A first time treble for jockey Conor Houlihan and a double for the champion point-to-point rider-elect James King were the highlights of the Exmoor fixture on a day when motorway hold-ups caused delays, late arrivals and, in the case of some horse boxes, no shows.
Conor Houlihan is set to land his first Devon & Cornwall novice riders’ title and the 23-year-old from Dungarvan, County Waterford, who works in Will Biddick’s Somerset yard, kicked off with a five-length success on the Biddick-trained Florrie Webb in the Rosettes Direct Restricted. With his boss and mentor on crutches after breaking an ankle, the tall Irishman proved an able substitute in the saddle, sending the seven-year-old Florrie Webb clear after jumping the last.
A dead heat on Bridge Of Spies in the Bielby colours in the first division of the Kingdon family sponsored Conditions race saw Houlihan force his mount up to share the spoils with the favourite Where’s Wilma (Matt Hampton). This pair swooped on Crown Of Thorns and Beau Sancy at the foot of the hill and battled it out all the way up the climb to the line. “We were both flat out and happy to share a dead heat,” remarked Matt Hampton.
A chance ride on current Tattersalls leading owner Jason Warner’s eight-year-old Best To Come rounded off Houlihan’s successful day in the Totnes & Bridgetown Open Maiden. James King handed over this ride due to a sore ankle but had earlier lifted his season’s tally to 28 thanks to Los Alamos and Blairs Cove.
Los Alamos mastered odds-on favourite River Myth jumping the last in the Moore Scarrott Men’s Open to add to his Trebudannon win. “He got stuck in the mud at Holnicote last time and the drier ground helped here,” reported the jockey.
Forcing tactics paid off for King as Jason Warner’s Blairs Cove led all the way to take the Wedgewood Buildings Ltd Conditions race, the second division, at the expense of the favourite Rolling Dylan (Isaac Buncle).
It was a memorable day for 17-year-old Finn Muirhead, who partnered his first point-to-point winner on the Camilla Scott-trained The Mulcair in the colours of his father Alex in the RSM Beares & Brian Thorne & Son sponsored Hunt race. The Mulcair pulled clear of Hadmeathello up the finishing climb under his promising teenage rider, who is a pony racing graduate, and nephew of Jamie Osborne, and is currently studying for his A-levels at Blundell’s School, Tiverton.
After her successful ride at Stratford-upon-Avon on the previous evening, Chloe Emsley, who is looking sure to lift her first Devon & Cornwall ladies’ title this year, had to settle for the runner-up spot behind The Mulcair on Hadmeathello in the Hunt race.
She occupied the same position on Inch Rock in the Bray Leino Ladies’ Open, where Moscow Prices was a stylish seven-length winner. Lucy Mager, who shares ownership of 11-year-old winner with Kim Tripp, trains the gelding at Weston-Super-Mare. “He was my second winner of the season and we might come back to Bratton next week,” remarked Lucy.