CHAMPION Point-to-Point rider Will Biddick celebrated his 200th racecourse win in breathtaking circumstances at Sunday’s sun-drenched Vine & Craven meeting at Fuller’s Barbury Racecourse, writes PAUL CHAMPION.
Despite the desperate recent weather conditions, the course was in superb condition, and clerk of the course John White and his team deserve huge credit for producing such a fantastic racing surface.
Two-time champ Biddick, 27, notched his landmark win aboard Following Dreams in the Ramsbuy Brewery Mixed Open, getting up to nail the favourite Dante’s Storm in the final strides of the three mile contest.
Turning for home, Dante’s Storm, partnered as usual by Phil York, looked to have the race sewn up as he kicked five lengths clear, but Biddick produced an irresistible surge from his mount after jumping the last.
As the pair flashed past the post as one, Alan Hill, trainer of Dante’s Storm, punched the air in celebration, fully believing that his mount had held on, but the judge had other ideas, awarding the verdict to the younger horse by a head.
A mini-gamble was landed on the winner, who was backed from 5/1 into threes, and being just seven years old, he looks certain to go on to bigger and better things.
For rider Biddick, this was his 160th win between the flags; he has brought up his double century courtesy of 39 wins under National Hunt Rules, and one on the Flat.
With 213 original entries, racegoers arrived at the track expecting a day of multiple divisions, but in the end there was only one, and it came in the very first race, the PPORA Club Members Race for Novice Riders, which was run in two divisions of 13.
There was plenty of drama in Division One, won in game fashion by the eight-year-old Edgar Henry, who found extra on the run-in to defeat Welsh raider Knight Blaze by two-and-a-half lengths.
But the result could well have been different had the joint favourite Sobre Tresor not stumbled on landing over the last and unseated Taylor Pook, despite her best attempts to stay on board.
Rider Stan Sheppard suffered a horror fall when his mount Power Pack Jack took a tumble at the 14th, but luckily he escaped with just minor concussion and should be back in the saddle before too long.
The winner is trained by former PPA Board Member Heather Kemp, who next month will be riding in a charity Flat race at the Cheltenham Festival in aid of Cancer Research. She is hoping to raise £15,000 and more information can be found on her fundraising page at justgiving.com/hmkemp.
Division Two of the Novice Riders’ race was run in a marginally quicker time, with Footy Facts and favourite Working Title going clear in the closing stages, with the former having too much for his rival on the short run-in.
The evergreen 14-year-old was having just his second start for Sally Randell, who acquired him from his homeland in Ireland. The son of Oscar had been a very useful sort during his days with Robert Tyner, and has clearly lost none of his enthusiasm.
The first of two Maiden races was run over two-and-a-half miles and produced another exciting finish, with just half a length separating pointing newcomers Soixante Six and Freddy Fox.
The former was in familiar surroundings, having been trained just down the road by Alan King during a brief Rules career that saw him twice finish third in Bumpers, and he put his experience to good use, gamely conceding 21 pounds to the runner-up, who was making his racecourse debut.
Trainer Tom Lacey has a superb record with his four-year-old newcomers, and his Freddy Fox will surely be recouping losses before too soon.
The two Maidens sandwiched the thrilling Mixed Open, but the judge was able to relax a bit in the second race for horses searching for their first win, as Silver By Design romped to a wide margin victory.
Peter Mason’s six-year-old had shown plenty of ability in defeat in his previous two outings, most notably when second at Cottenham in the final days of 2013, and made no mistake this time, pulling well clear of the weak-finishing Third Chance, with another sizable gap back to Bamboleo and three other finishers.
Followers of form who witnessed Silver By Design’s easy victory would then have been very sweet on Champion Versions, who lined up for the following Fuller’s Brewery Restricted race.
Alan Hill’s seven-year-old had won that aforementioned Cottenham Maiden and was sent into the lead by trainer’s son Joe on the final circuit, only to make a complete mess of the 14th and deposit his jockey on the turf.
That left Durban Gold and Big Georgie up front, and it was the former who got the better of the argument, scoring by a couple of lengths under Tom Weston, who was completing a double after his earlier success on Soixante Six. Pampelonne was the only other finisher, with the other seven runners all pulled up.
Along with the three mile Maiden race, the Hunt Members race was run in aid of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, and although the big guns that were entered did not face the starter, an exciting contest still ensued.
The veteran Offshore Account was sent off the 5/4 favourite under Dominic Sutton, son of owner Nick, but after a see-saw battle in the closing mile, he failed to cope with the stronger finish of Godfrey Maundrell’s Arthurian Legend, who was scoring on his Pointing debut, and for the first time in any race since his success in a Grade Three Hurdle at Chepstow in October 2013.
Carrigkerry, sporting the colours of the Fuller family, finished an honourable third, and the family had sponsored the race under the name of their splendid veteran chaser That’s Rhythm, who will be aiming to retain his AGA Ladies Open Hunter Chase title at the end of the year.
The Vine & Craven will be holding their second Point-to-Point of the year at Hackwood Park on Easter Monday, April 21, while the next meeting at Fuller’s Barbury Racecourse will be the Tedworth meeting on Sunday, April 6.
MORE PICTURES FROM THE BARBURY MEETING IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD