Point-to-point racing returned to its historical roots on Sunday 2nd May when the Feature Race for the Midlands Area, the Fernie Four-Miler, provided a maiden win for Agriculture student Billy Chatterton on the family’s own Minella Friend.
“I feel like he’s taught me everything,” Billy said of trainer Philip Rowley. “When I started at Harper Adams, we sent [Minella Friend] to Philip, who is only 20 minutes up the road. I’ve been riding out for him several days a week and learning so much.”
The 12-year-old, by King’s Theatre, was comfortable in victory, having tracked various leaders throughout the race, hitting the front at the open ditch with four to jump. Spanish Fleet, partnered by Dan Cherriman, was a strong contender in second place, having led for much of the race, and Attention Please (J. Gambin), in third, surely exceeded expectations. Much fancied Chase Me (Zac Baker) and One Conemara (Gina Andrews) finished in fourth and fifth.
The day’s racing had begun with two pony races. The 148cm opener was won by Charlie Maggs, aboard Pick Pocket, with Madame Mimi (Joe Leavy) and O’Flynn’s Daughter (Billy Loughnane) second and third. Bruce Vaughan won the 138cm race on The Gentle Touch, ahead of Mayday Black Mink (Mason Paetel) and Menedh Knight (Miley Jenkins).
Tommie O’Brien looked to have the PPORA Members Conditions race all sewn up when jumping Hawkhurst over the last several lengths ahead of long time leader, the Helen Connors-trained Smoke Man (Tom Chatfeild-Roberts). Three strides later, though, Hawkhurst seemed to stop dead in his tracks and lost all his momentum, allowing the eight-year-old, Gold Wells gelding, Smoke Man to catch and overtake him before the line. “We’ve always know Hawkhurst can do that, we just never know when it is going to happen,” trainer Alan Hill told me.
Tom Chatfeild-Roberts was understandably pleased with the performance of his father, John’s, Smoke Man. “He’s better than he looks on recent form,” he told me. “and this track suited him. I knew he’d stay well.”
The Novice Riders Conditions race went rather as expected as favourite Blazing Tom carried Natalya Irvine home a long way ahead of Billy Chatterton’s mount, the Chris Bealby-trained Inchcolm. Meisha Micklewright and Love Manhattan were third.
Irvine had previously won on this horse in the Mixed Open at Mollington but this time her parents Stephen and Gaynor had been able to watch in person. “We actually broke the sofa,” Stephen said, “because I was jumping up and down on it watching the live stream from Mollington.” Trainer, Tom Ellis, said “He’s a great little horse. I saw him advertised on Facebook and thought he might be perfect for Natalya to ride.” On the basis of this display they should have good times ahead.
The Restricted race saw a good close finish, between The Triple Pillar, trained by Gerald Bailey and ridden by stable jockey Tom McClorey, and Aclassagold, ridden by Zac Baker for Martin Wanless. The former, wearing cheek pieces as an experiment was victorious by just over a length. Halloween Harry (James Martin) was third for James Ridley.
A well supported conditions race for nine-year-old and over horses produced a popular win for local trainer Louise Bevin with Wayupinthebox, ridden by Jack Andrews for the first time. They finished three lengths clear of Lisheen Prince (Izzie Marshall) and Bardista (Tom McClorey) was third.
“He carried me everywhere and was very straightforward,” said Andrews of the 11-year-old, which hadn’t won since 2017. “His form doesn’t do him justice,” Rory Bevin told me, “We actually hadn’t decided whether he would run here or at Fakenham in the hunter chase, but I did the entries on my phone while I was riding and somehow forgot to press Enter for the Fakenham entry. So we didn’t have much choice!”
Jack Andrews had two runners on the card and the second completed a quick fire double for him. This time he triumphed on Pollards Fen, for David and Victoria Phelan, in the first division of the Maiden, beating Everything Now (Alexandra Ingram) by ten lengths, with Robin Is Ready (Miss R. Grissell) two lengths behind them in third. This was the winner’s third start, and the first over three miles, and they will probably look for a restricted at Garthorpe next.
The second division of the Maiden was won by a significant margin by favourite Fier Jaguen, ridden and trained by Bradley Gibbs for Julian Sherriff. It was not all plain sailing, though, as, having made all the running, the six-year-old chestnut made a mistake at the last and Gibbs did well to stay put. “He’s a promising horse.” Gibbs said, “We were unlucky to win and then be disqualified for missing a marker at Chaddesley Corbett, and then we were beaten by a good Ellis Horse at Aldington.”
Midlands Area pointing now has a three-week hiatus before the next of our Garthorpe meetings, on the 23rd May. Spectators will hopefully be welcome at that meeting. More details to follow.