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South Devon
Ideford Arch
Saturday 12th February 2011
by Simon McInnes

A voyage into the unknown, well pointing in Devon anyway. Getting to know the unfamiliar venue was the first task. It is just down the road from Exeter, a rules racecourse where undulating territory makes for one of the worst views around and being on a hilltop ensures that varied degrees of fog and mist can make that even worse. Ideford Arch is undulating, but not so high up, and the viewing is not bad. The runners do go into a dip behind a copse, but it is a long way from the finish, and not much is likely to happen there. Standing by fence next to the paddock gives a fair sight of the action, and also on the raised edge of ground near it. The best all-round perspective comes from the bank in the car park, but that takes little working out, as once racing starts a steady line of people pop up there, like a pack of tweed-coloured meerkats. Overheard conversation was that the crowd was smallish for the venue, but this was a rearranged meeting, and the British people seem to have forgotten that they also have the ability to adapt to minor changes in circumstance. It is something to bear in mind if trying to visit Ideford Arch. In it's short history, meetings have been very prone to postponement, so when picking a day, check the fixture list for the scheduled dates and choose any other weekend to be in the area.

If the journey is going to be a long one, and the fear exists of not knowing the horses nor many of the riders and trainers, and that discourages anybody from making the effort, it should be noted that if you consider yourself a bit of a fan of homemade cake, Ideford Arch is an essential visit - at least for this meeting. The choice was magnificent. On the other hand, architecturalists will be disappointed to note that arches are absent, except the road to the course where it passes under the A380 and that one is purely functional, holding the road up. That long drive home did mean listening to the Scotland - Wales rugby on the radio, where the world's most deadpan pundit, Gavin Hastings, was trying to summon the emotion to put the Scots' shoddy effort in perspective. The best he could manage was "I'm really very cross with this performance." Devon, cake, a terrible Restricted and Ned Flanders on the radio. Nice.

Going: Good

race 1: Marksway Horsehage & Mollichaff Confined
1: Deloughtane 2: Quaddick Lake 3: The Apprentice
Winner owned: JAG Pearn, trained: Richard Woolacott, ridden: Alice Pearn
A minor upset opened the day, as Deloughtane had only won up to Restricted (plus a two runner Members), whereas his rivals had often gone a step further than that. The two that filled the frame had nearly made their marks as hurdlers, so after the second last, as speed became a factor, the well-backed Quaddick Lake in particular was shaping as a major threat to Deloughtane, who had done much of the hard work at the front of the field. However, Quaddick Lake was outjumped at the last, and that gave the winner just enough edge for his good attitude to get the job done. The Apprentice did fade slightly, but he looked as if the run was still needed. The winning trainer was on board Bafaluto, who showed signs of being on the up last season, after starting with two pulled ups. It was another P to begin with in 2011, but that is possibly nothing to worry about if we trust history.

race 2: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members, Novice Riders
1: Quizzling 2: Henri Prends Garde 3: King's Wood
Winner owned: K Legg & K Billings, trained: Mrs C Gray, ridden: M Nolan
Another small upset, as the veteran winner was not very popular in the betting. Sometimes in novice riders' races this can be a reflection on the jockey, but the winning pilot here was not short of rides on the day, and did not fall in the category of "looks worryingly old to be a novice rider," so presumably it was excitement about other horses. King's Wood, boasting several open wins, stood out as the form pick, but he looked like the race was needed and drifted in the betting. Again it paid to be prominent sooner rather than later, as Quizzling was already up with the pace with more than two miles to go, and Henri Prends Garde had been in front early in the race, although he did lose his pitch for a while on the last lap, recovering by tagging along with King's Wood as he made his move from the back. The last fence was omitted due to an injured rider being attended to, and as Quizzling was tying up most noticeably at the time, it may have been to his advantage, although he did respond as soon as the placed runners got within touching distance. Fourth placed Imperial Sun looked set for a place, but faded from the third last. He looked very fit, so stamina may be the issue.

race 3: Rugglestone Inn 4-7 year olds Open Maiden, 2m 4f, Div I
1: Isitanywonder 2: Diddypurptoon 3: Sweet Willow
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs DJ Staddon, trained & ridden: Richard Woolacott
Anyone coming into the west country expecting the maidens and restricted to be wall-to-wall elite prospects were in for a serious disappointment today, with not many in these races today boasting anything to recommend them. However, Isitanywonder was undeniably impressive in seeing off his less than fearsome opponents without turning a hair. Once his hand was played four out, only the fences could stop him, and his jumping had been sound throughout - mission accomplished. He had struggled in two earlier runs this season, so either he needed them to get 100% right, or the challenge raced was even worse than believed. Diddypurptoon, who led most of the way, had pulled up on debut, and unseated in his subsequent race, so this was an advance. Sobre Tresor, a runner-up at this trip last year, went after the winner when he made his move, but tied up dramatically and did not even make a place - he looks to have serious stamina issues.

