A large crowd enjoyed a good day’s racing at Dingley for the Fernie meeting on Sunday and there was plenty of local interest to cheer about as 67 runners came forward for a seven-race card.
The Midlands Feature race for the season was the Mixed Open here, The Fernie Four-Miler, and despite it being a stayers’ race it attracted a field of 8 with Gerald Bailey-trained Empire Builder leading the betting. As the race passed half way it was headed by a group including the favourite, Alan Hill’s Supreme Danehill and Roy Hunt’s Edgar Henry all of whom looked like they were in the mix but as the last lap developed Empire Builder pulled away from a spirited Supreme Danehill (Joe Hill) to win it by 5 lengths. Edgar Henry was third having climbed through the last and lost all momentum but was nearly caught on the line by 40-1 outsider Ukranian Star. “He stays all day,” jockey George Greenock told me, “I thought he [Joe Hill] would come back at us round the last bend but he found a bit more.”
Martin Ward’s Virgo The First (Archie Wright) won the Subaru Restricted race after staying on to beat Nelson’s Legend (J. Martin) by two lengths in the run in. Archie Wright had given 6-year-old a very quiet and measured ride against a talented field despite the horse not really enjoying the going. “That was nothing like his best performance,” the owner explained. “Archie had warned me that he wouldn’t like the ground but I ride him at home and I can tell you he needed a run!” Second placed Nelson’s Legend, and Teeton Kato (Tom McClorey) in third also qualify for the Restricted Series Final at Stratford on 20th May.
The day began with some very spirited pony racing as two novice races and one open race took place over a 7-furlong course in the opposite direction to that taken by the horses. The smaller 138cm-and-under Novice division was won by Little Lord William (Freddie Curtis) from Wharley Gamecock (James Turner) and Bathleyhills Sunlight (Millie Parrington). The second race was for the bigger 148cm-and-under Novices and this on was won by Basford April Rose (Angus Villiers) who beat Ice Cold Bailey’s (Violet Barton) and Count On Me (Molly Roberts) with Athlone Gold (Olympia Onslow) behind them. The last, Open, race was won by Pickpocket (Nia Kerslake), with Prince Of Thieves (William Curtis) second and Little Quaker (Rose Curtis) in third. Olympia Onslow and Harry Lee, who both took part in the Novice races, raised money for Cancer Research and Retraining of Racehorses respectively, raising fantastic sums of £2,200 and £300 for their charities.
The first horse race of the day was the Harborough Hunts Club Members Race. With four horses rated in the 90s declaring it was set to be a great start to the day and so it proved. Serena Tyler’s owner-ridden Picaroon set the early pace, establishing an 8-length lead and maintaining it for the first two miles of the race before being caught by the chasing pack as the race entered the final lap. Katkolys (Jack Andrews), favourite Easythingsarebest (Tom McClorey) and Ignite A Light (Alex Vaughan-Jones) took up the running and as they reached the last it was Ignite A Light who had the edge, pulling away to beat Easythingsarebest by four lengths, with Katkolys dropping back in third. Gerald Bailey, trainer of the first two horses, was mildly surprised. “I knew there wasn’t a great deal between them but I thought the [good to soft] ground would suit Easythingsarebest better but the winner has a lovely attitude; he only cost two grand!”
The PPORA Club Members Race for Novice Riders was next, promising qualification for the Novice Riders Final at Garthorpe next Sunday for the first three pairs home. It proved to be a very popular battle between two local riders: Oakham-based Rory Bevin, who rode his first winner two weeks ago, and Harry Thorpe-Codman who was riding in only his third point-to-point. Icthec (Thorpe-Codman) led as they approached the last but it was My Dad’s Horse (Bevin) who saw the better stride and landed with half a length advantage and more speed to take the race by three lengths. 40-1 outsider Roseneath (Miss P. Taylor) gave them both a challenge as he took third, 1½ behind them. Favourite Lake Legend never looked like competing.
The 2m4f Maiden saw the Andrew Pennock-trained Bullzeye, the mount of Sam Davies-Thomas, lead for most of the race. Max O (Dale Peters) and Tullydonnell Flyer (E. Austin) put the pressure on as they approached the last by Bullzeye had one more good jump in him and went on to win by four length from Max O, with Tullydonnell Flyer third.
The sixth race on the card, the 3m Open Maiden race was won by Tom Morgan-trained Robin De Boss (Dale Peters), owned by local enthusiasts, The Strangely Browne Partnership. The six-year-old travelled well throughout and made up for being beaten narrowly by Quick Oats under Gina Andrews last time out. “I was bitterly disappointed he didn’t win last week. He’s just a big baby and we’re looking forward to next season,” added the trainer. Wonderful Present (Sam Davies-Thomas) was second, Harodale (Jack Andrews) third.
The final race, the Open Maiden for Mares and Fillies, included some drama as both favourite Abijoe (Gina Andrews) and then Lost in Lecce (Hugh Nugent), who was travelling well, fell with four fences still to jump. This left us with a tired-looking field but Cresta One (T. Donworth) brought it home in a close finish with Aunty Joan (Sam Davies-Thomas) whom she beat by a neck.
Next week’s fixture, The Melton Hunt Club at Garthorpe, includes the Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members Novice Rider Final as its feature race and has attracted a total entry of 138 horses across a seven-race card. Tickets are available which include a free racecard.