Visitors to the Dingley racecourse for the Fitzwilliam meeting on Saturday were treated to some excellent racing and brilliant individual performances.
The recent run of dry weather and the late stage in the point-to-point racing season might have made it difficult to attract runners, but the incredible hard work of the ground maintenance team at Dingley produced a perfect racing surface and the trainers responded to ensure we had competitive racing across the card.
There was a double on the card for the James Owen stable, based in Newmarket, and their jockey Alex Chadwick, the first of which was in the first race of the day, the Conditions race, sponsored kindly by Polyco Healthline. Their nine-year-old gelding Fiddler of Dooney won this one for them to beat Bawnmore, the mount of Gina Andrews, by eight lengths, with Sum It Up a couple of lengths behind them. Favourite and local horse My Uncas was back in fourth place on this occasion.
The bookmakers might have done well out of the first race but the Stacks Property Search PPORA Club Members Race for horses of 8-years-old and over which came next went very much to form as Present Ranger won by twenty-odd lengths under Immy Robinson for Tik Saunders and owner Sheena Harris, who scored her first winner after 38 years as an owner. Poncherello, second favourite and second through the flags, ran well and may look to run again for Tim Garton at the final meeting of the season at Garthorpe on the 1st June.
The third race was the Mens Open, a two-horse race, and one of those tactical match races which can go either way on the day. Dale Peters riding the Gerald Bailey-trained Early Retirement, a winner here already this season, led the way from For Rita and James King, racing for Francesca Poste at a predictably steady pace for the first couple of circuits but when King asked the mare to push on after the open ditch on the final lap, they looked to have the race won. Early Retirement wasn’t beaten yet, though and the final two obstacles made it clear that neither horse was going to be able to make a break away. They jumped the last absolutely together and it was only in the run-in that Peters was able to put a single length between Early Retirement and For Rita to produce a great finish which really got the crowds going.
The Ladies Open which followed this was rather more one-sided, as Shona Westrope’s Dundrum Wood (Gina Andrews), three times a winner already this season, produced another good run to beat Taafes Castle (Miss S. Kitts), who themselves put in an impressive performance, by seven lengths. Dry Ol’Party (Miss C. Emsley) was third some way behind these. “Gina rode him more positively than on his last outing today. He’s a really nice one to go to war with again next year. He’s got a big engine and a good jump on the whole as well. There is a decent race in him somewhere hunter chase-wise at some point.” Tom Ellis said.
This win gave Gina Andrews and Tom Ellis their 61st winner of the season as a training team, putting them way clear in the championship standings and breaking several records. It was Gina’s 47th winner of the season in point-to-point races.
The first of two maiden races was a conventional three-mile affair which saw the Luke Price-trained Aracaras start as a strong favourite with James King in the saddle. There was also money in the paddock for Ghostship, a five-year-old from the James Owen stable, and it turned out to be smart money, as Alex Chadwick rode away from the opposition with three obstacles to jump and the other runners were unable to respond. “He is the biggest baby, but his jumping has always been the best thing about him. He’s taken a long time just to fill out and strengthen up.” said Andrew Sansome, representing the trainer. Second place went to Taita Hills (Joe Wright), 30 lengths behind the winner, and Aracaras (James King) was ten lengths behind him.
The last race of the day was a 2 and a half mile maiden race which saw eight runners come to post but only seven raced, as Lennox Again (Henry Crow) refused to start. It also produced the highest-priced winner of the day, as 14/1 shot Argentinian-bred Escoltador (Alice Stevens) led for most if not all of the race to win for trainer Kelly Morgan and owners Tik Saunders and Sheena Harris. Yes, after 38 years of waiting Mrs Harris had two winners on the day. “London buses!” she said as she came into the winners enclosure.
Alice Stevens said, “He rode exceptionally green, so I just kept it simple and kept him in the middle. His jumping warmed up well and I winged the last two and when James came up alongside I gave him a squeeze and he was away again.”
We now move on to our last meeting of the season, at Garthorpe in the evening of Wednesday 1st June. Pony racing begins at 3.30pm and the first of six horse races is scheduled for 5.30pm. E-tickets at £12.50 will be available until 7pm on Tuesday evening but you will also be able to pay on the gate.