Racing news

Kelsey Park groomed for Foxhunter challenge in '24

Posted on


A sunny day, a large crowd, some competitive racing – with 41 runners in the six events – and a couple of surprise results brought the South Midlands Area season to a close on Sunday.

Centrepiece of the card was the eight-runner Dickie Lim Memorial Mixed Open, in which popular veteran Southfield Theatre was made odds-on favourite to deliver the 28th success of his illustrious career. However, he was never able to dominate as he likes– being taken on for the lead by Reikers Island with Take To Heart also close at hand and was headed by the latter round the final bend. Despite a better jump at the last, he was unable to catch Take To Heart and Charlotte Butler, who held on by three-quarters of a length, with Master Templar just a length back in third.

“We didn’t expect that – we knew Southfield Theatre was running, but thought we’d come for the day out!” laughed trainer Ed Turner afterwards of the 14/1 winner. “He ran well when winning at Dingley, but disappointed under 12st 8lbs at Peper Harow, so we thought we’d come here with 11st 2lbs, including Charlotte’s claim. He used to run in blinkers, but we took them off a couple of runs ago and I think that’s made a difference. We’ve had him since he was six and he’s had his issues but he’s a show-off… and he knows it! I knew we were in with a chance three out when the favourite was off the bridle.” Reflecting on a season that has produced six winners including a Hunter Chase with Janika, Ed said, “We’re very pleased – we’re just a small family operation nowadays (father David and grandfather Joe used to be titans of the pointing scene) with only five horses. We’ve got them fitter earlier by using our grass field to gallop them.”

“He travelled great and jumped well,” was Charlotte’s verdict on the 11-year-old. “He enjoyed the slightly softer ground and gets a bit lonely on his own, so it was good to have Southfield Theatre upsides. That was my fifth winner, including one on the flat this year, and the Turners have been great to me.” Charlotte is possibly unique in that her mother, Emily Peck, is also currently riding in points – having started after her daughter – and they rode in the same race on Emily’s debut!

The preceding race, the Carcomm Coachworks Ltd Conditions Race, in which seven went to post, had gone the way of Southfield Theatre’s seven-year-old half-sister, Southfield Lily, running in the same colours of Angela Yeoman and also ridden by Lily Bradstock. Like her half-brother, Southfield Lily is a confirmed front-runner and, making all, was untroubled – despite a slight mistake four out – to score by 12 lengths from market rival Imnottalkingtoyou – with My Friend Freddie another ten lengths third. This victory saw her bag several local area awards – see below.

“I was really pleased with that,” beamed the winning owner afterwards. “She’s a homebred and has taken time and care. She raced for the Bradstocks under rules, where she had a bit of a reputation for being temperamental and high maintenance, but Lily has been the making of her. She’ll go summer jumping now and Lily will keep the ride.” Mrs Yeoman has another ‘Southfield’ half-sibling pointing this season – Harvest, trained by Will Biddick, won on Monday at Upcott Cross – and has two broodmares at home, Chamoss Royale, dam of the aforementioned trio, and her daughter Etoile.

The card opened with the Little Red Owner-Trainer Conditions Race, designed to attract horse from outside the big yards, which had six runners and saw the longest priced winner of the day. Captain Woodie’s uninspiring form figures in points read UPP and ensured he went off at 20/1, but Charlie Marshall always had him handy, took over the lead from Too Many Diamonds two out and won by three lengths. Favourite Cobra De Mai, who had been outpaced, ran on to be 18 lengths third.

“I don’t know what to say,” replied winning trainer Lewis Morgan to my ‘How does it feel?’ “That’s my first winner as a trainer, he needed the better ground and the strong pace helped. Charlie said he was never in trouble.” Lewis, 32, rode Captain Woodie on his first two pointing starts, but admitted, “I fell off at the first once and, though I also rode the season before last, I prefer training to riding! I work for Nicky Henderson, who used to train the horse, and got him free of charge. I’ll keep him in training next season and give him a wind operation, because Charlie said he made a noise today.”

Explaining how he got the mount, Charlie told me, “Lewis and I are both good friends with Freddie Mitchell, who offered me the ride. I’d raced against him last time and knew he was a big horse who needs to be taken steadily. Today, he kept finding more as the pace increased.” Charlie is happy with his season, saying, “That’s seven in points and one (wide margin) Hunter Chase win. That’s my ‘real’ 50th winner – I’ve had one walkover – and another today would be my 50th in points. I’m excited about riding Raleagh Flora at Stratford on Friday.”

