Salsify Wins Clash of the Titans
A trip across the Irish Sea once again proved worthwhile for the Sweeney Family's Salsify as the Festival winner landed Stratford's Foxhunters Champion Hunters' Chase.
The race was something of a clash between Cheltenham titans; the 2011 Foxhunter victor Zemsky was amongst the 14 contenders lining up to take on the reigning champ, who was once again partnered by Colman Sweeney, whose parents own and train the Beneficial gelding.
Looking a picture in the paddock it was no surprise to see Salsify sent off the 6/4F, though as at Prestbury Park, his backers were made to sweat as the pair once again played out most of the race at the rear.
Sweeney remained confident throughout however, and after taking the lead at the last, proved impossible to peg back by runner-up That's Rhythm under Nick Wakefield. Oca De Thaix gave his connections plenty of cause for celebration when third at 100/1, seven lengths ahead of Postmaster.While the result was a popular one for punters and fully deserved by Salsify, for those whose heart was ruling their heads a win by Southwestern would have brought the house down.
Twice a winner in the race, including last year, and having also claimed the Champion Novices' Hunters' Chase on this card in 2007, Stratford has been a happy hunting ground for the 13-year-old, who since March 2010 has never finished out of the first two between the flags.
Five wins from six starts this season have ensured The Exmoor Partners' runner will be remembered at his very best, and his seventh place at Stratford on Friday behind the next generation of hunter chasers is a fitting way for Southwestern to bow out and hand over the baton.Earlier in the evening the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Novices' Hunters' Chase showcased those lining up ready to battle Salsify and company in years to come, and such is the quality and quantity of young Hunter Chasers this season a ballot was needed to reduce the field after the 21 declarations exceeded the safety factor.
Impressive Warwick Hunter Chase winner Monkerty Tunkerty earned 5/4 favouritism, though was without his rider from that day Jessica Westwood, following her career-ending fall in March. Westwood was on hand to see her charge however, as she also owns and trains the nine-year-old from her Minehead base.
Josh Guerriero took the ride on her behalf, and though two out the pair looked well-placed to take the title, the Steve Flook-trained Rumbury Grey finished the stronger horse after challenging for the lead turning for home.
Rob Jarrett sat tight as the Overbury gelding pecked on landing after the last, driving him home to win by 11 lengths. Last year's leading horse Findlay's Find finished a further four lengths back in third, his rider Nick Williams in the colours more regularly carried by stablemate Lady Myfanwy, who had earlier finished a respectable fifth in the Weekender-sponsored Ladies' Hunters' Chase, won by the very promising Leanda Tickle on board Oslot.As the weekend commenced and Diamond Jubilee celebrations got underway across the country, Point-to-Pointing made the most of its last Bank Holiday weekend with meetings held over three of the four days.
Fresh from her Stratford victory, Tickle returned to the winners' enclosure less than 24 hours later when booked as emergency pilot for Chesnut Annie, after the mare's regular partner Sally Randell was held up in traffic on route to Bratton Down.
Making a rare trip outside of Wales, Beth Roberts's prolific winner lined up alongside Light Touch and Kilrogan in the Exmoor Ladies Open race, unsurprisingly sent off at 1-5F. Having no doubt received instructions from Randell, the new partnership made all to easily draw clear three from home to win unchallenged. The victory takes her to the top once again in the National leading horse standings, this season's seven wins one ahead of My Old Piano, who the following day missed his chance to draw level at the Cheshire meeting.Tabley was the venue for the North West Area's final fixture, and it was the Mixed Open in which Tom Bannister's Dr Massini gelding was unable to match the performance of Glidewell, the odds-on favourite finishing 20 lengths adrift of Neale Dalton's charge.
The winner was partnered by Jane Williams, with whom Jacqueline Coward is currently locked in battle for the National ladies championship. Williams had just two rides on the Sunday, having posted a third in the preceding Club Members event on the South African-bred Lagosta behind Time Gentlemen and Broken Reed in first and second respectively.
A double at Chaddesley Corbett's Albrighton Woodland fixture the following day however took her tally to 21 with just three meetings to go. A walk over in the Hunt race provided the first leg, her mount Murphys Fusilier also reappearing in the Club Members conditions race where the pair proved no match for Midnight King and Peter Mann, though went down by just a head to runners-up Nobby Kivambo and Mark Wall.
