Open Maiden.
Five-year-old Rossderrin was purchased out of Ireland by Kayley Woollacott and Josh Newman a few weeks ago. "Kayley's yard was full so she sent him to me to train," remarked Ian Chanin. Josh Newman conjured a strong finish out of Rossderrin, who just held off the challenge of Feu Des Malberaux. "He got me out of trouble at the ditch first time. He will stay pointing but is for sale. Ian Chanin has done a good job with him" said the rider.
Chanin's training double was completed when Tip Top Mountain spread eagled his field to win his section of the Maiden by 10 lengths. The five-year-old made every yard of the running and won unchallenged. "He was bought as a store in Ireland and ran well recently at Ottery when he was a good fourth after hitting four out," reported the trainer, who thinks that his next appearance is likely to be in the sales ring.
The other division of the three-way divided Maiden went to the previously unraced Old Town Garde from Chloe Roddick's yard. Jumping into the lead four out, Old Town Garde showed plenty of resolution to hold off Imperial Joe and Eros. Successful jockey Angus Cheleda, who works for Paul Nicholls and is enjoying a good spell in the saddle, said of the four-year-old, "He jumped brilliantly and quickened up nicely."
Welsh raider Coquin Mans left his Carmarthen stable at four o'clock in the morning for an almost five hours trip to Cornwall. Nevertheless he was able to put his 13 opponents in their place with a gutsy performance in his section of the Conditions race. The eight-year-old was a prolific winner in his younger days for top Irish trainer Willie Mullins, and has recently found his way to the South Wales yard of Bobby Thomas who took the mount himself here. The combination made most of the running and shrugged off the sustained challenge of Chosen Lucky (Charlotte Summersby) up the finishing climb. "I tried to get him to settle but it was no use," said the jockey, adding, "He kept jumping and hanging right but he has quite an engine. We call him Coco in the yard".