Garthorpe Clerk of the Course Brian Crawford chose his favourite meeting, The Melton Hunt Club, to retire after 29 seasons and some 122 race meetings. Brian has kept the course at Garthorpe among the very best in the country and will be sorely missed. We do hope he enjoys his retirement.
Our race card began with two pony races, the first of which, the 148cm Novice race, was won in impressive fashion by Bonnie Diva, ridden by Xavier Pierrejean. The second, the 148cm Open, saw Jack Doughty and Madame Mimi Victorious.
The feature race of the Melton Hunt Club meeting, The Jockey Club and Retraining of Racehorses Veteran Horse Series Final, was won in imperious fashion by Al Shahir, the odds-on favourite, for the Ice and a Slice Racing Club. "He's a great example of what can be done with low-cost ownership," trainer Tom Ellis, who runs the syndicate which owns Al Shahir said. "I really think it is the way forward."
Knight Bachelor (Izzie Marshall) challenged the winner with a couple to jump but couldn't match the pace in the run-in finishing twelve lengths behind. Raven's Tower was third.
The first race of the day completed a great week for jockey Ben Bromley, which had seen him already complete his first double at Edgcote and subsequently win at Bredwardine. Here he piloted Vivaldi Collonges to a thirteen length victory for trainer Philip Rowley and owner, father Anthony. Ben said, "He's a nice and easy horse, I'm really lucky to be able to ride horses like this. I was able to sit in behind Commanche Red until the top of the course on the last circuit. When I pushed he just kept going." Commanche Red (F. Gordon) won a tight finish for second place with Epi Sacre (Fred Henderson).
Having seen the first race of the day finish in starting price order, the bookmakers once again got the form right as favourite Beauvallon Bay won for Tom Chatfeild-Roberts, riding for his Father John and trainer Kelly Morgan. This time the distances were four lengths to Caballo Diablo (Alice Stevens) and Design Plan (Hannah Darpoe). "I think this is the best he has travelled," Tom said afterwards. "He can be a bit slow over the first few, but when you ask him to move he gives you the effort."
The Novice Riders Conditions Race, next, saw another impressive victory for Grageelagh Girl who beat the unbeaten Precious Bounty last time out at Dingley. This time the eleven-year-old mare was steered to victory by a delighted Kaitlin Perks for the Fergal O'Brien stable, beating Ballydonagh Boy (Rosie Howarth) by seven lengths, with Mahlers Star (J.J. Simpson) behind them.
The Veteran Horse final was followed by the Mixed Open Race which was once again going to form as hot favourite Badbad Leroy Brown approached the last with a good lead, only to stutter on his approach, jump left and crumple on landing, gifting the race to a beaming Rupert Stearn on Take To Heart for the Turner family. Pillowman was the only other finisher, some twenty lengths behind.
Tom Creen, ridden by Tom Broughton, continued the favourites' dominance in the Maiden Race, beating No Promises (Immy Robinson) by four lengths, with High Street in third place. Owner and trainer Samantha Klug said, "We got him in January after he had been in training with Laura Morgan, ironically with a view to winning the Brocklesby Cup, which we failed at! He's had four runs now, and he's really improved."
The meeting closed with a two-mile point-to-point flat race with six runners, won by Izzie marshall on 10/1-shot Shuil Diva, a four-year-old filly bred by owner Jo Mann and trained by Julie Wadland. Bombay Sunset (Jack Teal), trained by Louise Bevin, was a length behind the winner in second and Clover All Over (Gina Andrews), trained by Tom Ellis, was third.
The penultimate Midlands Area point-to-point meeting takes place on Saturday 28th May when the Fitzwilliam are our hosts at Dingley, and there is an evening meeting on the following Wednesday for the Meynell and South Staffordshire at Garthorpe which will also host the pony racing championships for this season. We hope you can join us at both of those to finish the season.