by Fred Sampson
(of Equestrian Cornwall -

We arrived in the area yesterday, Friday, and stayed overnight with Kathy Stevens at Cloutsham and they have really looked after us well.  The good weather, delightful food with sausages the size of hogs pudding’s.  Lovely setting and I could view beautiful Exmoor from my bedroom window.  We used one of our Point-to-Point tapes to record the dawn chorus, which was terrific.  A tad removed from the mating seagulls of Newquay!  Thank you Kathy and Dave, we will be back!

On ‘course’ early and the watering had made this course into a ‘good’ thing and it looked and felt really fine.  There should be no complaints here this afternoon and we settled to expect a good day’s racing and that is exactly what we got.  I met a lot of friends by arrangement and one in particular who is not of the tallest stature I found quite easily by the curl of smoke rising above her head.  Armed with formbook, pencil, race card, green wellies but still room for a ‘drag’ every so often to provide the necessary nicotine and to enable me to track her down.  I’m sure, like most of us, she had a wonderful day.

I chatted with Lord and Lady Earle on my way around the course and they both agreed that it was just what they wanted for their BREEZY BETSY.  Now if that is not a tip then what is?  Eight went to post and although Lucy (Gardner) was down to ride BREEZY BETSY, unfortunately her Cessna has a damaged wing, the helicopter would not start, Aunty had the hang glider at Lanhydrock so she had to come by road and was just two minutes too late to get the ride, so Alex (Charles-Jones) picked up a spare. I was delighted with the seven to two price that I got when I invested on BETSY, the price later went much lower but there is always a ‘friend’ who delights you with the statement ‘Oh! I got fours!’ The Sanderson’s INCY WINCY SPIDER (R Woolacott) was close in the betting and Richard Young riding Mrs Brake’s FRANKLY FEAR was fancied, as was Mr Hobbs’s NILOUFER (A Carter) and the jointly owned PULHAM DOWNE (E Tory).  Well this was a delightful race for both of us to start the day off with, as I know ‘BETSY’ doesn’t like horses in front of her and so the start makes a considerable difference to her running.  She went off like a bullet and maintained the leading position until passing the winning line.  Now that’s the way I love to earn money.  Others came alongside, some even tried to overtake but the brisk pace being set was too good for them all.  FRANKLY FEAR was four lengths behind in second place with NILOUFER back in third, four lengths further back.  The time of 6 minutes 20 seconds was, except for the mixed open, the fastest of the day.  If I have won enough I may even go to the Sales to bring this one home; at present I don’t have enough for the journey up to Doncaster but I will continue to try!

Now we have to be careful as the next race is a 14-runner maiden (Division One) and it’s easy to give back hard earned winnings on maidens.  A little touch on Mrs Kittow’s ROSALEE ROYALE (Les Jefford) will suffice but it is Mr & Mrs Doggerell’s CAUNDLE CHASE (J Snowden) that has been made favourite, even down to ‘even’ money in some places with the remainder apparently not much good at all!  With two complete circuits to go, it was the Atyeo’s  CHURCH FIELD (D Luff) who was leading the field by about five lengths, followed by Miss Derryman’s  SPECK (T Newman) and Mrs Walker’s NISSAN STAR (D Allers-Hankey) and BEADNELL BAY (M Shears).  My investment carrier did not seem to be going so well at this stage but it is a little early in the race.  The best turned out, Diane Hutchings BULLY MAID (M Woodward) also found the pace a little hot and pulled up before completing a circuit.  At the second ditch, CHURCH FIELD was still leading and looking quite good, but Mrs Froud’s VITINSEL (H Froud)  didn’t look quite so good and fell, whilst J Forbe’s TIGERWOLF (M Bryant) didn’t bother to jump and that is classed as ‘Refused’.  Past the judge for the final time and others began to take an interest in the leading position.  A Harris’s MISS BIDDY  (R Young) looking promising and Mr W & Mrs A Dufosee’s BEADNELL BAY (M Shears) now taking a challenging position.  The race is now on and the lead changing as speed increased. At the final open ditch there were four in line and MISS BIDDY came out of it a fractional leader.  At the second last it was BEADNELL BAY who was going the best with MISS BIDDY, CAUNDLE CHASE and KINGS STAGE following.  So at the line it was BEADNELL BAY first with CAUNDLE CHASE four lengths away in second and KINGS STAGE a very close third.  A good race but not in my favour on this occasion but I will try and do better in division two.

Again fourteen went to post and R Westacott’s SIR WILLIAM was made clear favourite at even money or less.  He was noted as ‘frustrating’ in the form guide so I opted for a better priced outsider in a ‘Mister’ instead of a ‘Sir’ and plonked a good bit on Mrs Prendergast’s MR BALOO (A Charles-Jones) at fourteen to one and later even twenty to one in some places.  This horse hasn’t progressed to having figures in his form book yet, quite prepared to add letters to the fact he has not yet completed a ptp.  This could be the day that the blinkered Petoski gelding could change all that and fill my coffers in the process.  The best turned out, the Doggrell’s CAUNDLE ENCORE (J Snowden) wanted to go back to the paddock early to show herself off some more and found the easiest way to do just that was to refuse at the first.  The D & S Tufters’s KINSFORD BOY (J Marsh) decided to demolish a wing in the back straight after getting himself in a good position so he was out of it.  Mrs Cork and Mrs Down’s ELVERLENA (L Jefford) was running a good race, as was the Atkinson’s SULA SPIDER.  SIR WILLIAM looked to have a good deal of running left in him yet.  My concern was not up in front by a long way and I then used my larger binoculars to see if this made him look as though he was going faster just to please me but it didn’t at this stage.  At the final ditch it was the favourite, SIR WILLIAM who progressed and raced away from ELVERLENA up the hill and on towards the line.  There was a good battle for third place and the judge was left to make the decision.  In amongst that group for the minor placings was one MR BALOO and he had successfully rode out a good finish and there he was in third place coming from way down the field.  Well done! – Off to pick up a little, more than if I backed the favourite.  This is getting better all the time.

Next came the Mixed Open with eight contestants and a classy lot of pointers they were too!  The favourite was Dennis Williams’s WELL ARMED (R Young) but my thoughts are that this horse has had a good season and run well in five out of seven races and is now due a rest.  I will look for another!  Both Ruth and I picked the one that gave our tin a boost at the Axe Vale meeting - J Sprake’s JACKSON HILL to be ridden by the in form Alex Charles Jones.  A good price was obtained and the tin was turned upside down so as to collect the last note that had stuck to the bottom.  It was all on!  No trouble on lap one – the investment was being carried safely in the lead.  Lap two complete and the investment is still leading the way followed by WELL ARMED and then the Snowden’s CHASING DAISY and Miss J Houldey’s ZINGIBAR.  Surely now onto the winning line?  The last plain fence in the back straight saw WELL ARMED jump up alongside ‘my concern’ but we still held the advantage.  Now ZINGIBAR is becoming a threat – overtook WELL ARMED and now has the audacity to challenge the money carrying JACKSON HILL.  Into the home straight for the final time and towards the final obstacle and Alex had JACKSON HILL going like a good ‘un with a commanding advantage and came home 10 lengths to the better of ZINGIBAR and WELL ARMED was a further 15 lengths away third.  All singing and dancing now and I am off to dig a pit underneath the car to stow the tin in – its not that I don’t trust anyone but its too heavy to lift into the glove compartment!

