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Blackmore and Sparkford Vale at Charlton Horethorne
Sunday 10th March 2019

by Bob Bracher

A keen wind blew across the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale course at Charlton Horethorne which kept the temperature down but at least the rain stayed away allowing racegoers to enjoy a full afternoon's racing. The new course arrangements received positive reaction from jockeys, trainers and owners and on the softer going it was necessary to stay the trip to triumph but with 71 horses taking part in the seven races the committee should feel delighted with their revamping of the card. The highlights were a strong performance from Virak in the Mixed Open Race and a first ever treble for rider Tommie O'Brien on three unraced four year olds for three different trainers in the Maiden races and an impressive English debut for Tuff Nano in the Restricted race.

Virak is clearly enjoying his stay at Rose Loxton's Bruton stable as he recorded his third success this season when capturing the Mixed Open race under Natalie Parker from a fast finishing Herbert Park ridden by Fergus Gillard. Owned jointly by Clive Hitchings and Paul Nicholls who both missed the victory he jumped well for Natalie and had four lengths in hand at the winning post. Rose advised that he will probably remain point-to-pointing with a possible goal being the Lady Dudley Cup at Chaddesley Corbett next month.

Tommie O'Brien , 26, will certainly remember his first ever visit to Charlton Horethorne in recording his initial riding treble with the unusual achievement of winning on three unraced four year olds for three different trainers. Tommie who started riding in his native Ireland some 11 years ago has now notched 85 wins in his career for a number of different trainers but it is his association with the Tom Lacey/Sophie Lacey stables that he is best known.

His treble started with a win in the first division of the divided Open Maiden over 2 miles 4 furlongs when he partnered Get Prepared to beat Breaking the Ice by six lengths. Owned, trained and bred by Michelle Offen he had been travelled down from her base at Hadnall near Shrewsbury so it had been a very early start for her. Sired by the late Black Sam Bellamy out of a Soviet Star mare he is a full brother to Againn Dul Aghaidh the winner of five point to points for the Crow family.

His next win in the other division of the Open Maiden over 2 miles 4 furlongs for trainer Francesca Nimmo was aboard Presence of Mind who beat Five Gold Bars by five lengths. Despite running a little green on the run in this was a striking performance. Bought by Francesca and her partner Charlie Poste at the Landrover sale last year for 20K Euros his next likely outing will be in the sales ring at the forthcoming Cheltenham sale this coming week.

Tommie's treble was completed when he sent Cadzand trained by Sophie Lacey into a clear lead after jumping the third last in the Open Maiden race and he easily beat Doctor Wong ridden by Keagan Kirkby. Bought by Tom Lacey at the Derby Sale last year for 35K Euros he is also for sale. Recalling how his partnership with the Laceys first started three and a half years ago Tommie said 'I had heard that Sam Drinkwater was retiring and rang Tom asking him if I could come and ride out. After Zac Baker decided to go to Nigel -Davies Tom asked me to take on the role of first jockey for the point to point yard and it has been a really successful partnership'.

George Hiscock is building a good partnership with Jo Hepburn's Robin de Boss and he maintained his unbeaten record on the gelding when comfortably beating Saffron Wells ridden by Tom Doggrell in the Hunt Race. Setting off in front and maintaining a steady pace throughout his jumping was good and supplemented his win in this race in 2018. Jo did say that 'he had enjoyed several days hunting earlier in this season' and his usual pilot Jamie Hepburn added that 'he was getting stronger over his injury and hoped to be back soon'

Navanman was too good for his ten rivals in the Conditions race where all riders had to have ridden less than fifteen winners at the start of the season. Navanman and Bryan Carver have an excellent record together and this was their third victory together this season. John Heard paying his first visit to Charlton Horethorne paid credit to his charge who has thrived since joining his stable from David Pipe and the different routine that John employs particularly riding on the moors. He added that he is probably 'the best horse he has trained'

The concluding race, the Restricted, was won in good style by the mare Tuff Nano ridden by Matt Hampton and trained by Teresa Clark for Weston- super-Mare owner Peter Gwyn. Bought by Teresa at Ascot last December having won a Mares Maiden in November in Ireland she stayed on well to beat long-time leader Troed Y Melin ridden by Bryan Carver. She looks like a really good prospect for the future.


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