08 May 2012 Scene & Heard: Tredegar Farmers - Lower Machen
by Carolyn Tanner
After her all the way victory in the Ladies' Open, her sixth success of the campaign, Chesnut Annie remains on course to regain the Connolly's Red Mills leading horse award which she won in 2008/9.
She was gaining her revenge on runner-up Findlay's Find, who had beaten her on this track last season. "I've been wanting to have another go at him now that he hasn't got a weight allowance," smiled owner Beth Roberts.
Beth has ruled out any Hunter Chasing forays, pointing out that her mare has nothing to prove in that sphere. "She won the first ever Hunter Chase in Ffos Las, and we went to Cheltenham, which is everyone's dream," she said.
Rider Sally Randall's well-planned strategy worked to perfection. Kicking the mare out of the gate, she was far enough clear to be able to steer to the outside approaching the sixth/thirteenth, after which the track bears left, and jump the fence at an angle a la Canal Turn, saving lengths in the process on both circuits.
"I think it was good for me to have been beaten last time," Sally had mused beforehand, "because it will make me concentrate more now." She had dropped her whip on that occasion, but had no intention of repeating the error. "I've borrowed Sean Curran's, and he'd never forgive me," she laughed.
Misamon had equalled Annie's tally of five, if only for 35 minutes, when taking the Men's Open under John Mathias, who trains him for his mother Jan and grandfather Trevor Nicholas, but going after a title is not in connections' minds. "I've said I'll never chase a championship," stressed Jan, "though if he's well we'll keep running him."
Jan did the early roadwork with Misamon, who goes out in the field every day, and remains hands-on, helping with feeding and mucking out, but she handed all the credit to John and his girlfriend Amber Griffiths.
"It's easy training good horses," pointed out the typically modest jockey. "In fact, he trains and races himself - we just hinder him!"
John's treble at Pentreclwydau two days later took him into outright second position in the Men's championship.
Charlotte Prichard increased her seemingly unassailable lead in the Princess Royal Under-21 championship when landing the Confined on West Bay.
Bought as an unbroken four-year-old by Des Davies, West Bay was too big and backward to race until he was six, and his campaign ended prematurely last year when he was struck into at Buckfastleigh. As Charlotte's brother David, who had scored twice on him, had turned Conditional, Des felt the logical solution was to offer Charlotte the ride, and the partnership has now triumphed three times.
Des will keep running West Bay, who he admitted "has always been for sale," in order to help Charlotte in her bid to win the national novice title which, following another victory on Prince Massini the following day at Holnicote, she now leads by two from Leanda Tickle.
On a par with the Treorchy Male Voice Choir it was not, but nonetheless it was a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday To You" which greeted Bradley Gibbs, 18, on his return to the winner's enclosure following an easy victory in the 3m Maiden on the debutant four-year-old Bucking The Trend, trained by Abbi Vaughan for husband Tim.
Bought at the Cheltenham Breeze-Up sale in December, Bucking The Trend was reported by Bradley to be "as green as grass." There is a possibility that Abbi could lose him to Tim's yard, but not if the trainer's secretary Carole David has any say in the matter. Carole, who was leading up, heard her boss mention the word ‘Bumper,' and had no hesitation in telling him "Hands off!"
Bradley, who met with narrow defeat in two earlier contests, was the third member of Tim's staff to enjoy success at the meeting, the others being Gareth Ball and Mathew Barber.
Gareth's Restricted mount, the outsider Coole Abbey Major, looked sure to be overwhelmed by Bradley and Coosan Lad as the latter drew alongside at the last, but Robert Evans's eight-year-old picked up again on the run-in to land the spoils at 33-1. Gareth was especially pleased for the owner, who had lost a horse at Barbury in February, and for whom it was a first victory for several years.
Robert uses the Vaughan gallops to work Coole Abbey Major, who prefers top of the ground but obviously appreciated the genuinely good going which was prevalent. "He drops his shoulder at home and has me off, but my granddaughter Chelsey can sit on him better than I can," confessed Robert.
Bradley looked to have Division Two of the split-on-the-day 2m4f Maiden sewn up until his mount Rappel d'Estruval broke down at the last, leaving Mathew to take the honours on Sirrell Griffiths's Rime Avec Gentil, whose performance was a tribute to the training skills of his brother Marc.
"Dai Rees phoned me to say he'd got a difficult horse and would I like to see if I could do anything with it," explained Marc, who has had the French-bred in his yard for five weeks. "Sirrell saw him, and we were both prepared to take a gamble on him, but he is hard work. He's got such a hard mouth, and I haven't galloped him since I've had him - I lunge him every day."
Marc himself had been going to partner Rime Avec Gentil, who is ridden out in a headcollar, but when the race divided at declaration Mathew was able to take the ride. "He started hanging left," Mathew reported, "but once I could get across to the rail after the last he ran as straight as a die."
Division One went to the day's other 33-1 scorer, Keepable, a first training success for former rider Paul Sheldrake, who had his final ride at Exeter in 2006 for Peter Bowen. "Peter was very supportive but I didn't have that many good horses to ride so I thought it was time to pack up," said Paul, who now runs a breaking yard.
A £1,000 Ascot purchase in November, Keepable had failed to complete in four previous runs for his new handler. "The ground and the trip helped today, and Darach gave him a very good ride," said Paul, who had considered making a comeback to ride Keepable himself but, unable to get a licence, had engaged Darach Skelly to take the reins. "He [Paul] ran the last 150 yards with the horse anyway," laughed his father Robin, one of the partnership of five owners, the others being Paul himself, his mother Bobbie, Charles Bedford and Nan Warlow.
Darach, a work rider with Peter Bowen, was recording just his second success between the flags. He only got his licence out four weeks ago after suffering a bad break to his collarbone in December, and the resulting operation left him out of action for three months. He is now hoping to pick up some more rides before the end of the season.
The much-travelled Alice Mills, who two days earlier was in winning action on the flat at Lingfield, won the Hunt race on Screenscraper, trained by the Lower Machen course inspector David Stephens for the two Gordons, Messrs Bird and Lewis. There was a nasty moment for Alice when her partner, who had put in a fine round of jumping, slipped very badly on the bend after three out, but he was soon back on an even keel and able to cruise home unchallenged.
Alice's parents Janine and Robin, both of whom enjoyed success between the flags, were present to cheer her home. Robin started racing at the age of 35 because he had got fed up with carrying Janine's saddle, and he now finds himself performing the same duty for his daughter!
Alice was planning to ride closer to her Yeovil base for the remainder of the weekend in the hope of picking up some extra points towards the Wessex area championship. She achieved her objective on Sunday by landing the Confined at Holnicote on Tropical Secret.