The G & T Racing (Tom and Gina Ellis) juggernaut rolled on with a double, initiated by Walkonthewildside and Ellie Holder, who saw off their eight rivals in the Magnus Group Novice Riders Race, over the shorter distance of two-and-a-half miles. Prominent throughout and always going well alongside Knight Bachelor, he took the lead for the first time four out and a good jump at the last sealed victory by 12 lengths with Captain Bucks a further eight lengths away.

The improving seven-year-old had disappointed here last time when odds-on and co-owner Brian Crawford explained, “It was a flat day for him, but we didn’t lose faith. He jumped beautifully today – Ellie gave him a great ride – and he’s a big horse, who probably won’t be full-strength until next season. He hacked up on his first two starts, but those were on flat tracks, where three miles suits him better. Dropping him back in trip was a question we needed to answer, and we’re delighted.” Brian retired last year as Clerk of the Course at Garthorpe, and admitted, “I’d lost the art of conversation for 30 years! This season I’ve managed to find time to talk to people and I’m enjoying going pointing more widely.” He is also involved with dual winner Loughan and told me, “I’ve had five wins from 11 runs this season – that’s an embarrassing percentage.”

It was an eighth winner of the season for Ellie, who said afterwards, “I kept going, ‘Don’t commit too soon’, in my head. He gave me a nice ride, jumped well, and responded to everything I asked. Jack (Andrews, who’d ridden Walkonthewildside previously) won’t get back on him now – he obviously benefitted from a woman’s touch!” Ellie diplomatically wouldn’t commit when pressed for a season highlight, telling me, “All my wins have been important and significant in their own right – Bawnmore was my first, obviously and it’s been great to win on my own horse Champagne Noir, but it’s been nice to get outside rides like this and Koyote and great to ride for Tom and Gina’s owners.”

Tom and Gina completed their brace with odds-on Kelsey Park in the five-runner Thorn Plant Hire Maiden, taking them to 70 in another record-breaking season. Held-up in rear early by Jack Andrews, as he had been on his debut, he went second three out, led at the next and was untroubled to come home by six lengths and six from Jay Bee Whiskey and early leader Whats The Solution.

“We’ve only had him five or six weeks,” said Gina afterwards. “He came to us from Dan Skelton’s after (Gina’s sister) Bridget had ridden him a couple of times at Warwick. We were confident after his last run (he was runner-up at the last meeting here) and he was much more relaxed today – he’s got a fragile mind and coming into the paddock later and taking the hood off helped. He should be a fun horse for our Ice N Slice Racing Club next season as he’s got a turn of foot and could go through the grades.” Gina cited the weekend of 25th and 26th March, where the yard had ten winners from ten runners, along with her win on Fairly Famous at Cheltenham, as season highlights and suggested the latter as a potential Cheltenham Foxhunters horse for next season. “To win that is my big ambition as a jockey,” she admitted. “We thought this might be the year with Dubai Quest, but it wasn’t to be.”

Six faced the starter in the Pangbourne Asphalt Restricted, which resulted in a comfortable victory for Freddie Mitchell and Dondiam, who is trained by Bradley Gibbs. Another to make all, he won unchallenged by 15 lengths from Right Hand Of God, who may have been closer but for a series of mistakes. Equus Flight, 17 lengths further back, was the only other finisher.

“He won a Maiden for Fran and Charlie Poste a couple of years ago,” Freddie confirmed, “Then went under rules for his owners Ratkatcha Racing and this was his second run back for Brad – he ejected Josh Younge at Bonvilston last week. Brad said I should pop out and go a sensible gallop and that was very straightforward.” It has been a frustrating season for Freddie, who spent two months on the sidelines after fracturing his skull at Charlton Horethorne, but he has developed a good association with the Gibbs yard, for whom he rides many of the progressive four-year-olds, including Aintree bumper winner Saunton Surf, who was subsequently sold for £175,000. As well as riding, Freddie trains one pointer – Cossack Dancer – from the historic Saxon House stables in Lambourn, where opening race winner Captain Woodie is also trained.

Add a comment:

Leave a comment:
  • This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Add a comment