Herefordshire redeems itself after a Festival drubbing
Herefordshire trainers were back on the racing treadmill today, but with rather more success than the rest of their British contemporaries at Cheltenham last week. Winners for Michael Scudamore, Tom Lacey and Venetia Williams at Kelso and Southwell kept theoir own stable momentum up as the season enters its fifth from last week.
From Ross-on-Wye to Kelso is a good hike by anyone's standards, less so if you win, so it will have been a relief to see Court Master prevail by 1 1/2l in the feature handicap chase under Brendan Powell. The result was't for sure, mind till the final few hundred yards. Winner number 17 for Michael, and I dare say an excuse to meet up with father, Peter, whose partner is Lucinda Russell.
In the Midlands, Southwell wouldn't come high on anyone's list of most memorable courses, but Venetia Williams won't be complaining after her 9 year old Frecnh-bred Commis d'Office won the handicap chase, whilst Tom Lacey's Pounding Poet outstayed Rosemary Gasson's runner-up Desert de Bruyere in the handicap hurdle.
This weekend sees a welcome return to Point-to-Point racing across Britain and a chance for our amateur riders to get back to the business of race-riding. The Hunter chase calendar since January has been very busy with no alternatives on offer, and may still contionue to be so given the forshortened Pointing season. The West Midlands season restarts at Maisemore on March 30, then Shelfield Park on April 11, neither open to any but owners and participants.
However, it was West Countryman Will Biddick who upheld the honour of the British last week at Cheltenham, when keeping the Foxhunter Trophy at home in Blighty. Albeit won with a French-bred horse, he was one of just 3 British-born trainers to snatch a race at the Festival in what turned into a rout by the Irish. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Corkman Jonjo O'Neill has been hailed a Brit for Sky Pirate's Grand Annual win, despite retaining his lovely Irish lilt since he arrived here as a 14 year old, nearly 50 years ago. Without him, our winner haul would leeok even more spartan.
The Foxhunter proved to be one of the finishes of the week, with Porlock Bay holding off the might of Closutton's Billaway by a short head. Five of the last seven runnings of this race have fallen to a horse from a professional yard, so to see a son of the Point-to-Point scene retain the race has been a warming sight.