Red Watch Cracks Tough Nut
A new contender for most surprising result of the season emerged on Saturday after the National leading horse Chesnut Annie found herself in front of the third-placed marker following Pembrokeshire's Ladies Open, a spot she hasn't filled between the flags since her second outing back in February 2006.
A week after the 11-year-old scored at Bratton Down under Novice-title chaser Leanda Tickle, a last-minute booking owing to regular pilot Sally Randell encountering Bank Holiday traffic issues, Beth Roberts's mare turned out again under current leader Charlotte Prichard, who was hoping to extend her lead as the season rapidly draws to a close.
Sent off 2-11F an eighth win of the campaign seemed expected by the watching crowd, but even the best of athletes have off days (ask Andy Murray!) and seemingly Saturday was one of Chesnut Annie's.
Out in front early on before losing her lead at the fifth, the mare was clearly not on a going day as she crossed the line over four lengths adrift of winners Red Watch and Hannah Lewis, the pair sent off as 6-1 second favourites. Little Miss Monty, without a win since last June when beating the odds-on City Breeze in a match, looked set to remedy that but was caught near the finish by Lewis and her mount.The earlier Mens Open followed the script to the letter, odds-on favourite Misamon, under leading Area rider John Mathias, duly overturning three 6-1 shots, whilst Young Albert, sent off 16-1, pulled up when tailed off. The win takes Misamon, who is also trained by Mathias, to joint second in the National leading horse table alongside My Old Piano on six apiece.
A typical front-running performance saw the nine-year-old make all around the course over which Mathias was leading rider last season, beating Dai Rees's Major Decision into second by two and a half lengths under promising novice Wayne Maskill, three of whose five wins this season are thanks to the Saddler's Hall gelding.
Jubilee Bank Holiday winner Tom Bach was unable to mount a challenge on the leaders when remaining one-paced in the closing stages, passing the post eight lengths adrift in third, with final finisher Ben Tally Ho a further 15 lengths behind.
Former Rules runner Dunbrody House completed a hat-trick for the season when easily accounting for this two rivals in the Hunt Members race under Darach Skelly, his first outing since winning a very competitive Mens Open back in May, and a 17 runner Confined the week before. Makena had taken a brief lead in the early stages, but after being headed by Skelly's mount was unable to mount another challenge, finishing a 10 length second, while Paradise Point as a tailed off third.Sunday hosted the season's penultimate meeting, the Tiverton Staghounds at Bratton Down. Leading lady rider Jane Williams made the journey from her Worcestershire base to take up a single engagement at the track, on board Dick Baimbridge's Shernally, who had already provided the rider with four wins this campaign.
Though sent off odds-on for the Ladies Open, the outcome of the race was no certainty as Light Touch (Vicky Wade), John Daniell (Amanda Bush) and Ha Ho Magregor (Suzy Berry) all made valiant efforts throughout in a bid to deny Williams her 22nd win; none were to succeed however as the ten-year-old ran on well in the closing stages to confirm her ability.The battle for leading Novice has been an exciting one from start to finish, with an exceptional crop of up-and-coming riders seen on the course this year. Sunday's Mens Open saw that battle continued on a much smaller scale as joint leaders Joe Hill and Harry Bannister were both found within the seven contenders.
In a similar fashion to the subsequent Ladies race, a changeable lead saw both in front at various times during the three miles; Bannister's mount Ganbei, 3-1F, made steady headway to take the lead four from home, but after being headed approaching the last, quickly weakened to finish a ten length fifth.
Hill fared better on Ocean Du Moulin, the regular mount of his sister Gaby, but after taking the lead from Bannister was caught on the finish by Mark Wall and Arbour Hill, going down by half a length, Certain Flight filling third four lengths adrift. The result leaves both riders still on nine wins each, and with just one meeting left, this is one battle that will go right down to the wire.
Will Biddick may have the National Men's title wrapped up, and has done so for some weeks, but that certainly hasn't stopped him turning out in a bid to win a few more; Sunday proved not to his day however, as all three mounts failed to make the frame. Flanshan posted a fourth in the Mens Open, a position also filled by Wassonthen in the Restricted, won by Mister Moonax. Derniere Dance, now in his fourth season, set the tone for the day when a long way fifth in the Open Maiden, in which Molland Gayle got off the mark on her 13th outing.
Next week sees the final fixture of 2011/12. The Torrington Farmers, hosted by Umberleigh, have taken their place as curtain-closer for decades, and do so with a great 'end of term' atmosphere. Pointing fans from across the country make an annual pilgrimage to the Devon course, where an excellent entry for this year's meeting includes both local favourites and well-travelled raiders, while the outcome of the afternoon will settle both Novice rider titles in what is set to be a thrilling finish.
Saturday 16th June
Torrington Farmers at Umberleigh (Devon): First race - 2.00pm; 6 races - 109 entries