Wet weather had arrived in time to ease the going for the Tiverton Staghounds meeting, the third and final Point-to-Point of the season at Bratton Down.
A total of 42 runners for the six races at this picturesque venue included the usual quota of late-season long-distance travellers on a day which featured a first riding treble for 23-year-old James King.
King started the day with a pillar-to-post success on Lawsons Thorns. This gelding, based at the local Rackenford yard of Mike Vanstone, was completing his own personal treble, having won at the two recent Bratton Down fixtures. This time, starting odds-on favourite, he had to cope with the useful mare Cloudy Music, recently crowned as the Jockey Club champion mare. Liam Harrison brought the mare to challenge at the penultimate fence, but King's mount galloped on relentlessly to score by five lengths.
King had to work harder on Namako (pictured), who has been running consistently without winning all season. This time he made steady progress and was left clear when the favourite Desert Roe fell at the last. "I think I had the beating of him," reported the winning rider, who was wearing the colours of Hugh Jarvis and trainer Alan Hill. Namako was paying a quick return visit to the venue from his trainer's Oxfordshire yard, having finished second in the Exmoor Men's Open just a week ago.
Jack Tudor, Desert Roe's jockey, has had an up-and-down season. The 17-year-old suffered a broken leg early in the campaign, then rode 22 winners to secure two major National novice rider titles (Harley Racing PPORA and Fuller's), and looks to have ended his season with a broken collarbone sustained in Desert Roe's fall.
However, nothing was stopping King as he went on to complete his treble and his 14th pointing winner of the season, as Welsh invaders Airpur Desbois and Seniergues (with Ben Jones stepping in for Tudor) fought out the finish of the nine-runner Restricted. King produced Airpur Desbois to challenge course winner Seniergues at the penultimate obstacle and wouldn't be denied on the stiff climb to the judge. "He needs a patient ride, has improved through the season, and will be better next year," was how the delighted rider summed up his Gareth Moore trained-winner.
Basher Brian, the Open Maiden winner, was another one returning to the track, having finished runner-up to the aforementioned Seniergues at the Dulverton West last month. This time Byron Moorcroft had Basher Brian prominent throughout, and just fended off the challenge of Spring Break up the final hill. Ironically, James King's only losing ride of the day came on Spring Break, the Getaway gelding who is from the yard of his employer Will Biddick.
Moorcroft, who also trains Basher Brian at his Cowbridge yard for owner Jason Warner, is enjoying his best season in the saddle, clocking up his 28th winner on this lightly raced eight-year-old.
Holy Water was well fancied to give Moorcroft another winner in the Intermediate, but had to give best to the progressive Soul Kaliber in the hands of Darren Edwards. Despite carrying a 5lb penalty, the winner drew away effortlessly up the finishing hill to record a 10-length success . The ex-Gigginstown nine-year-old started the season as a maiden and was achieving his fourth success for the Little Acres Racing Club. He is in pole position now for the leading horse award for the Devon & Cornwall area. "He has had lots of physio and has improved through the season," remarked trainer Dean Summersby, who also mentioned that Soul Kaliber had spent two-and-a-half hours held up on the M5 in an abortive attempt to get to the recent Stratford Hunter Chase meeting.
Amy Cox rode her third career winner when Beggar's Velvet took a good-quality Ladies' Open at the expense of favourite Ramble On (Jodie Hughes), who was conceding 4lb . The pair dominated the closing stages, coming very close together on the brow of the finishing hill, before Beggar's Velvet, despite hanging towards his opponent as they squeezed up the rails, stayed on dourly to win by a length, subsequently surviving a stewards' enquiry. Trained by Fran Nimmo, the veteran Dr Massini gelding is proving a good schoolmaster for his rider, having carried her to victory three times in the last 16 days.
The meeting included a short tribute to Richard Barber, who had passed away two days previously. A legendary trainer, Richard had saddled the last of his numerous winners at Bratton Down (Whataknight ridden by Will Biddick) five years ago.