Barbury Racecourse: rescheduled Vine & Craven meeting springs some surprises
Barbury basked in unseasonal sunshine on Saturday (February 23) for the rescheduled Vine & Craven Point-to-Point's eight races.
Honours for the day went to Will Biddick and Phil York - the only two men currently riding with over 300 successes in point-to-points. They both rode doubles. Honours too to the irrepressible Tim Underwood, who trained two winners.
The main race on the card was the Timico Mixed Open, with £1,000 worth of added prize money, for which six went to post. The favourite was Sonneofpresenting, owned, trained and ridden by Sarah Rippon and an impressive winner here in December.
Though Sonneofpresenting was always prominent, he couldn’t shake of the attentions of seasonal debutant Templebraden, who led most of the way in the hands of Zak Baker and held on to beat Fly West by three-and-a-half lengths, with Sonneofpresenting five lengths back in third.
“That was lovely,” exclaimed winning owner Sarah Oliver. “Although I didn't expect it – I never do! He likes it at Barbury and has been placed here before.”
Winning jockey Zac Baker was beaming afterwards: “That’s six wins on him now and he’s one of my favourites, along with (Oliver-owned) Green Winter! He loved it – he has to be up there and we had the rail all the way, which helped. He’s been in such good form at home.”
The JRL Group Point-to-Point Flat Race was divided at entry and saw the largest fields of the day - 15 in the first division and 13 in the second. The opener was taken comfortably by Equus Gold – held up in rear early by Peter Bryan, he moved smoothly into the lead a furlong out to win by three-and-three-quarter lengths from I Will Follow Her with Famous Friend three-quarters of a length third
The second division saw the most exciting finish of the day, with favourite Bird On The Wire, trained by 2017/2018 champion Phil Rowley and ridden by Noel George, just holding on to beat So Socksy and Mount Nelly by a short-head and a head in a driving finish.
Trainer Phil Rowley: “I thought, ‘Has he gone a bit early?’ But we didn’t want it to be a sprint. I’ve always liked him at home and thought he had more speed than I Will Follow Her." Might there be a post-race sale: " I’ll have to talk to the owners. He’s got a nice pedigree, jumps like a bunny and is very saleable.”
Arguably the most impressive winner of the day was Timmie Roe in the concluding event, the three-runner Sporting Agenda & Wimbledon Debenture Tickets Members Race. Never headed as he set a fast pace and was left clear when Princely Player fell at the final ditch.
Trained by Tim Underwood, Timmie Roe came home in canter over two fences clear of stablemate Golden Crisp, yet still equalled the fastest time of the day. Winning jockey Phil York: “I asked the others before the start if they knew what the track record was. When they said no, I said ‘You will afterwards!’”
Tim and Phil’s first winner had come in the Ramsbury Vodka Open Maiden for four, five and six-year-olds, in which Streets Of London beat five rivals under a vintage ride from his 52-year-old pilot. The promising front-running newcomer Bespoke Cave was beaten by three-quarters of a length, with fellow debutant Equus Dreamer third.
The Jockey Club Estates Open Maiden saw Will Biddick get off the mark for the day - taking Nobodydoesitbetter to head the field of six. The six-times champion was at his best on the favourite, making all then quickening clear after three out to come home unchallenged by 12 lengths from Long Mile Road, with well-backed Don't Ask Us ten lengths third.
Will confirmed that he is keen to win the jockeys title again, after losing his crown to Alex Edwards last year: “I’m having a good season and am chipping away, but I don’t have a big stable any more like Alex does - I rode for 40 trainers last year!”
Will completed his double - moving within two of 400 winners between the flags - on Teresa Clark’s Pancrace in the Magee Equine Restricted Race which, with eight runners, saw the biggest field over fences of the day.
As in the previous race, the former champion led most of the way and, though favourite Hidden Cargo closed to second five out, the 9/4 shot always had something in reserve and scored by a cosy five lengths. Inmyday, who lost all chance with a bad blunder at the ninth, was 15 lengths third.
A trio came under starters orders for the Jamie Snowden-sponsored Novice Riders Race. 'Always back the outsider of three' goes the old adage, and it was proved right here. 7/4 shot Flicka’s Witness, at 14 the oldest horse in the race and ridden by Jamie Brace, got the better of 6/4 joint-favourites Earthmoves and Judge John Deed. Brace lead all the way to win by a length and four respectively, after the whole field was in a line at the second last.
“It helps when you get given good instructions,” Jamie confirmed. “The plan was to get a nice lead and get him jumping and travelling, and he filled me with confidence.” It was a third win in points to go alongside two on the flat for Jamie, who works for Alex Hales. “I hope to turn professional eventually,” he told me. “I’ve just got my category B licence and had my first ride against professionals at Fakenham recently.”