North Shropshire at EYTON ON SEVERN
Monday 24th April 2000
by Mal Davies

Despite the heavy rain which hit Shropshire over the weekend, there was little doubt that the North Shropshire Hunt meet would go ahead, and the customary huge crowd (albeit far short of the figure of 15,000 predicted by an over-enthusiastic press release) wended its way along the twisting Severnside lanes. The going was only testing away from the river straight, which is unusual, from the cross fence to the third last. Otherwise, it seemed to be generally GTS.

Four turned out for the Hunt race and Lee Stephens got the Crow stable off to a flyer on odds-on favourite Coming Through with a comfortable victory over Richard Bevan’s King Paddy. The time was four seconds faster than the Mens’ Open (of which more later!).

Division one of the three mile maiden was won by Sheila Crow’s Fast Lane, under the up and coming stable star Brendan Foster, who deputised for Alistair Crow on several of the latter’s declared runners. The winner survived a really bad mistake two out to register a superb win from the One Man colours sported by Richard Burton on favourite Emperor Ross, who did tire very badly after the last. Rupert Inglesant’s Kota Tinggi, who impressed at Bitterley ran very well at long odds in third and must surely find a maiden race before too long.

Just as the professionals were putting Fast Lane into their notebooks for next season as a real prospect, his performance was spectacularly trumped by stablemate Sam’s Day again ridden by Foster, in the second division of the three mile maiden. This was as good a maiden winner as I have seen this season or last. The horse, bought by Gareth Samuel from Ireland as a replacement in time for Whatafellow, strolled home hard held on the bridle from a strong looking field. Foster had hardly twitched during the race, and the horse could not have blown out a candle after it. I don’t know about a replacement for Whatafellow, this one could be in top Open class as soon as next season if he carries on in this vein. The time wasn’t earthshattering, but the horse had so much in hand it was untrue. Barney Bear was second, and Moscow Squeaker third.

And so to the Mens’ Open. Just as well that it was a Bank Holiday and Shropshire Trading Standards Office was closed for the day, because this was a travesty of a race. When you have a confirmed thirteen year old dodgepot Albert Blake being sent off as 4-6 favourite, renowned dog Circus Colours at 7-1, and St. Athans Lad (who is so old that he merits an ‘a’ for ‘aged’ in the race card) vying for second favouritism, you know that you are looking at the worst Open seen at Eyton for some years.

Not surprising therefore that 4-1 shot Murphy’s Way won it by a distance. Murphy’s Way’s previous win was in a Bangor bumper- in 1993, which was the last time he raced! For the record, Albert Blake somehow managed a very remote second. I don’t suppose Jason Burly, the jockey, will be complaining, but I would be amazed if the winner ever went anywhere close to winning a decent Open race.

Best finish of the day was the Ladies’ Open. Tessa Clark just got Seymours Double home for a thrilling victory from Sun Surfer, piloted by Sam Beddoes who was returning from a stint in Dubai for her first ride between this flags this year. The lead changed hands three or four times after the second last and the winning distance was a neck. Favourite Killatty Player was third.

Gordie Edwards’s Rolfe’s Delight (Lee Stephens getting a double) took the PPORA Restricted, by an eased down (or very tired, depending on your viewpoint) half a length from fast finishing Lady Dot (J.Downes).

The short course maiden saw eleven set out, but only 20-1 shot Colonel’s Hatch made it home under David Sherlock. Unlikely that we will see many future winners amongst those who failed to complete.

Just one gripe about the meeting. The race committee allocated 45 mins between races. Whilst this might have given a bit of slack had any race divided, in advance this had looked most unlikely, and in fact the fields were on the small side, even in the maidens. Some horses were in the paddock 30-35 minutes before their race, and the start of several races saw horses at the post 5-10 mins before the off time, whilst punters twiddled their thumbs. Surely 30 or 35 minutes between races would have been sensible.