UPPERTOWN HAWK SWOOPS IN AT BITTERLEY
The Ludlow Hunt point-to-point at Bitterley attracted plenty of runners to entertain the sizeable crowd which is always drawn to the course tucked in the idyllic Shropshire countryside.
Clerk of the course, Henry Daly, and his team had produced going which was officially 'Good, good to soft in places', but the sunshine and stiff, chilly breeze dried it rapidly throughout the eight race card.
Secretary, Sarah Dawson, paused in her busy duties to watch her veteran Gauvain (Leanda Tickle) chase home the useful One More Tune in the Simon Dale & Lord Hodgson Hunt Member's race, the first leg of a treble for rider, Alex Edwards, and a double for Bridgnorth-based trainer, Philip Rowley. The 8 year-old son of Luso will now be Stratford-bound for his next appearance.
The Stryker Publishing Confined Hunts race was a rousing battle after the last, and severely tested the skills of the judges, with less than a length covering the first four at the line, Irish Anthem, trained by Sheila Crow, sticking his head out gamely for Paddy Gerety, with a nose and a short head separating Minella Friend (Sarah Bowen, Hazy Tom (Archie Wright) and Russian Empire (James King).
Western Climate (Leo Mahon) had clear daylight between him and the tussling placed horses in the Subarau Restricted race, the first leg of a double for trainer Martin Weston, who also sent out the impressive Arthur's Secret with Abigail Banks in the AGA Ladies Open. The six year old Arthur's Secret seemed to settle, despite being harried for the first circuit by Minella For Party and Hannah Watson, determined to test him. But the gelding appeared to cruise effortlessly, and it was Petite Lord, cannily ridden by Lucy Turner, who got the nearest to him (20L) at the finish. The owner, Christine Banks, is mindful of the precocious French-bred's tender years, and his 4 victories this season will probably be the sum of his campaign for this season.
The Charles Stanley Mens Open race over two and a half miles was another nail-biting finish, with five horses in contention from the last. There was a rousing cheer from connections when it was announced that Uppertown Hawk (Sam Jukes) had held the fast-finishing Black Banjo (Stan Sheppard), with Green Winter (Zac Baker), Galbally King (P Sankey) and Tim's Crusader (Jeremy Mahot) hot on their heels. Kirsty Adcock, who trains Uppertown Hawk for Clive Bennett was refreshingly delighted to greet her fifth winner of the season, all partnered by Sam Jukes.
The Bromfield Sand & Gravel Open Maiden was divided on the day, and Richard Lee's 8 year old, Herefordshire was sent off as scorching favourite of the 11 runners in the first division. Alex Edwards produced him approaching the last, and he nailed the consistent The De Thaix (Dave Mansell), who always seems to just find one too good for him, and went on to win by 31/2L, causing favourite backers let out a pent-up sigh of relief.
There were several dramas in the 9-runner second division, and it was Red Renard (Tommie O'Brian) who took it all in his stride on his seasonal debut to pass the front-running Jack's Ranger (Mark Wilesmith) and give trainer Jane Williams a winner for her mother. Cool Valley finished 3rd, but was disqualified as Peter Bryan did not weigh in in the allotted time. The giant Greenway Cross (Jeremy Mahot) was promoted from 4th place.
Thirteen runners went to post for the 'Young Horse' Maiden over 21/2 miles, a Goffs Spring Sales P2P Bumper qualifier. The four year-old Follow The Bear (Alex Edwards) made the most of his 21 lbs allowance to score a birthday victory for his owner, Mr Barlow, with Bleu et Or (Tom David) putting in a good performance 6l away in 2nd.
Most of the crowd stayed to watch the Pony racing, cheering home winners Ravara Super Ted (Camilla Broster) and Mr Marshall, with Ella McCain in the 'Red Rum' colours. All credit to Henry Daly, who sponsored the Pony Races, and to Pauline Duggan, who has been instrumental in organising Pony Racing in the Welsh Border Area from the beginning.