At this stage Ruth has picked three winners and I am content with two winners and a third.  Once again a horse that has rewarded me well lately will be my choice in the Countryside Alliance Novice Riders’ Club Race where eleven will go to post.  I chose Mrs Goody’s FRANK BYRNE (S Hayes) to provide me with another winner.  This horse flew around the Axe Vale course in six minutes fifteen seconds and came home 8 lengths in front of Mrs Hutchinson’s RIMPTON BOY (M Williams) who is being made favourite here.  Why I ask myself?  Mrs Clifford’s HEAVY HUSTLER later took some money and probably started favourite but it didn’t alter my feelings.  There is very little to say now.  There was a long delay before the Stewards announced the winner and it came as no surprise to me and to the backers of FRANK BYRNE that he was the only one to finish having travelled the correct course.  The second fence had been dolled off after the first time round when Mr Cottle’s MY JESS (M Woodward) unseated his rider and demolished part of the wing. Unfortunately most of the runners took to by pass this fence by driving through the cornfield as opposed to passing on the left where a nice stretch of grass would accommodate them.  Full credit to the jockey of FRANK BYRNE because it did not look an easy task to get his horse to go the right way and also to keep racing when the outcome looked as though it could go against him.  Well Done!  Result – only one horse finished the course correctly and that was my investment carrier – there might have been another finisher who could possibly be counted in as second but on the day the judges could only count up to four and if three of them were disqualified then there was no second.  I am afraid I found it difficult to sympathise with any one over the outcome because I was standing in a queue to pick up hard earned cash, laughing my head of – naughty but Oh! so nice!   The time of 6m 16 secs was recorded but which horse this was accredited to is a mystery – one that doesn’t bother me too much!

The Intermediate race followed with seven runners going to post.  Favouritism flip flopped between Mrs Sycklemoore’s THE FROSTY FOX (N Mitchell) and the best turned out A Scrimgeour’s LINCOLN PLACE (M Miller) with Susie Woodhouse’s BEST BITTER (A Charles-Jones) also taking some money.  An interesting entry is Mrs Case’s DROMOND POINT (L Jefford) who ran at Wincanton last night but was pulled up.  Maybe this ground will suit him?  Well suit him it did and he came home in fine style by two and half lengths to the good of the jointly owned CELTIC TOKEN (D Birkmyre) and a further eight lengths back was LINCOLN PLACE.  We didn’t win or lose a lot on that race but would have liked to have been on the winner as ten to one and more was available. 

The Confined Hunts’ Race saw only four go to post and Mr Stevens’s BARDON HILL BOY (R Woolacott) was made odds on favourite with The Exmoor Partners’s ZATOPEK (C Heard) second favourite.  Both Ruth and I chose the second favourite as we have seen this horse finish like a sprinter with a late run over the past season having won twice and second once in the last three runs. R Baker’s BOWDEN SURPRISE (D Harvey) did just that when he took off and went at least thirty two and half lengths in front, (well a long way anyway!), and looked like staying there for a long while but very gradually he came back to the field.  Unfortunately BARDON HILL BOY came to grief so it was left to ZATOPEK to catch and pass this front runner in the final circuit and come home eight lengths to the good with the Thomas’s CHOCOLATE BUTTONS coming in third some ten lengths back.  This is the best yet – 4 winners and a 3rd whilst Ruth has had five winners.  This is great!

One more race and it is The P J Bishop Members’, Subscribers’ & Farmers’ Race which is hopefully going to complete a very prosperous day.  I am putting my faith in the favourite and as there are only four runners I am not expecting a great return. but I do have to lift the tin out of the pit.  On it goes to the jointly owned, best turned out, Polly Curling trained, Colin Heard ridden HYLTERS CHANCE..  This horse has been very consistent and should add some cream to the top of the tin.  This was a well fought race with D Stephens’s SPACE CAPPA (V Stephens) and The White Family’s BABBLING BROOK challenging one another up front with my concern watching from a very sensible position and then Mr Scott’s ONE CLEAN SWEEP (D Moore) bringing up the rear.  HYLTERS CHANCE made his move at the final ditch but not a very good move and Colin had to slide around a little to get a better sitting position, in fact did extremely well to stay with it.  Nevertheless on went HYLTERS CHANCE and at the final fence he only had SPACE CAPPA to catch to win – ONLY – it was a race to the line and we won by about half a length from SPACE CAPPA and BABBLING BROOK came in third.  Excellent!

Get the JCB, we’ll lift the tin, top it up with the cream and go to Minehead for a fish and chip supper. An excellent day’s racing, Ruth with six out of eight and I am content with five and a third, very profitable and amongst good friends and in perfect weather – what more could one want?  We will again wake to the dawn chorus of Exmoor, bid our farewells after paying the bill with William Hill type money and laugh all the way down to Jays tomorrow for the Tetcott Hunt meeting.  We will be looking for Wendy and Anne and I will keep my eye open for the smoke trail!  See you there! 

Cheers  Fred