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Mendip Farmers at Ston Easton
Sunday 24th March 2019
by Bob Bracher

A glorious spring day greeted racegoers who attended the Mendip Farmers point to point at Stun Easton and a huge crowd enjoyed not only the weather but also some exciting racing on going which riders described as just about perfect. The highlights were an unexpected victory in the Skinner's Ladies race, a very tight finish to the Mens Open race which led to a riding double for Martin McIntyre and first training double for Claire Hitch and a poignant victory for Rose Loxton. The final race on the card the Open Maiden was declared void for health and safety reasons as one of the runners had run out through the wing of a fence making the fence not safe to jump on the final circuit and with the rider lying in the area where the horses would have by passed the fence there was no other option but to halt the race.

The Skinner's Ladies Race looked on paper to be a match between the favourite Watch the Birdie ridden by Hannah Lewis and Western Diva ridden by Claire Hardwick. However after the favourite pulled up at the twelth fence Western Diva looked to have the race at her mercy until Dry Ol'Party ridden by Chloe Emsley closed her down approaching the penultimate fence and drew away to win by three lengths. A former Philip Hobbs trained mare who had won both a Bumper and Hurdle for him she had been in the care of Stuart Kittow until being sold for a meagre £600 at Ascot last December. Now owned by Chloe's partner Stuart Payne who rents a few boxes from the Newman family at Woolminstone near Crewkerne he described the mare as very straightforward and Chloe added that 'she jumped very well and stayed on strongly'. Stuart, whose main job is as driver to leading National Hunt jockey Harry Cobden, has four horses in his care and was thrilled with the success of his mare.

The Mens Open race only had three runners but it had the closest finish of the day with the judge deciding that it was only a short head that separated Im All Set ridden by Martin McIntyre from Beat the Tide ridden by Ben Robarts. They had duelled over the final three fences with neither wanting to give way. Claire Hitch the trainer of the winner did say that her charge does not do any more than necessary and was delighted with this return to the form which he had shown in 2017.

The same combination quickly doubled up when Knockan Run made all the running to beat his ten rivals in the Restricted race. He maintained a fast pace all the way to the line beating the favourite Gertie's Garter ridden by Matt Hampton by three lengths. Owned by Gillian Grimwood from Exford he had been purchased about a year ago having won a point to point in Ireland and was then trained by Janet Ackner. Now in the care of Claire he provided her with her first ever training double after several seasons of training. Martin' Fly 'McIntyre was registering his third victory of the weekend having won one of the divisions of the Bumper at Milborne St Andrew for Chris Barber.

Gingili was a comfortable winner of the Novice and Veteran Riders race for owner Johnny Farrelly and rider Luca Morgan. Previously in the ownership of Paul and Clare Rooney who have retained an interest in the gelding he had previously been placed at Badbury and Alnwick so was not winning out of turn. His owner was away saddling two horses at Exeter but was given a running commentary by his assistant at the course.

Earth Leader was a very comfortable winner of the Open Maiden race over two and a half miles for local owner Roger Penny. Previously in training with Paul Nicholls his form had not been very inspiring but the move to Rose Loxton's yard at Bruton has brought on his improvement and he was unlucky on his seasonal debut at Larkhill when unseating Bryan Carver. Two third places have followed but with the application of a tongue tie for the first time and an able deputy in Matt Hampton the Presenting gelding disposed of his six rivals with the minimum of fuss. He was the horse responsible for breaking Rose's leg earlier in the season whilst out on exercise but this may have proved to have been a blessing in disguise as whilst being checked out in hospital Rose was diagnosed with the early stages of ovarian cancer and she has now started treatment for this. In her words 'this horse may have been responsible for saving my life' and it is certainly hoped that she makes a full recovery.


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