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Dorset and Somerset Staghounds Review

Press Release 7th May 2024 Wincanton

By Robert Bracher

A typical Exmoor drizzle didn’t deter a decent-sized crowd from attending the Devon & Somerset Point to Point last Sunday at South Hill and they were treated to some good racing with winners for the two experienced jockeys contesting the Men’s National title, James King and Will Biddick while young Billy Broomfield just starting out in his riding career, showed that the next generation has plenty of emerging talent.


A first winner from only his second start at Flete Park the day before, Billy Broomfield got the leg-up on veteran Shantou Flyer and steered him to an easy 15 length success in the Mixed Open.  Always travelling well in company with his rivals, Billy sealed the win with a good jump over the open ditch to draw steadily further clear on the classy 14 year old who is only two years younger than his jockey.  After regular pilot Olive Nicholls felt she hadn’t recovered sufficiently due to her mount’s uncharacteristic run-out last weekend at Stafford Cross, father Paul contacted Sam Loxton to ask if he’d consider replacing her with Billy who has worked in his yard for the past 8 months following a background in Pony Club, hunting and Pony Racing.  Sam was at a loss to explain why Shantou Flyer had blotted his copybook last time although he felt the crowd had been close to the racing line and maybe something had caught his eye prompting him to miss the fence.


Anna Johnston had taken a Grass Roots Riders race at Stafford Cross on Walkin Out only last weekend for Les Jefford and with the mare coming out of that race so well, Les decided to go for a quick-fire return.  Sent off the odds-on favourite, the mare who won a Hunter Chase last season, was a little keen in the early stages but had too much class for her opponents and breezed into the lead full of running with half a circuit to run.  Held in very high regard by her trainer, he was in two minds as to whether to declare her on the ground as he felt it was too soft.  In this form, she is one to follow especially on a quicker surface. 


The Maiden race caused something of an upset when Mister Sky fitted with first time blinkers, was fired into an early ten length lead by jockey Charlie Sprake.  Will Biddick looked like he had ridden the perfect race on runner-up, Jambo but Mister Sky refused to capitulate and kept finding more when asked to run out a 3 length winner at the line.  A surprised trainer, Chris Barber said afterwards, “It really was last-chance saloon for him as he kept disappointing but the blinkers and the positive ride from Charlie have made a huge difference! I was thinking about putting him on the transfer list but might have to re-think things a bit now!”


Dr Rhythm is a credit to his connections and duly obliged in the opening Members race when cruising home from Honest Opinion under Will Biddick. A winner of this race last year for owner Tina Dunsford, he is the most consistent of horses.  Trainer Keith Cumings’s daughter Nicky who was on hand to greet the winner said “He found the trip too far at Cothelstone and Will said didn’t really like the ground here but he never lets us down. He will get an entry at Holnicote next weekend and although generally we don’t run them back that quickly, he has won very easily here.”


Steel Express is another who had plenty left in the tank following his 15 length win in the Conditions race under Martin McIntyre for trainer Mike Vanstone who was on crutches following a hip operation last week.  Linda Blackford who was deputising in the paddock said afterwards “He’s an absolute legend of a horse who has won and been placed loads of times for owners Sue Quick, Nigel Mackenzie and Richard Dening. We bought him initially for Sue as a 3 year old at the Derby Sale and then the others joined her.  He’s always been a bit of character but we don’t mind on days like these!”


The sun finally came out for the finale, a Restricted race which went to Lavorante ridden by James King for trainer Luke Price.  Surprisingly not sent off favourite, James was always going easily on the winner and felt he improved as the race unfolded and the tempo quickened.  James commented afterwards “He jumped really well and is a strong stayer. The quicker they went the better he got.”  Co-owned by Luke’s neighbour, farmer David Van Pouke (who has had 6 runners with Luke, 5 of which have won), Lavorante looks certain to follow up this win and should be kept on the right side of.


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