The Fernie race meeting at Dingley traditional hosts the Midlands Area Feature race, the Fernie Four-miler, and the 2022 renewal did not disappoint.
Large crowds descended on the village of Dingley, just east of Market Harborough, to make the most of the Spring sunshine and enjoy an entertaining afternoon of amateur jump racing, browse an extensive shopping village, place some bets and perhaps even have a drink or two while the children played at the fun fair.
Preparing a course for good, safe horse racing at this time of year, especially after the recent spell of very dry weather, is not straightforward. Each area of ground absorbs water at different rates and irrigating to ensure that the ground is consistently “good” all around the course requires hard work and extensive knowledge of evaporation rates.
“This ground is as good as you could get anywhere this weekend,” local trainer Gerald Bailey said. “The watering that has been done is here is the best I have ever seen at Dingley. [Clerk of the Course] Charles Millington and Conor Clowes have done an excellent job. Very professional.”
It was testament to that opinion that Annabel England, whose partner Simon Claisse was the Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham for over twenty years, ran her horse Robin Why Not in the big race of the day.
The runners in the Welland Valley Feeds Fernie Four-Miler did not set a blistering pace in the early stages as Nick Pearce-trained Mr Love and England’s Robin Why Not were tracked around by Dale Peters on Early Retirement, trained by Gerald Bailey.
Moving into the lead in the latter stages, Early Retirement seemed to spot the entry and exit gate on the course just in front of the last fence, allowing Robin Why Not to catch up and jump the fence side by side. “The slow pace did us a favour,” said Bailey, “as Early Retirement is not really a four-mile horse. I thought we might have lost it at the last there, but luckily Dale [Peters] is one of the best jockeys in the trade, and he got him re-focussed to bring him home in front.”
Aunty Joan (Charlie Case) made all the running on the second lap to win the Watling JCB Owner/Trainer PPORA Members race which started the day as she liked. This was a welcome return to form for the twelve-year-old filly, trained by Richard Pringuer, who last won here at the same meeting three years ago, and who has had three second-place finishes in her last five outings.
Visitors to the last meeting at Dingley, on Easter Saturday, were treated to an impressive display by Precious Bounty, as Ellie Callwood won easily on her Mother’s eight-year-old in the Novice Riders Conditions race. Hardly surprising, then, that this combination went off as odds-on favourites for the Charles Stanley-sponsored equivalent race at this meeting. Sadly, though, the five-race unbeaten record was not to be extended here, as Grageelagh Girl (Macy Genco) won this time, for Fergal O’Brien. “Probably a race too many for Precious Bounty this season,” trainer Tom Ellis explained, “he didn’t pick up like normal, and I imagine it’s because he’s coming to the end of a long year.”
Dale Peters completed a quickfire double in the Sharnford Tractors Restricted race, immediately after his win in the four-miler. This time Peters was both jockey and trainer of My Uncas, recent winner in the conditions race at the Woodland with Pytchley meeting three weeks ago, as they continued a run of form.
The Newton LDP Veteran Horse Conditions race was won alone by Spanish Fleet, the long time ride of ex-Pytchley and now South Shropshire Huntsman Dan Cherriman, trained by Elisabeth Collins, and the Travis Perkins Maiden was won by Friary Land, trained by Annabel Murphy and ridden by Oliver Boyden for his first success between the flags to fulfil a lifelong ambition.
The next Midlands Area meeting is in a fortnight’s time as the Melton Hunt Club hosts their meeting at Garthorpe, just outside Melton Mowbray, on the 22nd May. The following Saturday, 28th May, we will be back here for the last Dingley fixture this season, hosted by The Fitzwilliam. Tickets for both meetings can be purchased in advanced for a reduced price from the Midlands Pointing Shop – https://www.midlandspointing.com/shop/.