race 4: The Farriers 4-7 year olds Open Maiden, 2m 4f, Div II
1: Lethal Dream 2: Mt Kintyre 3: Glorious Gin
Winner owned: M Bult, trained: Mrs J Bult, ridden: Alice Mills
This looked the lesser of the two divisions, but was run in a faster time, possibly because there was quite a ding-dong battle for the win rather than the easy stroll in division one. After a ragged start, the field impersonated a concertina in mid-race, thinning out again in the final half mile. Mt Kintyre, a faller on his debut but with racing experience on the flat, came with a dangerous run to get a slight lead two out, but when he was not totally fluent at the last, Lethal Dream seized the opportunity with all four hooves and just held him at bay. More interesting was the run of Glorious Gin, who has an unseated and a pulled up already this season. He went to post very steadily, jumped off last and a bit detached and pulled so hard early on, it seemed likely that he was going to be a non-finisher again. However, he somehow sneaked into contention and only in the last furlong did the earlier energy wasted fighting his rider tell. Clearly capable of much better if his brain ever gets to work normally.

race 5: Totnes & Bridgetown Race Co Ltd Mixed Open
1: Distant Thunder 2: Openditch 3: Ibberton
Winner owned & trained: R Prince, ridden: P Prince
When the field was announced, this race shaped like a Pipe and Alner yards reunion, but the horses were utterly professional in their approach and the paddock did not turn into a nostalgia fest. The 2009 winner of major events in the Coronation and Dudley Cups, Distant Thunder had not done so well last season, and thus sat in the middle of the betting market. He was not exactly back to his best in this, but the end result was a win, a hard working one, in open company, and there could well be more to follow. Openditch was inclined to jump left - the course is right handed - and come the end of the race he lost by a small enough distance to think that it may have cost him the race. Rank outsider Ibberton may also have been unlucky. A racecard error had him down to carry 12 stone 7 pounds, whereas the others were all on 12 stone. His rider was weighed out as per the racecard, and although someone brought the mistake to the officials' notice, it was too late to change and he carried the extra seven pounds in the race itself. He did not lose by as much as seven lengths... This was also a bad race for paddock watching, as two horses got quite sweaty in the preliminaries - Distant Thunder and Openditch. On the other hand, Joaaci, who appeared very fit, ran like he was not and weakened badly into fourth late in the race. Johnny's Way, who broke a series of running out in his races by winning his last three in 2010, was gradually closing on the leaders, when he was pulled up suddenly turning for home. Another relatively youthful and progressive horse, Prince De Bersy, also looked very well tuned up for this, but ran poorly, calling it a day around four out when well behind.

race 6: United Molasses Restricted
1: Killoran 2: Lutteur Bleu 3: Party Pictures
Winner owned: Messrs Biddick & Alford, trained & ridden: Will Biddick
Only six of the twenty entries were declared, and seeing the half dozen that lined up and the way the race unfolded, some of the defectors will be kicking themselves at giving it a miss. Lutter Bleu jumped off alertly and was soon eight lengths clear, but soon decided that there was no fun in isolation and dropped back into midfield, leaving Midnight Marine and Party Pictures to show the way. The field began to spread out again in the last half lap, where Killoran was travelling notably sweetly - recent results involving either pulling up or coming second raised the question of how long that would last. He led before the third last, with Party Pictures trying to hang in with him and the others losing touch. Approaching two out, the lead was only a couple of lengths, and being slowly eaten into, when Party Pictures suddenly slowed. From the bank, it seemed at first that Party Pictures had run out, but as the jockey began working harder on him, it seems he merely decided to pull himself up. This left Killoran clear and an easy winner, but the reluctance of Party Pictures meant that Lutteur Bleu, ambling on at his own convenience, could nab an unlikely second. The two runners not to be previously mentioned were Rogue River and Mayfair Lastchance, who could not compete with the other loonfest. Enought said?

race 7: South West Racing Club Open Maiden
1: Comanche Chief 2: Ned White 3: Nobetter Buachaill
Winner owned & trained: Mrs JV Wilkinson, ridden: Rilly Goschen
Eleven went to post for this, from thirty-six entries, and the field contained three debuting and another couple who had one run to their names, pulling up. Comanche Chief had a bit more experience to his name, having a second in 2010, but also a fall when in with every chance and a refusal, so the evidence for supporting him as favourite was mixed, to say the least. We saw the good side of him today and he secured a fairly comfortable win, seeing off Ned White, who missed 2010 and made a reasonable return under the circumstances. The two to catch the eye in the paddock were rules refugee Camomile Green, who ran well for a long way but appeared awfully slow from the third last, and Harriet De Burell, who was one of the two with a pulled up to her name. She landed awkwardly and fell at the third. Of the newcomers, Beat The Banker had a stroll round towards the rear but began to lose touch going out onto the final lap and was pulled up - another half mile would have been more encouraging. Just Amy was very green in the paddock and nervous of every sound and movement. She belied that bad impression once the race got started and managed to hang in with the main protagonists until six from home. Unfortunately all the good work was spoiled when she fell at the next, but she showed a bit of longer term potential.

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