THE first Cornish fixture of the season saw a healthy total of 54 runners contest the seven races at the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge.
Heavy squally showers and a strong wind put the emphasis on stamina with the ground getting softer by the minute.
Each of the Open races attracted quality fields with the useful seven-year-old Thomas Campbell transferring his smart National Hunt form to pointing in winning the R J Trevarthen sponsored Ladies' in the fastest time of the day. Chloe Emsley was content to bide her time on the ex-Nicky Henderson trained gelding until swooping on the favourite The Last But One half way up the run in. The 23-year-old jockey rides this track well having partnered five of her nine career winners at the showground. "He is different class and got there so easily. He was very quick over his fences," exclaimed the rider. Explaining Thomas Campbell's switch to pointing, Ottery St Mary trainer Ed Walker said, "He is not very big and his owner Richard Kelvin-Hughes, who is actually part of the new syndicate, thought he was too high in the handicap."
The Moore St Wenn Men's Open developed into a battle between two leading Devon & Cornwall Area jockeys, with Darren Edwards just coming off best as Navanman stayed on gamely up the hill to deny Will Biddick's mount El Bandit. "He jumped grand and kept finding," said the winning rider. Navanman has been a consistent and genuine performer over the past two seasons for Okehampton trainer John Heard who handles the ten-year-old for a syndicate of family and friends. "He picked up an injury at Upcott Cross to end his campaign in April, doing a suspensory, and had six months off. Luckily he didn't get too fat in the field during the summer." reported the trainer, who has his eye on a Buckfastleigh race next month if the ground stays soft.
Both divisions of the Open Maiden went to long distance travellers. The Waterside Meadery sponsored part went to Voie Dans Voie, trained at Barbury Castle by Laura Thomas for her father Norman. The six-year-old showed the benefit of a recent Cottenham run in beating fellow joint favourite Queens Legacy. "He was a bit short of work at Cottenham. We bought him out of near neighbour Alan King's yard at Doncaster after he had gone a bit sour under rules," remarked the trainer. 20-year-old Will Thirlby, who works for Alan King, had the mount on the winner and reported, "He jumped really well and got there so easily."
The Nare Hotel Open Maiden division was run in almost gale force conditions with lashing rain and hail which severely restricted visibility. "I used two pairs of goggles and still couldn't see properly," summed up the difficulties of successful jockey James Jeavons, who brought the well backed Phoenix Park to pass Mustmeetforapint and Mrs Davies on the climb to the judge. The mud spattered winning jockey said, "He will improve for this. The plan was to drop him out. He winged the third last and the second last and kept finding," One of seven pointers in Joanne Priest's Upton on Severn yard, Phoenix Park was showing the benefit of his recent Cottenham outing.
Peterbrown provided a shock local success in the Humfrey Small Traders Conditions race for Veteran and Novice riders. Starting as the unconsidered 33-1 outsider of the six runners, the North Cornwall 11-year-old Peterbrown has proved the ideal schoolmaster for his owner / trainer / rider Holly-Anne Drowne over the last two years. On this occasion he stayed on in the gamest fashion in the mud to give his 21-year-old rider her first ever success. "I knew he would stay and he jumped so well," said Holly-Anne who works for the Jackie Du Plessis yard at Saltash, and is a cousin to local point-to-point jockey Lee Drowne, as well as former leading flat jockey Steve Drowne.
The last two races also went to lady jockeys. By this time a very soft patch of ground meant the omission of the last fence, but this did not stop Goldbury from winning the Exeter racecourse Intermediate qualifier under Natalie Parker. All 11 starters completed the course with the progressive Goldbury, now in the care of the winning jockey's sister Laura, just fending off the late run of The Roestone, with the free running Bubble O'Clock a close third. "She idled a bit at the bottom of the hill but picked up quickly," reported the winning rider who is a pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls. Goldbury could head to the Exeter Intermediate Final of this popular event.
The Tinkers Catering Restricted rounded off the card and saw a potentially smart seven-year-old mare in Neetside carry off the prize. Millie Wonnacott sent her mount into a clear lead on the bottom bend and had eight lengths to spare at the post. "She is by Getaway and we bought her as a yearling when horses by that sire were a bit cheaper than now. Although she was a lovely little filly she was so wild then," said Bude based owner / trainer Jill Dennis.