14 May 2012 Scene & Heard: Melton Hunt Club - Garthorpe
by Carolyn Tanner
Blarney Highwayman confirmed Adrian Maguire's high opinion of him by winning the Mixed Open under Richard Armson, outspeeding Coolefind, who at 14 is twice his age, on the flat. The Irishman, who at one time had Denman in his care, had considered Blarney Highwayman to be possibly the best he had handled.
He has been leased for the season to Mike and Jill Dawson by owners Caroline Myers and Sir Charles Colthurst, after whose home, Blarney Castle, the seven-year-old is named, and who had flown in from Ireland that morning to watch him run. With the result looking in doubt until after the last, Caroline admitted "We all feel about 3,000 years old after that!"
Jill described the bay as "a doddle" to look after. "I was able to ride him out however weak I was [from her chemotherapy treatment]," she smiled. She was quick to pay tribute to equine physio Roy Midwood, who had visited the Dawson yard the previous evening to treat the horse, who she felt was not 100% sound.
An entry for Stratford's pointtopoint.co.uk John Corbet Cup is under consideration but as victory would render him ineligible for Novice Hunter Chases next season he is more likely to remain Pointing for the rest of the campaign.
The title-chasing Yorkshire duo of Jacqueline Coward (Ladies) and Harry Bannister (Novice) went home winnerless, with one second placing apiece, plus a third for Harry, from their three rides each.
Jacqueline's mount James Wyatt went down in the 3m Maiden to Samantha Klug and her lightly-raced Ellerslie Ali, breaking her duck at the age of ten.
Two more seconds at Easingwold the following day means Jacqueline is now one behind Jane Williams in the national standings, and unfortunately she will be sitting out the coming weekend due to suspension.
Harry and Mr Gossip, making a belated seasonal debut after injury, had to give best in the Conditions race to Joe Docker and Duke Of Kentford, trained for Ian and Tom Joule by Stuart Morris. "He stays all day, and he's been improving all season," smiled Stuart, adding "and Joe gets on really well with him."
Stuart has in mind the final Hunter Chase of 2011/12 at Cartmel, a plan of which Ian thoroughly approved, with the proviso that there was a golf course within the vicinity. Unfortunately for Tom, the date coincides with a few days break in Norfolk he has booked, but on hearing about the Sticky Toffee Pudding Shop adjacent to the track, he was having second thoughts!
The closest finish of the day came in the Midlands Area Club race, which was won by the progressive Sandpipers, who was locked in battle with Thomas Greenall and Ganbei on the run-in after the final fence was bypassed.
The official distance of a neck was greeted with incredulity, not just by spectators but by the riders themselves. "I congratulated Tom, though very quietly so the judge didn't hear!" admitted Alex, while Thomas was under the impression that the verdict would have gone his way by the narrowest of margins. "Still, I don't mind losing to a Vaughan-Jones as long as I beat them at golf," he grinned.
Sandpipers, trained by Gerald Bailey, was bought as a foal by Alex's mother Alice. "Then I got divorced and had nowhere to put him, so he sat in Gerald's field for two years," she explained. "I didn't dare go and look at him in case Gerald remembered he was there and asked me to take him away!"
The now seven-year-old's five week absence from the track prior to this run was due to a sore shin sustained on his previous outing.
Thomas, who was due to have been at Hexham to partner Classinaglass in the ‘Heart' had that meeting not been lost, had not rated his chances with Ganbei too highly prior to racing. "It's hard to win here," he reasoned, predicting that he would get on much better at Easingwold. His confidence was not misplaced, as he completed a double at the Yorkshire track to move back into second place in the national title race.
Dale Peters had got no further than the second when Victor Grumps came to grief in the Club race, but 35 minutes later he gained compensation when landing the 2m4f Maiden on Nightcap Jack, trained by his father Mick for Toby Hunt.
The five-year-old, who might well have scored at Thorpe had he not capsized at the penultimate, finished well to land the spoils after four were in with a chance at the last. "He'll be better over three miles," opined Toby, who bought him two years ago at Tattersalls Ireland Derby sale and had him broken before bringing him home.
Both Toby and Dale reported that Nightcap Jack was extremely nervous when he arrived at the Peters' yard, and it has taken a lot of time and patience to get him to the track. He has, in fact, travelled to the course and stayed on the lorry as many times as he has actually run, the most recent being to Northaw less than a week earlier, when he was ruled out due to the heavy ground.
Emily Brooks was understandably delighted to have opened her account in a match at Whitfield a fortnight ago, but she expressed the hope that she would manage to win a more competitive contest before the end of the season. Her wish was granted when she won the Novice Riders' race on Darby's Turn, who failed to make his reserve at Doncaster last May and was purchased after the sale.
"I didn't plan to ride him in front but he jumped so well that he took me there," said Emily, whose mother Anna admitted "We've been picking the wrong races for him." She was referring to the fact that he had been placed behind My Way de Solzen, Doctor Kingsley and Penmore Mill in his most recent outings.
He is not the most reliable of rides at home, and the previous day had reared up vertically with Anna on the gallops. "It's lucky she put her fingers in the neck strap," was Emily's understated comment.
Darby's Turn is also a bleeder, and the Brooks' have tried "everything legal," smiled Anna. "We've used all the dandelions for miles around, and he also has cranberry juice. If we try something and he doesn't bleed we think it must be working and keep using it, so the list of things he has gets longer!"
The lightly-raced Court Again beat a useful field to win the Restricted in the hands of Richard Spencer, for whom it was just a third ride back since breaking his collarbone in mid-March. "We've always thought he was a good horse," stressed owner Mike Connell, immediately handing the credit for the victory to Chris Henn, who has worked for the Connells for many years, "but we've never been able to keep him sound enough to find out."
"We bought a mare with a foal at foot from David Smyly," he continued, "and this was the foal."
Mike's wife Annie had remained at their Brackley home which was staging a jazz concert that day. "I'm looking forward to it so I've got to get back," was the owner's good reason for making a hasty exit post-race, but not before an irreverent Tim Lane, who used to ride for the Connells, told him, "Now that Mollington's back they could have a veterans' race and you could ride in it."
"That's typical. I win a race and there's nobody to take a photo." Richard echoes the thoughts of all the winners, who were denied a record of their achievement due to the non-appearance of the official photographer.
Racegoers were not short of entertainment, as in addition to the seven Point-to-Point contests there were two pony races and two charity flat races. The winning pony riders were Charlie Todd and William Hill, while both the charity race scorers carried the green and white colours of trainer Michael Gates.
The first of them was partnered by Laura Werner, 16, while Michael himself won the second, only to hit the deck after passing the post.