by Fred Sampson
(of Equestrian Cornwall -

It really is becoming a problem to get out of Cornwall on a Saturday these days and with the Royal Cornwall Show traffic crossing our paths and the occasional lorry stuck under the bridge on the Goss Moor, it was going to be extra difficult but with expert navigation (by me!) and expert driving (by Ruth) we managed to get clear of the county and well on our way to the final meeting of the season at Bratton Down by ten o’clock. It’s about a two and half hour drive for us to Exmoor but we do like the journey and today we will stop off at Holsworthy to use the plastic to top up the tin again before we start investing later.  It was two days at the RC Show entertaining Ruth and the young member of the family that caused havoc with the tin and has nothing to do with pointing.  The weather is fine at present but some mist/drizzle is slowly creeping in.

A friendly greeting at this meeting is ‘par for the course’ and after a quick perusal it was obvious that ‘the arm waving and shouting‘ fraternity we had previously encountered at our last venue had decided not to come here.  A blessing to all!  It really is not necessary.

The cloud became lower as I walked the course and I ran the ‘run in’ 382 yards 1 foot this week, as I did not fancy being the one lost on Exmoor – search party arranged etc. and I noticed that the run in had changed to the lower side of fence four.  This arrangement completed what was practically fresh ground for the whole of the course.  Hard work and good thinking had produced a course, which was going to provide good racing with the going ‘Good to soft with a small patch of soft’. 

Four to post for the Members’ race and a favourite was quickly established at three to one on and forecasts were available but only with the favourite to win plus your choice for second.  I will leave this one alone.  Yes, the favourite, Miss Guilfoyle’s UNCLE JAMES has some form but I don’t recognise the jockey in the form of Mr S Kelland.  New one to the game I believe!  The form of the other three runners contain a lot of letters and the veteran of them, R Burrows and Miss E Norman’s MUTUAL MEMORIES hasn’t been out for a year or two but will be ridden by ‘Smiler’ Congdon so that’s the only plus I can see there.  D Richards & Miss N Dickenson’s ANOTHER BULA is prone to collecting ‘p’s and his pilot has not been in the winning enclosure too often this term and Stafford Sampson’s ARCTIC PRINCESS to be ridden by K Rickson also pulled up at her last attempt.  The puzzle was made even more difficult when Mr Kelland was spotted walking after six fences and the horse, not now with him, still running.  The race was eventually completed in a time of 6 minutes forty seven seconds with ANOTHER BULA passing the post first, well clear, with MUTUAL MEMORIES some thirty lengths back in second with ARCTIC PRINCESS some ten lengths behind him.

In the intermediate race, The Danny’s Partnership DANNY DOLITTLE (M Sweetland) was quickly made favourite as his past two victories entitled him to be and varying prices were available about the other eleven runners.  It was good to see Polly Curling had got the jointly owned POSH AS YOU LIKE back on track and this horse was looking well.  Colin Heard was to ride and the price of five to two enticed me to invest.  I was also encouraged by the speed that one of the joint owners raced up and down in front of the bookies obviously trying to get a better price but one has to be careful when this happens because he might know more about his horse than has been let on.  In this case I was sure he was after a good price on his own horse.  Out tin! – on it went!  Off they go with R Crabb’s KELTIC LORD taking the lead and was in that position after one circuit was completed, four lengths back to DANNY DOLITTLE in second and KING OF THE NAUL in third. Mr G Bevins’s LE CURE (J Barnes), the jointly owned BUTTERWICK KING (Dom Alers Hankey) and POSH AS YOU LIKE (C Heard) headed the following group.  I noticed on more than one occasion that Miss Robinson aboard KELTIC LORD wished to wave to me or at least someone in the crowd as her hand was frequently in the air.  Thank goodness the cloud had lifted otherwise I would not have known that she recognised me!  KELTIC LORD jumped well and continued to lead for the next circuit until the open ditch when DANNY DOLITTLE decided to join him, with LE CURE, KING OF THE NAUL and now POSH AS YOU LIKE following quite closely behind.  Prior to the final fence POSH AS YOU LIKE joined DANNY DOLITTLE and the race between these two was on.  They disappear for a few second after the last and it was with fear and trepidation that I waited to see which colours came into view first – unfortunately it was not the ones I wanted and DANNY DOLITTLE raced on well to take first place at least four lengths to the good of POSH AS YOU LIKE and LE CURE a further fifteen lengths back in third.  I believe KELTIC LORD fell at the last but this is one to watch as he did run very well and jumped most of the fences in style.  This has become serious already, as the bottom of the tin was evident when I took out my investment last time and there is nothing to be returned.  Maybe the clouds will come down and who knows, it could be cancelled.  Not really! I have to lose sometimes.  (That is the biggest deviation from the truth I have ever uttered).

