REPORT - Torrington Farmers Hunt Saturday 8th June

  • Posted: Monday, 10th June 2024
  • Author: Granville Taylor
  • Photo: Tim Holt

Quite a collection of memorable moments signalled the end of the 2023/24 point-to-point season on Saturday (8th June) at the Torrington Farmers meeting at Umberleigh, North Devon.

Darren Edwards went into retirement from the saddle in a blaze of glory by riding a double, while teenage Welsh schoolboy Ed Vaughan reached a record number of point-to-point winners in a season for a novice rider.

One of the leading riders in the country, the 39-year-old Devon born rider Darren Edwards had ridden the first of his 330 career point-to-point winners on Gerald Greenway’s Blade of Fortune at Chipley Park in the foot and mouth ravaged year of 2001. Three years later he partnered the Martin Pipe trained Maximize to a Cheltenham festival success in the Kim Muir Memorial, one of his 30 winners under rules.

In recent years a link with the Dean Summersby yard has provided him with the majority of his winners, and it was fitting that his final day in the saddle would provide that duo with a double.

Lakota Warrior started the day well for them in the colours of John Gardener and Torben Hughes, displaying his toughness by defying a 10lbs penalty in the Area Conditions race. This was the eight-year-olds third success of the season, just six days since finishing a creditable third in a hot Ladies’ race at Bratton Down. “He is a spring horse and was struggling in the soft ground in the winter. His coat goes and he needs the sun on his back. He coughed a couple of times in the week though and this is not really his ideal track, but he has earned a break now,” explained the trainer, as the successful rider performed a Frankie Dettori style leap from the saddle, much to the delight of the large crowd gathered around the unsaddling area.

That was just a practice jump really because the rider repeated the leap when Dorrells Pierjo went on to outclass his seven rivals in the Mixed Open. This time it was his final ride, and he couldn’t avoid the traditional ducking by his fellow jockeys (and I also spotted Dean Summersby in the gang) heaving him into the water trough.

The Lifton trainer has certainly rejuvenated Dorrells Pierji, who was winning races for such luminaries as Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton in his younger days. The gelding has now won five times in the last six weeks. The 11-year-old looked in trouble entering the final circuit but cut through the field stylishly before heading the luckless Slievegar (Toby McCain -Mitchell) at the top of the hill. He has certainly given his quartet of current owners, Nick Banks, Will Dodd, Dan Stevenson and Alfie Gibson plenty of fun. “There was a lot against him today,” said Edwards.“The race wasn’t run to suit and I didn’t want him to quicken more than once.” As an added bonus this win gave the Edwards / Summersby combination their century of pointing winners together. It will also be their last together because apart from the jockey’s final ride, Dean Summersby is planning to take out a full trainers’ licence later this year.

The retiring jockey will still be involved in the sport in his capacity as a member of the PPA Board, but will mainly be concentrating on his role as a partner at the Exeter offices of the Fisher German company.

Ed Vaughan set the seal on his remarkable debut season by overtaking James Bowen’s novice rider record of 30 winners in a season set in 2017. 16-year-old Vaughan, still with another year of A levels to undertake, took the Tim Forster Memorial Restricted on the quaintly named Ffree Pedro by a comfortable margin over Miss Carli Fay (Daniel Kyne). 22 of young Vaughan’s winners have been saddled by his father Tim, but this strong Yeats eight-year-old is trained by Bradley Gibbs, and was notching his third victory of the season, all in the past three weeks. “We got him from Donald McCain. He has had lots of niggles. He got very sick at the end of March with a virus and needed antibiotics. I hope he will be good enough for one of the Intermediate finals next season,” said Hertfordshire based Gibbs.

On a day when a trio of odds-on favourites had put punters on top, the unconsidered 33-1 outsider Bistouri D’Honore galloped on relentlessly under owner/trainer Alice Procter to beat Mr Mafia and the favourite Premier D’Troice in the Grass Roots Conditions race. The 12-year-old was scoring for the first time in two years and was giving his 20-year-old rider her first success of the season. “He wants quick ground,” said Alice who is based with Kieran Burke at Whitcombe near Dorchester. The runner up, 15-year-old Mr Mafia, with 14 wins on his CV, and just one year younger than his promising rider Freddie Keighley, has also earned honourable retirement.

It was fitting that the final race of the season should go to the champion jockey James King, who has wrestled the title back from Will Biddick, and reached his half century for the season in the process on Just A Mystery. This six-year-old Doyen gelding, now up for sale according to his owner/trainer Max Comley, had been ridden by a claimer all season, but landed a mighty gamble here to give his trainer his 22nd winner of the season. The Naunton based trainer also has his sights set on a full National Hunt licence, “probably later this year.”

So a season which saw dozens of fixtures throughout the country lost to waterlogging ended on a high in the Devon sunshine with the area titles handed out to Darren Edwards (male jockey), Anna Johnston (lady and novice lady jockey) and Ed Vaughan (novice jockey).