Point-to-pointing resumed in the Devon & Cornwall area as the Western meeting finally defeated the bad weather on Sunday (23rd Feb) at the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge. Much credit goes to the organisers, whose determination to race following their two weeks postponement paid off.
Morning rain gave way to a dry, overcast afternoon. A turn out of 37 runners from the 59 entries on very soft ground (with a temporary paddock) provided plenty of action for the die hard spectators.
It was a day to remember for jockey Conor Houlihan, who partnered his first winner in England on Raddon Top in the opening race before following up on Bridge of Spies in the Intermediate.
Sue Trump's promising seven-year-old Raddon Top had to fend off the sustained challenge of Somewhere To Be (Tamby Welch) on the finishing climb. Trainer Leslie Jefford explained, "Raddon Top had a stress fracture after Ottery last year. He is a bit more street wise now but really wants better ground."
His 21-year-old jockey, whose brother Sean won the Devon & Cornwall Novice Riders' title before turning professional, is from Dungarvan near Waterford, and had ridden three winners in Ireland. "I work for Will Biddick and he has given me lots of good advice," related Conor, easily the tallest rider in the weighing room.
Tall or not, the young jockey rides stylishly enough, and went on to complete a double thanks to the progressive Bridge of Spies, who took the Intermediate by 10 lengths in the colours of George and James Beilby. Cloudy Music proved a disappointing favourite here for Darren Edwards, dropping back after five out, leaving Dragon de la Tour to chase home the winner in a slow motion finish up the hill.
Darren Andrews partnered the runner up in the Intermediate, but he had earlier secured his sixth winner of the season when the gallant mare Cottage Rose outstayed her 10 opponents to win the Open Maiden. John Heard trains this home bred six-year-old and shares ownership with David Willis. "I think the break did her good. I had her so well at home," reported the Okehampton trainer.
Navanman, seeking his fourth win of the season, was expected to give the Heard / Andrews combination further success in the Men's Open, but was never really travelling under his penalty and could only finish third behind 14-1 winner Ballyhowne and Millanisi Boy. The winner had shown little in his two previous efforts this season, but got the benefit of a positive ride from Tom Chanin, whose father Robert trains the 10-year-old for the Stone Valley Racing Club. "We decided to ride him differently. We had tried to settle him but it didn't suit him, so I let him settle in front today. He had won his races in Ireland like this and it paid off," said the rider.
Josh Newman was narrowly denied on Millanisi Boy, but took the Restricted as the promising six-year-old Nickelsonthedime strode clear of George's Legacy from the bottom bend to follow up his North Cornwall Maiden victory. The Shantou gelding looks a smart prospect for owners Terry Hamlin and John Gardener. "He hated the ground but still quickened at the cross fence (three out)", reported the rider. It was good to see Jimmy Cole back in the saddle after a lengthy absence as he rode Macca's Stowaway into third place here.
The Ladies' Open produced a desperate three horse finish with joint favourites Wind Tor (Chloe Emsley) and Chosen Lucky (Charlotte Summersby) just shading the front running Inch Rock (Pippa Glanville) in the last few strides. The winner carried the familiar silks of The Otter Club and, like Inch Rock, was saddled by Ed Walker. Chloe Emsley has now ridden six of her nine career winners on the showground and said, "We winged the last two and it made the difference. She was very game in the tiring old ground," adding with a smile, "I like this track and can sneak down the inner."