Conor Houlihan added a double to his Bratton Down treble at the South Tetcott Bank Holiday fixture at Upcott Cross to elevate himself to the nine-winner mark and into the lead for the National Novice Riders’ Championship.
The Irishman, who stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, began with a hard-fought success in the opening Race Hill Garage sponsored Conditions event. His mount Definite Dilemma, trained by his boss Will Biddick, runs in the colours of his father Martin, who was able to watch the action in County Waterford via the popular live streaming. He would have seen Conor shake off Darren Edwards on Party Tunes after a sustained battle in the home straight.
A further success for the Irish jockey followed as Gentleman Farmer made all the running to win the Totnes & Bridgetown Races Company Novice Riders’ Mixed Open. Home bred by Richard Hawker, the lightly raced nine-year-old strolled home to win unchallenged.
It is not all plain sailing in this game, however, and a fall on Safe Harbour in the FC Cleaning Systems Maiden literally brought Houlihan back down to earth. The winner Bon Calvados proved anything but an armchair ride for Darren Edwards, racing keenly, and hanging and jumping erratically, but reaching the judge with eight lengths to spare over Roc The Boat. A half brother to Saint Calvados, who was narrowly beaten by Min in last year’s Ryanair Chase, Bon Calvados had been placed in a Market Rasen bumper for Olly Murphy and is now in the care of Alan Hill for the Cross Channel Racing Club.
Edwards himself had been in the wars two days previously at Bratton Down when two heavy falls put his participation for this meeting in doubt. The Devon & Cornwall champion jockey bounced back, however, in typically determined fashion, and two winners and three seconds from five rides was his reward.
His win on the game veteran Honest Deed in the Simpkins Edwards Mixed Open was particularly apt, since it was announced afterwards that the Dean Summersby-trained gelding had gone into honourable retirement after taking his career wins into double figures for his quartet of local owners.
Sixteen-year-old Beau Morgan gave a polished performance to score on the Matt Hampton-trained Twig in the Coodes Solicitors Restricted, beating Darren Edwards on the 2-1 favourite Russian Invasion into second place.
“This is my second point-to-point winner, and I have just left school and plan to ride in Jersey in the summer to gain experience,” said the young rider, who lives near Bath and, judging by the cheering, had brought his fan club with him to Devon.
It was the turn of Darren Andrews in the penultimate contest as Elusive Intentions just outstayed the Darren Edwards-ridden Honest Opinion in the PRJ Engineering Maiden Conditions race. The winner is trained at Mappowder, near Sturminster Newton, by Harriet Brown for owner Shirley Prideaux, who bought the well-bred seven-year-old at Tattersalls Ascot sales two years ago.
“He is a big horse and has had a lot of niggles,” explained the trainer, who was enjoying her first winner of this truncated season.