The Novice Riders’ race is not normally the highlight of a point-to-point meeting, but it took centre stage amidst poignant scenes on the six-race card at Flete Park - a fixture which received significant sponsorship from the Totnes & Bridgetown Races Company Ltd.
The race in question was called the Artemis Morgan Happiest When Hunting Devon & Cornwall Novice Riders Conditions Race. This mouthful of a title, however, meant so much to the local community, since the race was held in memory of a 13-year-old girl who lost her life last April in a tragic accident near her home at Buckfastleigh.
Artemis had been a keen pony racing participant, and the race run in her memory resulted in a fairy tale scenario as her 16-year-old brother, Otis, steered Skylander home to win by a distance. This was a first pointing success on his fifth ride for the young jockey who, like his sister, had competed in pony races and was cheered on by a host of ex-pony race riders.
“I wasn’t sure who was behind me, so I just kicked on. To win my sister's race was the great thing and I hope that Arty is looking down now”, said an emotional Otis afterwards.
Skylander was winning for the ninth time in his career and now runs in the colours of the Dartmoor Racing Club, run by mother, Joanna, and trained by father, Richard.
The four miles Skinner’s Ladies Open produced a form upset as long odds-on favourite Southfield Theatre was collared on the run-in by the Ed Walker-trained Board of Trade.
“He loved it, travelled really well and battled to the line,” enthused winning jockey Chloe Emsley, partnering her fifth winner of the season.
Local successes were few and far between in the other races. Warwickshire trainer Fran Nimmo collected a double thanks to Dr Time in the Print Concern Restricted and For Rita, who sailed home in the Brewin Dolphin Conditions race.
James King had the mount on both winners to stretch his lead in the men’s championship over Will Biddick, who drew a blank from his two rides.
Dr Time led from halfway before shrugging off the Darren Edwards-ridden Thewinnertakeitall, coming strongly down the hill to follow up his course win two weeks ago. Representing his wife, Fran, Charlie Poste said of the winner, “He was very nimble and accurate with his jumping.”
For Rita is quite a small mare but had too much pace for her nine rivals to secure the stable double in the Conditions race. Charlie Poste reported, “We bought her cheaply in Ireland. She is now owned by a small syndicate called The Picnic Partnership.
“She is a lovely filly and was more impressive today. The cut in the ground certainly helped.”
Sheldon Cooper started evens favourite to give James King a treble in the Whitehouse Farm Maiden over two-and-a-half miles. Despite a healthy lead at the penultimate fence, King’s mount ran out of stamina on the climb to the post as The Rosary Flyer swept past under another in-form jockey in Jack Andrews.
A four-hour journey from his yard near Rugby paid off for winning owner/trainer Tom Ellis, who is currently running away with the Foran Equine trainers’ championship and was fresh from saddling a hunter chase winner under Jack Andrews the previous evening at Cheltenham.
He said, “I wasn’t too confident but told Jack to get him into the race today. He is not an easy horse and didn’t handle it at Mollington the other day.”
Martin and Jane Wanless sent Lucky Lucarno from their base near Stratford-on-Avon to take the three-mile Marchand Petit Maiden under Tommie O’Brien, whose prelude to Flete Park had been a double on the previous evening at Cheltenham. The winner had shown modest form under Rules with Sue Smith, and only narrowly got the better of fellow outsider Gunner Vic after jumping the last.