The Flint and Denbigh meeting took place last Sunday with hardly any rain, but the weather was very windy and cold. As expected, there were several divisions, with 86 runners over the ten races. This was in addition to two pony races that took place before racing.
The highlight of the day was Alex Edwards taking over the lead in the Men's title race with four winners, courtesy of a treble for Phil Rowley on Bleue Away (pictured), Whenhellbrokeloose and Optimised, and winning the last on Captain Von Trappe.
The opening bumper was split into three divisions because the Course Inspector had set a low safety factor of ten runners. Edwards and Rowley had the favourite in all three divisions and won the first and third easily on the five-year-old mare Bleue Away and the six-year-old gelding Whenhellbrokeloose respectively. In the second division, Edwards' mount Flamboyant Joyaux looked like prevailing until Aaron Rid on Granny's Secret came with a good run on the outside to win by a neck. It was the first winner for the jockey, who works for trainer Ben Pauling. The latter was represented here by Tom David, who was pleasantly surprised that the five-year-old mare won.
Optimised was a warm favourite in the Confined to follow up his course win three weeks ago, and he bided his time before taking it up at the third-last, going clear of Gina Andrews on Ballyrath, to win by 25 lengths in the fastest time of the day.
In the concluding Conditions Race for eight-year-olds-and-upwards who had not won for two seasons, Andrews' mount Vedettariat was a 1/3 favourite, but could never get past Edwards on Captain Von Trappe, who ran out an eight-length winner. Abigail Banks bought the horse, who had previously run for Gigginstown when trained by Gordon Elliott, at Doncaster two years ago. Abigail said she wanted to have a good male jockey ride it to assess its potential. The horse went to the Diana Ralph yard over the winter and the owner is likely to take the ride in future.
Garde Ville, last year's leading Novice Hunter Chaser, escaped a penalty in the Mixed Open and jockey Stephen Davies bided his time to challenge at the second-last, and had an easy four lengths to spare at the line over Alfstar, ridden by Alice Stevens. Trainer Trish Rigby suggested the horse had a hard time on his seasonal bow when he came fourth to Arthur's Secret in a Ludlow Hunter Chase, so she may spread out his races a bit more this season.
Harry Myddleton had an easy win in the Members' on his father Guy's Port Melon, repeating his win here a few weeks ago. A Hunter Chase campaign is now being contemplated.
One of the most impressive horses on the day was the Restricted winner Haven't Time, on whom Byron Moorcroft soon led and steadily went clear in a fast time to beat the only other finisher, Buffalo Sabre, by 40 lengths. The five-year-old had previously won a short Maiden at the Atherstone in December and had no problem staying the extra distance here. Owner/trainer Sarah McQueen was uncertain about the five-year-old's future plans. At her livery yard in Ross-on-Wye, she looks after former Grand National winner Mon Mone, and is looking forward to leading him up at Aintree in the parade of former winners before the big race next month.
The other race to be divided on the day was the Open Maiden. In the first division, Ladies' Champion Gina Andrews came in for a winning spare ride on Enry Iggins, owned and trained by Maxine Stirk in North Yorkshire, prevailing by eight lengths from Albert Cutler. Joe Wright had ridden the gelding at Hexham in December when finishing a close runner-up, but he had a booked ride on Medrum Lad at the Holderness, so Stirk engaged the jockey a few days before. The five-year-old gelding was the last progeny of the prolific mare Eliza Doalott and looks to have a good future. The owner was complimentary about the work the Brooke family had done with the horse in the autumn.
In the second division, Bradley Gibbs brought the five-year-old Terrierman, owned and trained by Jane Price, with a good run from three out and stayed on well to beat Dee Star by six lengths.