A hardy crowd of Midlands Pointing enthusiasts braved a very chilly Garthorpe on Sunday for the Cottesmore meeting, and what a day of racing they were treated to. 76 runners fairly evenly spread across the eight-race card and some races which would not have looked out of place on a professional stage. Gerald Bailey’s training team enjoyed a double, winning the Mens Open and Nine-year-olds and upwards races, while Claire Hardwick scored an impressive victory in the Ladies.
First, though, I must pay testament to the hard work done by Clerk of Course Brian Crawford and his team to make the ground raceable. Volunteers from all the Garthorpe Hunts were on course during the run-up to the weekend covering take-offs and landings and doing their utmost to save an important fixture in the calendar. We were blessed with strong sunshine from the outset which helped to warm up the surface in time for the scheduled 12-noon start. The hard work was returned in kind by keepers and owners who travelled from far and wide to provide us with quality racing. Thank you to everyone who took the risk and set off before we were able to confirm whether the ground was raceable.
A field of ten came to post for the opener, the Garthorpe Hunts Conditions Race, including well-rated horses. Much of the running was done by Ignite A Light (Alex Vaughan-Jones) who led until the field turned for home round the final bend. Here the nine-year-old grey In A Blue Dust, the mount of Archie Wright, took over and rode away well to take the race by nearly three lengths. It was an appropriate victory as the owner, his Father Nick, is the Cottesmore Hunt Chairman. This is the second win of the season for this team. Favourite Extreme Appeal looked well placed but made a mistake three out and never got back to the front, while relative outsider Merrydown Black impressed in second. Love Manhattan (Tom Chatfeild-Roberts) was third.
If the first race shook up the ratings a little, the PPORA Club Members Race for Novice Riders race, which followed, went exactly by the book. 6/4 favourite Bayley’s Dream (Billy Aprahamian) paced the leaders throughout the race before taking with five or six fences to jump. He was chased home by Ballycahane (Milo Herbert) who looked at one point as though he might upset the orders but trailed the winner by a length at the line. Crowded Room (Callum Bickers-Price) was third. Winning owner John Aprahamian confirmed that they would be back to Garthorpe for the Quorn meeting to contest the Dodson & Horrell Novice Rider final.
The Mens Open was next and provided a great race, primarily between Mrs Moody’s TheTalkingHorse and Robert Waley-Cohen’s Facile Bien (Sam Waley-Cohen). Despite looking off the pace at a couple of points during the race, the Gerald Bailey-trained TheTalkingHorse proved to have too much for the younger Facile Bien, despite carrying an extra four pounds. Top-rated starter Ardkilly Witness was third a few lengths behind these.[Full set of images from the meeting – Cottesmore Point-to-point at Garthorpe]
There were a few surprises in the Ladies Open, which was next. The field was a strong one, as we would expect, with Queen Olivia (Miss L. Tickle) and Popaway (Miss I. Robinson) leading the market as they came to post. What followed, though, was an impressive display of speed from the relatively youthful Golden Tobouggan (Mrs C. Hardwick) who hit the front and stayed there, throughout. When challenged a couple out by L’Eldorado (Miss M. Micklewright) the leader found more and held on well to win by two lengths, with Popaway trailing off in third.
The Conditions race for nine-year-old and upwards horses was the next to go and here we saw an impressive display by Mr Madeit (George Greenock). Having led for early parts of the race he was headed with three fences to jump and looked to have lost out to Rockinrolldixie (Alex Edwards) and Gunmoney (John Russell), but the Diana Ralph-trained Rockinrolldixie ran out of steam before the last and Mr Madeit found enough to rally again and win by three lengths. Arkose (Will Thirlby) was third by about the same distance.
Longer-odds horses were victorious in the Restricted as Mirs Choice (Miss S. Bowen) and Quirky Kirky (Philip Armson) took first and second at 14/1 and 25/1 respectively. The running had been made by Castle Cheetah (Miss A. Stirling) who looked strong until two fences from home where they weakened, allowing Mirs Choice, who had been completely off the pace at one point, to come past and win by two lengths. Second-placed Quirky Kirky couldn’t quicken enough to overhaul the winner.
The plethora of maiden entries for this meeting meant the race had to split into two divisions with ten runners in each. The first of these was won well by Top Garry (Miss P. Fuller), a recent arrival in the Harkin yard. Left slightly behind by the end of the second lap they started to make progress during the third, taking the lead before the last fence and pulling clear of the competition on the run in. Aint No Limits (S. Lee) was second by six lengths, Dulwich Hill (Tom Chatfeild-Roberts) third.
The second division produced the most comfortable winner of the day as Encounter A Giant (Alex Edwards) took the lead with two to jump and ran out well to win easily. Thomas Todd (Tom Strawson) was second with Unseen (Rory Bevin) in third. The low sun on the back straight meant that the three fences on that stretch were taken out for this second division, something which may have played into the hands of the first and second horses, both of whom have some bumper form in their blood.
The next Midlands area fixture is Revesby Races, at Revesby Park, on the 10th March. As usual there are e-tickets available online from our shop.