AFTER the suspension of point-to-point racing due to COVID, and the need to hold meetings behind closed doors, the Dulverton West fixture welcomed back a crowd of paying enthusiasts, together with a strong line of bookmakers, for their Monday evening fixture at Bratton Down (May 17th)
On an evening when the sun seemed to rise to the occasion by illuminating the scenic Exmoor backcloth, and with a racecourse atmosphere that had been lacking for so long, spectators were treated to some very exciting finishes.
Know the Score had been dropped in class after his recent Cheltenham hunter chase effort, and started a shade of odds-on when landing the Brends Hotel Mixed Open over an extended four miles.
After racing stride for stride for most of the journey with Imogen's Thunder, Martin ("Fly") McIntyre poached a handy lead on Know the Score at the last, but was all out up the stamina sapping final climb to hold the rallying Imogen's Thunder (Charlie Sprake) by half a length.
"He battled well. We got into a lovely rhythm and I was happy all the way," reported the jockey, who had walked away from a crunching fall at Edgcote on the previous day.
Leslie Jefford trains the eight-year-old ex-David Pipe inmate for the Angove family and said, "We took him to Cheltenham and it didn't work out. He is very genuine but not experienced with his fencing yet."
There was an even closer finish to the 12-runner Mardon Recycling Machinery Maiden which went to Jimmy Snipe by a "nose". One third of the field were eliminated when a loose horse barged into them on the bottom bend at half way. By this time Businessman was out in front under Darren Edwards, but the seven-year-old could not sustain the gallop and was running on empty at the end only to be caught by 33-1 outsider Jimmy Snipe (Darren Andrews) on the line.
Owned by Lucinda Tylor, the lightly raced winner is from the family of 1988 Grand National hero Rhyme 'N' Reason, but came into the race with three non-completions from his early season exploits. "We tried a change of tactics today to more front running. He always jumps well but found it challenging and it's taken a long time with him," explained Danielle Kenealy, who was saddling her first winner since her partner Joe Tickle took out a full licence.
The judge's winning verdict of a nose cropped up again in the following Sandhill Racing Conditions race as Minim Mouse (Josh Newman) was adjudged to have held on by that amount as Coningsby charged at her in the dying strides.
Minim Mouse was bred by her owner Gail Dare and is trained by Chloe Newman at Woolminstone near Crewkerne. "We had to treat her for gastric ulcers and it has made a massive difference. She will go on holiday now," said the trainer. Josh Newman reported, "She really enjoyed it and jumped well but I got there miles too soon."
Ottery St Mary trainer Ed Walker saddled first and third in the Andrew Maddox Restricted race. The winner Dancing Dave was only fifth jumping the last, but stormed up the hill to give jockey Chloe Emsley her sixth winner of the season in a bunched finish. "I knew he would stay and the hill suited him," reported the jockey, who is enjoying her best season. The winner runs in the colours of Stuart Jarrett, whose wife owns third placed Minella Beag.
The gallant Wotzizname stayed on strongly to hold Skylander in the Totnes & Bridgetown PPORA Conditions race for nine-year-olds and over. This was a first winning ride for 17-year-old Megan Bevan who works for the Colin Tizzard yard. The elated young recruit from the pony racing circuit said, "This was my sixth ride and I thought I had a chance when we jumped the open ditch. The pace was very quick and I saved enough energy to get home. He picked up well for me."
Cranmore based Sarah Gould trains the winner, a family owned 11-year-old who was successful under rules in his younger days for Harry Fry's yard. Wotzizname was nicely backed from 10's to 7's but the unplaced odds-on favourite Dr Time, ridden by championship chasing James King, was in trouble after an early mistake.
The King and Francesca Nimmo combination fared better in the concluding James Pryce Tractors Intermediate thanks to the progressive Largy Mountain. Valerie Cockburn's promising Yeats seven-year-old put six lengths between himself and French Piece (Tommie O'Brien) after the latter had blundered at the last.