The Meynell & South Staffs brought the curtain down on possibly their longest season ever with an evening meeting at Garthorpe to take advantage of the start of the extended Jubilee weekend. The going was good after a refreshing amount of rain in the run-up and the six-race card was bookended by local winners for long term supporters in the form of the Bevin family and Nick and Laura Pomfrets.
In between the results went the other way entirely, with a treble going to Luke Price and James King, taking the latter four winners clear of Will Biddick in the National Jockey Championship.
Before all that we had four pony races to start the evening.
The first was a race for those who hadn’t qualified for the championship races which followed and after an unfortunate false start which saw three ponies expend a lot of valuable energy, it was 16-year-old Billy Louchnane and Annie R U OK who were victorious.
After this we moved on to races which were championship finals, the culmination of a whole season of point-to-point course qualifiers, very generously sponsored by Treehouse Sporting Colours.
The first was for Novice riders on mixed height ponies and this produced a remarkable turnaround. When the starter brought down their flag the grey Tincho was facing in the wrong direction and lost a considerable amount of distance on the leaders. 10-year-old jockey Harley Blackwood navigated the pair back to the field and picked off the opposition one-by-one until a furlong to go when they eased in front of the last two to the cheers of onlookers.
A tearful but delighted Blackwood then jumped on Africa to compete in the next race, the 138cms Open Championship but this time it was 12-year-old Albert Man and Bombay Moonstone who won after a good finish with Myla Coppins, riding Maesteg Ruth, with Gil Holman and Tigga in third behind them.
The 148cm Open Championship went to Rosie Cooke on her 8-year-old bay mare Follow The Fox. Second place went to Eliza McPherson and She’s A Lady, and third to Follow The Star under some very familiar colours worn by Jude Brace. We saw some really tidy race riding in these pony races and hope that as many as possible of these talented young riders continue to race when they move up onto horses.
The first horse race of the evening turned up a bit of a surprise when William and Louise Bevin’s Wayupinthebox got up to lead at the start of the final straight and held on well to beat the odds-on favourite Roevin Star (Henry Crow) into second by half a length, with Direct Flight (Will Biddick) twelve lengths behind in third. Wayupinthebox’s victory was perhaps even more remarkable when we consider that it was touch and go as to whether the twelve-year-old gelding would ever race again after a hoof injury was picked up on a day’s hunting, which he will now go back to enjoying in his retirement.
The next three races were dominated by the Luke Price stable and Champion Jockey elect James King, who scored a treble in little over an hour.
The first of these was the PPORA Club Members Conditions, a match race between Lords Park Star (Paddy Barlow), hoping to provide another local winner for Nick and Laura Pomfret, and Spencer Moon. the talented pointer bought at Exeter Sale for £500, looking for his fifth consecutive winner. Not your typically cagey match race, Lords Park Star led this one for much of the race and wasn’t really out of touch until turning back onto the final straight, when Spencer Moon showed his class and won with ease.
The Intermediate race which followed was a quick and one-sided affair as odds-on favourite Captain Mc overpowered a rather indolent Beauvallon Bay (Tom Chatfeild-Roberts) to win in an impressive time of 6m 10s despite carrying an extra 5lb.
There was no time for post-race interviews as James King was quickly legged-up onto the next Luke Price contender, Jack Dillinger in the Mixed Open. This time favourite status belonged to multiple course winner Badbad Leroy Brown, looking to make up for an unfortunate fall at the last when set to win here at the Melton Hunt Club meeting. The Alan Hill-trained Tidal Flow (Ben Sutton) made much of the running in this quick race, but faded with three to jump, leaving Kilbrew Boy (Charlie Case), Badbad Leroy Brown (Zac Baker) and Jack Dillinger (James King) to battle it out. King’s mount went on to win by 15 lengths leaving Kilbrew Boy and Badbad Leroy Brown to battle it out and finish a length apart in that order.
The Novice Rider Conditions Series has been popular all season, always providing good fields and some excellent performances from young jockeys and more established horses. This meeting’s race produced one of the fastest times of the day as Commanche Red romped home by ten lengths under Freddie Gordon, beating favourite Ballydonagh Boy (Rosie Howarth) into second and Stay Out Of Court (Jessica Smith) in third. “He was a good horse under rules, but lost his way” trainer Jenny Gordon told me, “but we nearly didn’t make it today after we had a blow out on the M1!” In the end a long trip from Hampshire was worthwhile.
It was fitting that the last race of the season was won by local trainers and long-term supporters of point-to-point racing in the area, Nick and Laura Pomfret. Nick is one of the unsung heroes who helps to erect and move the extensive irrigation system at Garthorpe which enables racing at this time of year to take place on such good ground. They have two horses in training, the first of which, Lords Park Star, ran earlier in the card for a creditable second place. The other is Courtly Love which won the 2m 4f Maiden race under Paddy Barlow – giving him a double on the card – in fine fashion, making all the running. Lord Daresbury’s Huriel was second and Bite My Tongue (J. W. Stevenson) was in third place.
We will update this website with dates for next season as soon as we have them confirmed – several fixtures have opted to move to very different dates so this will be a different looking season next year.