The Midlands Area 2018 season kicked off on a beautiful day at Thorpe Lodge as the Midlands Area Club hosted their annual fixture at the Nottinghamshire course.
A good crowd were treated to doubles for owner Joan Tice and jockey Jack Andrews. There was some good competitive racing – and also some extraordinary results – on ground which was officially good to soft at the start of the card but dried and improved as the day went on.
Timico kindly sponsored the PPORA Club Members Conditions race which attracted 12 runners and provided a great race to start the season. Mr Madeit was keen and made a lot of the early running with Love Manhattan, stalked by favourite Lilbitluso and Irish Anthem for much of the race. Irish Anthem hit the front with two fences to go but Lilbitluso had judged their finish to perfection and powered through in the final straight to win it by a neck, despite some strong defence from Irish Anthem. The winning connections were very pleased to have found some quicker ground, providing winning owner Mr Malam with his 103rd winner as an owner.
The Higham Flat Roofing Intermediate race followed this and proved a one-sided affair. Despite leading throughout, Sam Davies-Thomas controlled Teeton Power (Mary, as she is known by many) and prevented her from going too fast in the early stages. When the challenge came from Rowley-trained favourite Mac’s Gift there was plenty left in the tank and they were able to pull away for a comfortable eight-length victory. Trainer Lizzie Harris foaled Teeton Power and has been there every step of this journey, a journey which might now turn in the direction of the Dick Saunders at Leicester as well as the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham in early May.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that this was jockey Sam Davies-Thomas’s 100th Point-to-Point winner. A notable milestone, and the team at Midlands Pointing would like to send him our best wishes and congratulations. Here’s to 100 more!
The Novice Riders race was next, kindly sponsored by Thomas Irving, with the first three horses qualifying for the Dodson & Horrell Series Final at Garthorpe. This year the final will be held at the earlier Quorn meeting, on the 29th April. 24-year-old veterinary student Meisha Micklewright won this with L’Eldorado, the horse’s 11th victory in Point-to-Points with Chris Bealby. The partnership were early leaders, remained at the front for most of the race and were able to repel a spirited challenge from Mia’s Anthem a few from home and then Oscatara on the run in. Two-and-a-half lengths was the winning margin.
The Sharp Nutrition Mens Open race was not without its moments. The bookies were not sure about well-rated Volnay De Thaix, despite a successful career over fences and hurdles under rules. The favourite was Rowley-trained Battle Dust who looked to be the challenger as the race reached the final circuit, but Mrs Wilson’s seasoned campaigner, who left Nicky Henderson’s yard for Stuart Morris’s last Summer, had far too much in the tank. Jack Andrews seemed to be piloting him to an easy victory when he stepped at the second last and launched the young jockey way up his neck. There was an audible gasp from the gallery but the jockey clung on, managed to regain his seat and win by ten lengths. He told me afterwards that if the horse had deviated from his track even slightly he wouldn’t have made it back on board. As it is they now have Cheltenham in their sights.
To say that the Flogas Ladies Open provided the story of the day would be an understatement. It left people murmuring to each other, “what just happened?”, as a single finisher took the spoils. There was little doubt about Popaway starting as favourite. This is her favourite track, and barring a calamity, one would have found her difficult to bet against. With half the final circuit still to complete, Argocat led, Popaway was waiting to pounce, and Global Power was also in the mix; Corrin Wood a very distant fourth. Argocat unseated his rider, leaving Popaway with little to do but jump the course. She reached the second last but fell there, presenting the race to Global Power, with one to jump. Global Power stumbled and unseated jockey Leanne Painter, so the only horse left running was Corrin Wood, a horse with plenty of experience under rules but currently in the care of Louise Bannister who is racing for the very first time. In fact it was her sixteenth birthday. Just when you think that nothing else can possibly happen they jumped the last and Louise was sent flying into the air but managed to grapple her way back into the saddle and finish alone. I’m sure she is still pinching herself about what happened as she qualified for the Ladies Open Final at Stratford and the Mixed Open Final at Cheltenham on her first outing.
The Ladies Open left the spectators in a stunned silence, but the Roade Fibres Restricted race which followed it brought the biggest cheer of the day when the results was announced. Duhallow Tornado (Tom Strawson) and Following Mama, on opposite side of the course, both finished strongly with the former getting the nod from the judge. Freddy Smith, Fraser Livingstone and The All For The Craic partnership are enjoying owning their first horse and this was its first win in this country.
The last race of the day – no split races this year – was the open maiden, sponsored by Newark Livestock Market. Favourite Interconnected was going well until a mistake at the open ditch brought him down. This left the Walpoles’ The Glover in prime position, only for it to do what it did at Guilsborough last year and fall at the last fence (though happily not leaving jockey Tom McClorey with a broken wrist this time). This left Unseen (Rory Bevin) ahead and seemingly unbeatable until the gas ran out and Teeton Turnip powers past on the run in. The winner, previously evented by Richard Jones and much improved after a wind op, provided both Joan Tice and Jack Andrews with the double on the day.
The Midlands season continues at the Brocklesby meeting on 17th February, the first race starting at midday.