This season the point-to-point world has had to contend with not only one of the wettest months on record but also the imminent threat of closure due to the escalating coronavirus situation.
Fortunately for organisers of the Quantock meeting at Cothelstone on Saturday they were able to carry on as normal and were rewarded with some excellent racing, with plenty of runners. A double for jockey Tom Doggrell, two quality maiden mares taking each division and a return to form for two promising young horses ensured spectators had plenty to enjoy.
"It's all down to the breeding!" remarked owner/trainer Peter Doggrell whose Earth Storm (pictured) sprang a 33-1 surprise in the first race. It transpired that he was not actually referring to his horse who just prevailed in the tightest of finishes over favourite Danseur du Large but his grandson, Tom, who was riding the first of two winners on the day. Will Biddick sent Danseur du Large into the lead with three fences to go but was joined by Earth Storm over the last. A battle up the run-in looked as though it would go to the favourite and the judge took some minutes to call the result. Earth Storm hadn't won since his debut at Flete Park three years ago but coped well with the testing conditions.
Tom took the finale too when he steered locally trained King's Cave home to an easy 12-length success in the Open Maiden for trainer Tiffany O'Dwyer from the favourite Boss Baby. Kings Cave had chased the promising Le Tueur home at Chipley Park in January before falling early at Badbury Rings. An abortive trip to the abandoned Charlton Horethorne last weekend meant a re-route to Cothelstone where Tiffany hadn't previously enjoyed a huge amount of luck after her Archirondel had run out in this race at the last with it at his mercy. The relieved trainer explained they had bought the gelding in Ireland last year and persuaded Tom to join them in owning a leg of the horse along with her husband Darren and Adrian Fitzgerald.
The Mare's Maiden was divided with the first (and slightly quicker) going to the Tom Ellis-trained four-year-old Scattercash under Gina Andrews, for owner Martin Oliver. An attractive daughter of prolific stallion Mahler, she made light work of the ground to come home five lengths clear of Kates Lane and Mrs Davies. Gina was full of praise for the mare afterwards and the yard clearly hold her in high regard. Currently for sale, she would be one to keep an eye on in the future. The second division was also won by a yard prepared to travel for winners when Philip Rowley continued his raid on Wessex meetings and sent out Lilith to record the easiest win of the day. Taking up the running with two fences to jump, jockey Alex Edwards coasted 15 lengths clear of The Kitchenmechanic on the odds-on favourite.
The Mixed Open went to Teresa Clark's lovely mare Tuff Nano for owner Peter Gwyn. Unbeaten last season, she went to Badbury Rings but, after making a bad mistake, never threatened. Reunited with Will Biddick, Tuff Nano didn't look to be travelling that well early on but the pace had been strong and Will remarked "the further she went, the better she got." Sticking to her task well, she overhauled the leader and jumped into the lead at the last. Owner Peter Gwyn, who owns Court Farm Country Park near Weston-super-Mare, is no stranger to pointing having owned Browns Brook a couple of seasons ago. Peter also rode a point-to-point winner and worked for Captain Tim Forster as a pupil assistant/amateur "many moons ago!"
Dr Kananga was another returning to form when he took the Restricted under Darren Andrews for trainer Ben Clarke. Sent off the 2-1 favourite, Darren hadn't intended to make the running as he had been too keen when last seen at Milborne St Andrew but, with no-one else keen to go on, he let Dr Kananga stroll on. Ben explained that the shorter trip suits him, especially on the softer ground, and he clearly thinks a lot of the horse he trains for Mike Tootell and Monica Tory. The latter also has Creative Inertia with Ben and, when he was injured, was persuaded to buy into Dr Kananga. He looks a horse with plenty of promise and could improve again as he matures.
Cothelstone rarely passes without a Welsh winner and it came in the form of Thumb Stone Blues for trainer/jockey Byron Moorcroft. Byron explained that he wasn't sure the horse would handle the heavy ground but this dual winner, when with Kim Bailey, handled the conditions well and belied his odds to finish just over three lengths clear of Frelia. Owner Jason Warner is Master of the Cotswold Vale Farmers and made a point of thanking Jason Maguire, who suggested he buy the horse from Claire and Paul Rooney after it looked as though a spell pointing would rejuvenate him.