Seven will contest the mixed open race and the result of this is also difficult to forecast.  Mrs Ashburner’s BELARUS (D Harvey) is running really well albeit giving me heart murmurs by coming so late. The good form of J Kinnear’s POLAR FLIGHT whose pilot is going to be Darren Edwards as his regular one, Les Jefford came off whilst riding work at Mr Cotrell’s this morning, has as many ‘unseated’ as ‘first’.  Can he be relied upon?  His price is four to five on so there are a lot thinking he can win this.  Of the other five I fancy the newcomer to pointing in C Goulding’s SHU GAA (R Young) who has done me some favours in the past on the National Hunt circuit but three miles has not been his customary distance.  Mrs Woodhouse’s BADGER BEER (N Mitchell) is due a win but probably not this one.  The horse that has given me a little lately will get a chance to give me some more, so I have picked BELARUS to give me two things, monetary returns and a great adrenalin run.  Passing the judge on the first circuit it was R Baker’s BOWDEN SURPRISE (J Owen) who was out in the lead, several lengths to the good of POLAR FLIGHT and then SHU GAA closely followed by the remainder of the field.  BELARUS at this stage was whipping in!  On the second circuit and passing me at the judge’s position it was still BOWDEN SURPRISE followed by POLAR FLIGHT and SHU GAA and now BADGER BEER in fourth place then BELARUS and PEBBLE BEACH ahead of CASTLE AVENUE (J.Barnes).  At the third from home POLAR FLIGHT had raced up to join BOWDEN SURPRISE and gradually headed him.  SHU GAA was closely following with BELARUS beginning to make sense and move forward a little.  With POLAR FLIGHT now out in front and making the turn for home, Dom Harvey started to roust my BELARUS along and make a little more headway and then a little more and then out of the dip came the colours of POLAR FLIGHT; my investment carrier could not make it and failed to reach the leader by six lengths and SHU GAA came in a distant third.  POLAR FLIGHT is good but BELARUS can beat him but fine judgement is necessary as to when to attack.  The only attack left in me now is to use the last of the tin and find a winner very soon.

Surely Tessa White’s BELLS WOOD (C Heard) can bring me home some reward in the confined hunts race.  Only four will go to post and the opposition to my charger will be R Rawle’s consistent LONGSTONE LAD (D Edwards).  The investment makers have my concern at even money with the opposition at eight to eleven on.  Hugh Thomas’s CHOCOLATE BUTTONS is twenty to one and the Lawrence’s DRUMBANES PET blinkered and carrying a little more weight than necessary can be had at thirty-three to one.  The two with form travelled together for two circuits with CHOCOLATE BUTTONS following a considerable distance away as was DRUMBANES PET.  At the penultimate it was LONGSTONE LAD that was set alight and he improved his position considerably over my charger and went on to win by ten lengths with the remainder still out in the countryside, be it Devon or Somerset I care not as my money had gone again.

