by Lucy Wheeler.
The Fitzwilliam Hunt staged a very successful meeting at Dingley last Saturday as the curtain came down on the Midlands Area Point-to-Point season.
The opening Hunt Members race attracted a healthy field of five runners, including meeting secretary Katie Morgan’s My Shamwari who made most of the running with Icthec and Done A Runner in hot pursuit. Toby Hunt’s Done A Runner cruised into the lead coming down the hill for the last time and took the lead before the final fence to record an impressive fifth win this season. Done A Runner was partnered for the first time this season by his trainer Dale Peters, who joked, “It’s great to finally break my duck on him, it seemed like I was the only jockey to get him beaten in the past! He’s been a superstar all season and tries every time he runs whatever the circumstances”.
The PPORA Novice Riders race made for exciting watching; Susquehanna River took the lead at the 13th fence with some fast jumping and looked to be going well but Festival Bound ran on very gamely in the closing stages under a positive ride by Kate Gowing to score by a neck. The Sandra Fryer-trained Festival Bound has been second on three occasions in the last few weeks so connections were delighted with the result; Kate said “It’s great to finally get our head in front”.
The prolific Gunmoney provided the highlight of the day leading from start to finish with his usual relentless gallop to take his sixth Mens Open race of the season. Richard Russell’s 11-year-old has been unbeaten in points this year and it was his son John Russell’s first ride back after recovering from a back injury. John commented “Gunmoney is a legend, if there is any horse you would want to get back to ride before the end of the season he would tick every box”. John praised trainer Gerald Bailey’s team for their efforts, “He’s been on fire this year and David (who looks after him), Gerald and Tom have done a fantastic job, all credit should go to them as all I’ve had to do is sit and steer a bit!” This win for Gunmoney secured him the well deserved title as leading Midlands Area horse, “I’m particularly pleased that Gunmoney is area champion as I think he deserved the recognition” said John and he joked “especially as most of those wins he has had to contend with me riding him!”
The Ladies Open race went to veteran Berties Dream, who led for the most part under national champion Gina Ellis and recorded the quickest time of the day, six minutes 11 seconds. Bavard Court and Louise Allan tracked Berties Dream for the duration but couldn’t quite find enough in the closing stages, finishing just a couple of lengths behind in second place. The tables were turned as last time out at High Easter Berties Dream was runner up to the 16/1 Bavard Court; however the odds were considerably shorter on this occasion at 3/1.
Ten runners went to post for the Restricted race, in which the Jo Messenger-trained Sava Bridge scored, giving owner-rider Ben Durrell his first win. The nine-year-old Sava Bridge has vastly improved this season in his new yard and was given a well-timed ride by Ben, who tracked the leaders and challenged at the last fence. Ben commented “Mrs Mess’ has worked her magic on Sava Bridge. We bought him from Ascot last summer for £900!” Ben, who is 41-years-old, is having his first proper crack at pointing this season after a background in Eventing, in which he competed up to Advanced and 3-star level. The new Andrew Pennock recruit High Lucy Lou was running well and looked to be following up her Godstone maiden win when taking the lead at the 12th fence but the eight-year-old mare was outpaced by Sava Bridge after the last.
The Pennock team did get their way in the following contest, with Wonderful Present and Dickie Collinson putting in a fine front running performance to win the Open Maiden race. Max O was always hot on the heels of the leader, with jockey Dale Peters applying the pressure in the closing stages but Wonderful Present found a bit more to win by two lengths.
The 2m 4f Open Maiden had been divided ahead of the meeting and the races saw a good number of runners with 15 in the first division and 12 in the second. Nigel Padield’s Knockedoutloaded won the first division beating the favourite Kings Red by six lengths. Knockedoutloaded had pulled up on his previous two starts but seemed to appreciate the quicker ground, making most of the running to give Gina Ellis her second victory of the day. Mrs Joan Tice’s homebred five-year-old mare Teeton Power was making her debut and showed plenty of promise throughout the race to finish in third place.
Demood was the evens favourite for the second division and made all the running under Tom McClorey but the seven-year-old mare began to weaken at the second last allowing the winner, Singininthevalleys, and runner-up Curraghchase to pass in the final stages. Trained by Samuel Evans Singininthevalleys had been runner-up on her last two maiden starts and was ridden by the in-form Leo Mahon. This was Leo’s second success in just 24 hours, having won the Goffs Spring Sales Point-to-Point Bumper at Aintree with Gustave Mahler the evening before.
After racing there was a presentation to the 2015/16 Midlands Area leaders. Tom McClorey, assistant trainer to Caroline and Gerald Bailey, was rewarded on a great season and took the top spot as overall leading jockey. Serena Tyler was the leading Lady Rider and Rory Bevin landed the leading Novice Rider title.