The sun shone down on most of the country this weekend and the Belvoir’s meeting at Garthorpe on Saturday was no exception. The crowds enjoyed the weather and watched some good finishes throughout this seven-race card. Pauline Harkin’s yard enjoyed a double and a promising young jockey opened their account in style. Despite 10mm of rain in the few days preceding the meeting, Brian Crawford and his team had done sterling work as usual and produced a track which started the day soft but dried steadily through the afternoon.
The first race of the afternoon was the Teigh Old Rectory B&B PPORA Club Members race for Novice Riders and rather set the tone for things to come, with a number of horses making the running at different stages only to run out of stamina on the holding ground. Even-money Beggar’s Velvet looked sure to take this one when he opened up a big gap on the top side of the course on the last lap but weakened as he approached the last and had little left to give when caught by Smiths Hill in the run in. This was an impressively ridden maiden victory for jockey Joanna Hewitt, in her first season at sixteen years old and part of Caroline and Gerald Bailey’s team at Holdenby North Lodge in Northamptonshire. The local support was vocal, especially from her mentor at the Bailey’s, Tom McClorey, who applauded her all the way up the hill. “She is very, very motivated,” he told me, “and listens to all the advice she is given.” Alfie Jordan rode Tempered Steel home in third and these three will not only score points towards the Harley Racing National Novice Riders Championships but also qualify for the Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members Novice Riders Final which will be held here at the Melton Hunt Club meeting on the 21st May.
Tom Chatfeild-Roberts and Love Manhattan won the W. Spence and Son Garthorpe Hunts Club Members race after riding a sensibly-paced race which left the seven-year-old with enough in the tank to fight off the challenge provided by Sandpipers and Alex Vaughan-Jones on the run in. Although the winner has been second twice in February this was his first victory since 2015. Merrydown Black (Sophie Walker), back in third, must be beginning to feel a sense of “ever the bridesmaid” as their consistent season of being placed continues, as yet without a winner.
The Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate race was a qualifier for the Intermediate Championship HC Final at Cheltenham on 5th May, with the first four finishers here eligible. Alex Vaughan-Jones and Ignite A Light were hoping that their improving season could result in a victory here as they led for much of this race at a steady pace. As they reached the last, though, the tank ran dry and they all but stopped, allowing the stalking Pauline Harkin-trained Nelson’s Legend and Tom McClorey to steal this one in the last few yards. This was also an encouraging result for Agent For Chaos, a tricky ride, who was piloted by William Marshall into third place and, along with Dream Mistress (Tom Chatfeild-Roberts) in fourth, a qualification for the Final.
The feature race of the day was the Timico Mixed Open, part of the Mixed Open Gold Cup series, and provided the most impressive display of the day. Nine-year-old Hazel Hill is yet to be beaten in this country and it never looked like it would happen on this occasion. Alex Edwards judged this ride beautifully as he sat in behind the front runners for much of the race before easing into the lead around the final bend and winning with ease. Definitely one to watch. Bravo Riquet (Huw Edwards) and Expanding Universe (S. Bowen) both did much of the front running and deserved second and third places respectively, having both gone off at 33/1.
The Roythornes Solicitors Restricted race provided more than a hint of deja vu. This time it was Milson Robinson-trained Hurricane Vic (Tom Strawson), fresh from a victory at Revesby Park, who seemed to have judged the race to perfection, only to run out of steam at the last. The seven-year-old ran right, giving well-positioned mare View The Dance, piloted by co-owner Kara Gregory, the chance to ease past and take the race; just reward for judging the ground and the pace well. This provided Pauline Harkin with a double, although she could have done without all the congratulatory hugs, recovering as she is from a nasty fall which damaged her ribs. We wish her a speedy recovery.
Tom Strawson’s frustration was short-lived, though, as the Melton Mowbray Tyres Open Maiden (3m) went to his mount, the Tim Tarratt-trained Quizzacle Nomad. The sticky ground suited this mare who was the only one to stay the three mile course, giving owner Sue Smith her first win with this horse. Jockey of second-placed Unseen, Rory Bevin, had been expecting to ride two at Overton before receiving a call, as he left Morpeth, to tell him both were lame, prompting a long trip South to Garthorpe instead. Cakewalk (B. James) took third place.
The final race of the day was a 2 mile, four furlong maiden race for 4,5,6 and 7 year-old horses and was kindly sponsored by local building contractors M. K . Bailey. This went Shamat, the mount of Richard Collinson, who overtook the impressive unraced four-year-old Daydream Aulmes (Leo Mahon) on the final run in to give owner/trainer Martin Ward his second win of the season.
The next Midlands Area meeting is the Atherstone at Clifton on Dunsmore next Sunday, 2nd May. The next here at Garthorpe is the Quorn meeting on 29th April. E-tickets for both, which include a complimentary race card, are available in advance from our shop.