The 2017-18 season drew to a close on Saturday, when the Torrington Farmers hosted their meeting at Umberleigh. This meeting always draws a huge crowd, and this year was no different, with not only pointing followers, but many trainers and jockeys travelling from afar to contest the six races, with Championships still to be settled on the final day.
The Tattersalls Ireland-sponsored Conditions race produced a thrilling start to the day, with the Matt Hampton-trained Bohemian Rhapsody, under young jockey Charlie Todd, scoring one for the area. Le Clo De La Londe (Emma Watson) was sent off the favourite of the seven-strong field, but Charlie took up the running on the final circuit, and fought off a strong challenge from Bathwick Scanno (Will Biddick) over the last to hold on. It was Charlie's first Point-to-Point win; he graduated from pony racing, where he had clocked up an impressive 86 winners. He is now based at Ian Williams' yard after spending some time with Paul Nicholls. "It's a great win for Charlie," said the winning trainer. "His father bought Bohemian Rhapsody for him at the start of the National Hunt season, and he was unlucky to be unseated last time out at Bratton." Bathwick Scanno has now been retired by trainer Teresa Clark, and deserves credit for running in 50 Point-to-Point races, as well as four races under Rules.
The seven runners contesting the Kivells-sponsored Restricted all came from outside of the Devon & Cornwall area. Gowell, for trainer/jockey Byron Moorcroft, had been sent off even-money favourite, and set a good pace from the start until being joined over the final ditch by Midnight Queen, under Charlie Price, who had made eye-catching progress. The latter soon stretched his advantage to five lengths over two out and went on to win by a handy six lengths, with Euro Bond (Kieran Buckley) in second. Trainer Tim Vaughan had not travelled down from Wales to see his mare win, so Charlie, who rides out full time for Tim as an amateur jockey, commented: "She is a tough little mare and jumped perfectly. Tim bought her off Bradley Gibbs."
The Davisons-sponsored Men's Open only attracted four runners, again all from outside the area. Big Man Doe, for trainer Martin Wanless, had been backed into odds-on favourite, and did not disappoint his followers. Ridden by Zac Baker, he was sent off in front to set the pace and demonstrated some spectacular jumping until Mr Sawyer (Bradley Gibbs) took up the running over the final ditch, having stalked the leader at the start of the second circuit. However, his challenge came to an end when stalling over the second-last, giving Zac time to kick on for a 15-length win. The Stratford-based winning trainer was delighted, saying: "We bought Big Man Doe out of Ireland. He will now be turned away for the summer and be back pointing again next season if we can get the ground, as he won't go on soft. It's a good win for Zac, who we nickname 'Ruby' after Ruby Walsh."
Seven lined up for the Nancekivell & Co-sponsored Ladies' Open, with the Biddick team's There's No Panic claiming odds-on favouritism. There's No Panic, under Vicky Wade, had given his backers a good run for their money, but the race went the way of Francesca Nimmo's Rendezvous Peak, whose jockey, 19-year-old Alice Stevens, was here to challenge for the National Ladies' Novice Jockey title, in which she was equal-first with Isabel Williams, who was on holiday in Bali. Alice set the pace from the start, was never headed, and her impressive six-length win secured her the title. The ditch had been bypassed on the second circuit, after jockey Jo Supple sustained a heavy fall, and we wish her well in her recovery. The winning trainer was delighted for Alice: "We had entered Rendezvous Peak just for Alice to challenge for the title," said Francesca. "He has run several times recently but has stayed fit. Alice rides out for us six days a week."
The bookies took a hit on the well-backed Joey Kangaroo in the Barum Stud-sponsored four-runner Intermediate. Having opened at 2-1, Joey Kangaroo (David Mansell) was sent off at 4/6, with Culverwell (Will Biddick) a 7/4 chance. Will set the pace, with David keeping his mount settled at the back of the quartet but he soon struggled to stay with the pace on the second circuit, leaving the Fred Hutsby-trained Kinlochspelve, under Sam Lee, to take up the running. But his advantage was short-lived, as the huge Joey Kangaroo, who stands an enormous 17hh, ate up the ground with his long strides to assert over two fences from home, clocking up 54-year-old Mansell's 202nd winner. "Joey is trained at home by my wife, Julie," he said. "We bought him out of Ascot sales, have had a few issues with him as he is not only tall but long, too, and needed time to mature, but he will stay in the yard and we will look forward to running him again next season."
The final race of the day, and the season, was the Smallridge Bros Ltd-sponsored Open Maiden, which went the way of Tiverton-based owner/trainer/jockey Kieran Buckley with The Boola Bee. Having settled in mid-division of the eight runners, Kieran asserted over the second-last, going on to score by an impressive 15 lengths, with Buochas Le Dia and Byron Moorcroft in second. The winner is joint-owned by Kieran and his brother Tom, and their proud father Eddie commented: "We bought The Boola Bee out of Doncaster Sales in May this year. Tom is Conditional, both Kieran and Tom work for Nigel Hawke, and Kieran also rides for Jo Tickle." It was Kieran's first runner and winner as a trainer, and he won the trophy for best riding performance of the day.
Thus, another thrilling day of pointing marked the end of the current season. The secretaries of the Devon & Cornwall area wish to thank all the sponsors and helpers for all the meetings who have made racing possible.