by Pete Mansell

The large crowd, which attended yesterdays Albrighton Woodland meeting at Chaddesley Corbett, reserved their biggest cheer for Phillip Needham after the 37-year-old had ridden Percy Medlicott to success in the Members.

The Broome (Kidderminster) based rider is in his first competitive season of race riding but there were no signs of inexperience after this partnership were left in the lead when Hoodwinker unseated Jane Williams at the 13th. Military Man came with a strong challenge turning into the home straight, but Needham threw caution to the wind over the final three fences and Percy Medlicott responded gallantly with a magnificent jump at the last securing victory. His wife Helen and father in law Jim Callow have enjoyed considerable success with Forest Fountain and Philtre in recent years but none of those victories has given them more satisfaction.

Young Michael Keel had been hoping to enhance his chances in the National Novice Riders Title on Military Man in the Members but the favourite failed to deliver the goods. Later in the afternoon the Kidderminster rider joined Lee Bates at the top of the table following Dantes Inpharno's hard fought win in Division I of the Maiden.

Keel recalled that his grandfather Jack Fowler had ridden numerous winners in the colours carried by Jean Woods 8-year-old back in the 1950's while Dante's Inpharno has been knocking at the door all season, so this victory was not coming out of turn. Michael Hammond produced Alston House between the final two fences but Keel secured victory with a good jump at the last.

Four winners for Evan Williams on Sunday gave the Welsh based rider breathing space in the battle for the Riders Championship, but Julian Pritchard refuses to accept defeat and fought back with two winners at this meeting, which means that Williams leads his rival by three wins with just 10 days and 3 meetings remaining.

Pritchard had a disappointing ride on the favourite Asthefellasays in the Confined and it seemed as though Willams was going to extend his lead in the Title race until his mount Simply Better suffered a fatal injury between the final two fences. This left Devilish Charm and Richy Spate to canter home to victory in the colours of Clifton on Teme Businessman David Lee.

Williams and Pritchard were two of the main combatants in the Mixed Open but Williams's attempt to match strides with Mounthenry Star resulted in Hee's a Dancer's departure at the 6th. Left well clear, Pritchards mount galloped his rivals into submission to keep alive his Title hopes.

Pritchard teamed up with Shropshire trainer Pam Sykes to land his second winner of the afternoon on Digitalis on the Restricted. Rob Burton's 9-year-old mare was none too fluent at her fences but benefited from the assistant of the ex-Champion who produced his mount with a well timed run to pass the leader Itscinders between the final two fences.