It was the rejuvenated Surenaga who provided the second win, whose recent bounce back to form has pleased trainer Phillip Rowley. After making headway from the seventh, the ten-year-old led from four out to easily account for runner-up Hazeymm and third-placed Porters War in the seven strong Ladies Open contest.Her friend and rival Coward had a less successful weekend in her bid for the title, punctuated by the disappointment of disqualification after winning the Haydon's Mixed Open at Hexham on Sunday.
Pairing up with AGA Ladies Final Champion Amicelli, Coward made all in the race to win by a length and a half from fellow joint favourite Buckstruther, but after weighing out at just 12st instead of 12st5lb, the pair were disqualified and the race awarded to Jamie Hamilton and his mount, with See You There and Victor promoted to second and third respectively.
Coward's first ride of the afternoon, Alforone, was pulled up when tailed off in the 3m Maiden, while a fourth place on Once Before in the Intermediate also failed to boost her tally.
Heading to Chaddesley Corbett the next day alongside Williams, Coward's three rides again drew a blank; Chancery Lad and Roko Dancer failed to complete in the Club Members Conditions and Restricted respectively, while Laertes posted a place behind Maletton and Iochtaran in the Club Members, Maletton giving Henry Phillips his second career success.
At the close of play on Monday Williams held a five win lead, but with a strong team behind both, this championship looks sure to play out right down to the wire.The Berks & Bucks Draghounds meeting at Kingston Blount, famous for its mid-afternoon hound race which this year went to Treason, heralded the close of the South Midlands season, and with it, the Area championships.
Despite missing out on the final day when his Intermediate mount Viel Gluck failed to peg back Medic after staying on well, Joe Hill had already secured the Novice Riders' prize following his nine wins so far, while Fly Direct secured his father Alan the owners' prize, the latter also recipient of the Area Trainer's award.
More poignant however was the winner of the Lady Riders' championship; Heather Kemp, totalling six victories between the flags this season, had 24 hours earlier hung up her boots for the last time after an eight length triumph in the Fernie Four Miler Mixed Open at Dingley, a fitting way to bring her 21 year career to a close. Her mount, Gidam
Gidam, has been responsible for two of her tally this season, matched by stablemates Or Bleu and Ungaro.
Two places on the day for Johnny Bailey, on board Legendtino behind Millarky in the Confined Maiden, and Lady Barack second to Hansom Prophet in the Restricted, earned him enough points to secure a last minute victory over Richard Armson in the Area Men's title.
Back at Kingston Blount, Clare Wills made a winning return to the saddle after breaking her wrist and ankle in a schooling fall earlier this season, partnering Steven Astaire's Cutlass Silver to victory in the Ladies Open. Leading owner Alan Hill's Balladeer was sent off a warm favourite, but failed to catch the leaders before finishing third, three lengths adrift of Network Oscar.Popular Hunter Chaser Whizzaar returned to the pointing scene with a bang at Upcott Cross, holding the favourite Special Account by half a length. The winner, partnered by Richard Woollacott, made all in the South Tetcott Mens Open, repelling the strong challenge of Neil Harris and his mount.
The Ladies event saw a similarly close finish as Doof secured back to back wins in the race, though this time it was Vicky Wade, not former partner Jo Buck, who was on board to secure the victory. Havenstone was unable to provide Leanda Tickle with another winner for the weekend in second, with ladies specialist Rainbow Tree back in third.The weekend's final meeting, the Countryside Alliance Club (Wales), was treated to better weather than most for the Area's closing fixture. Lady Dudley Cup winner Rosies Peacock returned to top form in the Mixed Open after defeat last month at the hands, or rather hooves, of Findlay's Find.
Six lined for the contest, but just two crossed the line, Midnight Diamond eight lengths adrift of the winner and John Mathias. The nine-year-old had originally been intended as a runner at Stratford on Friday, but was one of the five balloted out of the Champion Novices' Hunters' Chase.
The aforementioned Fly Direct had made the journey west for this meeting, but found the locally trained Oakfield Legend five lengths too strong in the Club Members race, leaving Joe Hill still tied with Harry Bannister in the National Novice standings as the Jubilee weekend drew to a close.
Two meetings are due to be held this weekend, Saturday's Pembrokeshire fixture followed by the Tiverton Staghounds on Sunday. Following that, the season's traditional closing fixture, the Torrington Farmers, run at Umberleigh.
Saturday 9th June
Pembrokeshire at Trecoed (Pembrokeshire): 1st race - 2.00pm; 6 races - 89 entries.
Sunday 10th June
Tiverton Staghounds at Bratton Down (Devon): 1st race - 2.00pm; 6 races - 102 entries.