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Countryside Alliance (Wessex) review

Press Release 20th February 2024 Wincanton

By Robert Bracher

The sun shone at Badbury Rings after heavy rain in the previous 24 hours and this made the going on the soft side and a number of horses found this too testing. However, the ground played to the strengths of a couple of course specialists and the two leading riders in the country were able to secure wins in five of the nine races with Will Biddick securing three victories and James King two successes. Elsewhere there was a first riding triumph for Abby Henry and a first course success for Murray Dodd.

The Bryanston School Club Members race provided the third course success from four visits for Harry Ryall’s stable star Another Furlough. Ridden as usual by Rob David he bided his time until making up ground on the second circuit and by the time the field reached the cross fence he was in front. Despite getting a little lonely in the home straight he had too much in hand over Punches Cross ridden by Will Biddick. A delighted trainer said ‘he will move up to Open company next with a race at Cothelstone being considered’ with the ultimate goal this season being the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham in May.

The Savills Wessex National Mens Open was a high-quality race with victory going to another course specialist in the form of Dr Rhythm ridden by Will Biddick ahead of Lift Me up ridden by Jack Andrews and The Kings Writ the mount of Josh Newman who is the usual rider of Dr Rhythm. Will sitting on Tina Dunsford and Peter Clarke’s gelding for the first time secured a number of good leaps from him and showed the benefit of his outing at Milborne. This was his third career victory at Badbury in the last three years and a delighted Keith Cumings was thrilled with the performance of his stable star.

The Hendy Jaguar sponsored Conditions race for Novice Riders produced the biggest field of the day with sixteen runners lining up. The race looked to be between Westhill ridden by Fred Philipson-Stow and Western Cowboy ridden by Will Badlan who vied for the lead for most of the race with the former looking the likely winner jumping the last. However, Abby Henry had other ideas and producing a strong run from the final fence grabbed victory in the final strides. Abby,23, originally from Ludlow where she had hunted and ridden ponies, now lives in Lambourn and is an assistant to the well-known pre-trainer Malcolm Bastard from Aldbourne near Marlborough. Bought privately out of Fran Nimmo’s yard the mare has already run two good races for Abby this season and is proving to be a good schoolmistress for her.


The Howden Insurance sponsored Ladies race was expected to give Gina Andrews another winner aboard Ludlow Hunter Chase winner Captain Tommy but once headed approaching the final ditch he soon weakened and was pulled up. The race then developed into a battle between the mare Walkin Out ridden by Anna Johnston and Montanna partnered by Chloe Emsley with the last-named drawing clear on the run in to give owner Reg Hopkins a welcome winner. Explaining that ‘I was worried about the ground for him as he had not run well on his seasonal debut’ he then proudly said ‘I am really chuffed with that performance and pleased for Ed (Walker) who has done a lot with him.’


The training performance of the day came from Red Nika ridden by James King and trained by Eamonn O’Donnabhain. Defying an absence from the racecourse of approaching three years he was too good for Great Colewood ridden by Chloe Emsley in the South West Wills and Probate Limited sponsored Restricted race. Previously trained by Tom Lacey he was taken on by Dan Shinton who acts as farrier to Tom’s National Hunt yard and was given time to recover from the injury he suffered on his last racecourse appearance. Dan was keen to give credit to Toni James who had looked after him in that first year when he was off the course. Now owned by the Day Dreamer Partnership who are made up of other clients of Dan the long-term goal for the gelding is the Dunraven Bowl Hunter Chase at Chepstow


The decision to divide the Maiden race into four races proved spot on with 49 of the 56 entries being declared to run. All supported by the Injured Jockeys Fund the first division provided James King with his second winner of the day aboard Julie Wadland’s Glenmount who easily beat his thirteen rivals. Setting off in front, James soon had his rivals toiling and had twenty lengths in hand from his nearest rival Sforza Castle. Previously runner up at Larkhill and Milborne St Andrew he certainly stayed the three mile trip to give his trainer a welcome winner on her birthday. He looks one to follow this season.

Will Biddick brought up his second winner on the day aboard Rachel Bartlett’s home bred gelding Dorset Diamond in the second division. With his only serious rival Moon Lady unseating her rider Chloe Emsley at the second last Will was able to come home virtually solo. Bred by Rachel out of the mare Bobbys Choice who won two races for Richard Miller both at Badbury Rachel wanted  to ‘thank Richard Miller for giving her the mare’ from whom she has bred this winner and his brother Dorset Dazzler.

Will completed his treble aboard the very smart 4-year-old No Drama This End in the fastest division of the Maiden when easily beating the other 4-year-old Rowdy ridden by James King. By the fashionable sire Walk in the Park this striking grey gelding is owned by Will and Geoffrey Brown from Exmoor. Bought by Will and Geoffrey at the Goffs July Sale for 26K Euros as a first venture by them into buying a store. Explaining the connection Geoffrey said that ‘ I first supported Will when he returned to pointing from Venetia Williams and we have remained friends ever since and when I heard he wanted to venture into buying a couple of stores I decided to be a part of the action’ Known for being a part owner of Lil Rockerfeller trained by Neil King this is his first venture back into pointing for many years. The gelding is next likely to be seen at a forthcoming sale at Cheltenham.

The final division of the Maiden went to Hurricane Deal trained by Tom Britten and ridden by Murray Dodd. Trained in Shropshire by Tom who is assistant to National Hunt trainer Alistair Ralph for owners Mark Bricknell, Mark Edwards, Derek Boughton and himself he explained that ‘ we bought the horse out of Sam Thomas’s yard and thought that he would be good enough to at least win a Maiden’  Murray who also works at Alistair Ralph’s yard was left clear at the last fence to record his first victory at Badbury.


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