This is now very serious as it’s ‘borrow from Ruth’ time and a winner is desperately needed.  Ruth had the forecast in the last race and is carrying one of those – I told you – looks.  Five will run in The Dodson & Horell PPORA Club Members race and again there are two with recent form and I will settle for Mr Pudd’s COOL WAGER (D Alers-Hankey) at even money to beat R Dunsdord’s MINE’S A GIN (M Miller) which was the best turned out and quoted at five to four to win this race with the other three contestants available at any price.  The form of my horse has been consistent although not in ‘open’ company where as the opposition has had much more experience but is quoted as ‘chances if on a going day’, well the last time he carried my pennies he was pulled up so maybe he will be pulled up today and if that is the case I will have no worries but COOL WAGER should do the trick for me anyway.  At fence seven COOL WAGER gave his pilot a fright and probably himself as well as it looked like a ‘slither through’ type jump but they were still intact at the open ditch and continued to pursue MINE’S A GIN and T Underwood’s CEASERS REIGN who was now in second place.  A Kwiatkowski’s GLADIATORIAL was also in contention and The White Family’s BABBLING BROOK (W White) was still hanging on but later pulled up.  As they passed the start line for the final time, they began to string out and I was not a happy chappy at this stage as MINE’S A GIN was definitely travelling very well in first place and COOL WAGER was not making any impression on him.  At the final obstacle it was MINE’S A GIN still full of running who went on to win by five lengths from COOL WAGER with GLADIATORIAL back in third place some twenty lengths further back.  This is disastrous!  Please Ruth let me have a go on at least one of the two remaining Open Maiden Races.

The first division was contested by six runners and unfortunately for me again, it was J Selby’s CAN’T BE SCRABBLE (P York) who came home in first place by at least thirty lengths from the only other finisher, Mrs Brown & Miss J Curtis’s SURE HOW BAD (C Tizzard).  My investment was on S Hawker’s SOOTSIR (fell) who I have previously watched and considered he had potential but not today.  Mrs Greed’s ALICE SUNRISE (O Green) who was also fancied by some came to grief at the first open ditch.  This is when you start to look very sorry for oneself in the hope someone will take pity and lend you a fiver but not so with my point to point friends, they thought the situation was extremely funny and insisted I wrote an IOU before they would dream of lending me a penny.  With the luck I have today I will borrow from a rich farmer who has all his farm in ‘setaside’ and can afford to wait a week for the return of the said amount of money.  A Cornish horse will carry my investment in this final division, that being Paul Tylor’s MR RORY (R Emmett) as the last time he ran he seemed to be travelling well when pushed out of the race by someone who didn’t take to his presence alongside whilst jumping a fence.  On it goes at a good price of five to one.  The favourite at eleven to ten was M Wingfield Digby’s SONG OF KENDA to be ridden by Darren Edwards who was out to make it a treble for the day. The best turned out was also fancied – the Sweetland’s FENNY PRINCE at four to one and even more fancied was Miss S Troughton’s RUN TO THE GLEN (M Keel) at eleven to four.  Off they went as maidens do, far too fast and very erratic at the first.  I looked to the heavens in disgust when I saw that my investment had pulled up at the seventh and I had to rely on Ruth to inform me about the rest of the race as I was in hiding, firstly behind the judges box, then the gents toilet and then underneath the 4 x 4 pretending I was checking for an oil leak or something.  Hopeless!! The first time I have lost on every race.  First home was SONG OF KENDA followed by RUN TO THE GLEN and fifteen lengths further back was FENNY PRINCE.  Congratulations to Darren Edwards on obtaining a treble but it hasn’t helped me a pile.

Next week I WILL do better and pay back Ruth, the ‘setaside’ owner, and reimburse the person who will be paying for my bed and breakfast tonight.  At the moment I do not know who that will be!

Back to Cathy’s at Cloutsham Farm for a lovely dinner where the topic of conversation between Ruth and the other guests was Genealogy but as far as I was concerned, I couldn’t give a damn about my eighth cousins removed or Uncle Bill’s one eyed granny or the Aunty that joined the Wrens, all I want to know is who will win the first at Torrington Farmers next week.  I will be there – make sure you are!  It’s the grand final of the season.

Cheers  Fred and Ruth