A very balmy February day brought out a good crowd to enjoy the Countryside Alliance (Wessex ) point-to-point at Badbury Rings and competitive racing was the order of the day on going that riders described as good to firm. There were impressive victories in the two Open races and the Novice Riders race and a debut success for a gelding trained by Chris Barber following his fantastic success with Famous Clermont in the Walrus Hunter Chase at Haydock the previous day.
The feature race of the day, the Savills-sponsored Wessex National Mens Open race, provided success for the Hannah Lewis trained Cheltenham De Vaige ridden by Tom Broughton. Taken to the start before his four rivals as usual he was content to track the leaders until being produced to take up the running in the final stages and had three and a half lengths in hand from main rival Fifty Shades. Delighted owners Matt and Sally Burford paying their first visit to Badbury explained that the gelding prefers faster going and when his jockey heard that there had been little rain he advised them to run rather than wait for next week. Tom, who works for Fergal O’Brien, has built up a good relationship with the gelding having already won two handicap chases at Newton Abbot over the past two seasons. The long-term aim for the gelding this season will be the 4-mile Hunter Chase at the Cheltenham Hunter Chase evening in May.
The Hendy Jaguar Land Rover Ladies Open race provided Minella Encore with his second success at Badbury this season. Setting off in front with race favourite Rhythm Is A Dancer ridden by Olive Nicholls his jumping under his novice rider Talor Hopkins was superb and gave his rivals an exhibition round. Course specialist Tom Barton ridden by Chloe Emsley challenged approaching the last but could not pass Talor and her game mount. Bought from Richard Newland’s stable last May he is stabled at Sam Thomas’s yard where Talor works and she does the work with the gelding in her spare time. Owned by her father Leighton Talor advised that ‘ I have had a ride under Rules under my Category A License and hope that Sam might give me more rides on the back of this success’ Explaining his last race at Chaddesley Corbett she said ‘ he hated the sticky ground but this faster going was much more to his liking – I am a real fan of Badbury having now won on both visits’
The meeting began with The Bryanston School sponsored Club Members Conditions Race which proved a very easy winner for the favourite Dr Rhythm ridden by Josh Newman. Having his third run in this race he followed up his victory from 2022 to give owner Tina Dunsford and trainer Keith Cumings another welcome winner. Always tracking the leaders Josh bided his time until taking up the lead after the second last and drew clear from The Dartmoor Rose ridden by Darren Andrews to record a ten lengths victory. Explaining his love affair with Badbury Tina said that ‘ he relishes quick ground and the course seems to suit him perfectly’
The Greenhaven Landscapes sponsored Conditions race for Novice Riders provided Raven’s Tower ridden by Megan Fox with a very easy victory. Following up on a similar victory at Cocklebarrow the thirteen-year-old veteran proved much too good for his six rivals and was clear of Doldido ridden by Ollie Ayton at the winning post. Recording her seventh career victory Megan who works for trainer Ben Pauling advised that she was about to go to Doncaster to obtain her Category B license and hopes this will lead to more rides under Rules. Her boss and trainer of the gelding advised that he had never been to Badbury before either as a rider or trainer and was impressed with the course. Megan who is the granddaughter of jockey Jimmy Fox known for his success on Red Candle and daughter of jockey Sean Fox has no plans at this stage to turn conditional as ‘ I really enjoy pointing where families can come along and enjoy the racing and staying as an amateur gives me more options at present’
Laura Claydon’s King’s Quay was a ready winner of the J R Eventing sponsored Restricted race ridden by Martin ‘ Fly’McIntyre. Bought by Laura as 3-year-old store horse she has been very patient with the gelding who was recording his second career victory following a Maiden success at Cherrybrook in 2021. Trained by Matt Hampton at Peasedown St John near Bath where he and his wife Fliss now run a successful breaking and pretraining yard for not only Paul Nicholls but also Sir Mark Prescott and Roger Charlton Matt confirmed that he had now retired from race riding to concentrate on the flourishing business. Paying credit to Laura for her patience with the horse he was keen to give credit to Olivia Box who rides him in most of his work at home. This was the first time Fly had ridden him and he commented that ‘ I am wearing the colours that used to be worn by Ashley Farrant who rode for Laura containing the lucky white button ’
The biggest field of the day of nine horses set off in the Julia’s House sponsored Maiden race and the race developed into a duel between Imperial D’Ainay ridden by James King and Yes and Yes ridden by Will Biddick. The former who was making his racecourse debut had more in hand to defeat his rival but had to survive a stewards enquiry after the race. Trained by Chris Barber who missed the victory as he was in Ireland but advised that the winner had been acquired from Sam Curling in that country. James commented that he ‘ was very green and gawpy and will be better for some more cut in the going’. Bred out of a mare who won four races in France including two steeplechases he is next likely to be seen at the sales at Cheltenham on Friday where he has been given a wild card entry. Always prominent in his race this strong gelding looks a fine prospect for the future.