Region's point-to-point season off to flying start
With the threat of floods and frost duly shrugged off, there was plenty of action as the new Devon & Cornwall point-to-point season got underway at Black Forest Lodge, Exeter.
The useful Divine Intavention landed the odds in a good Mixed Open, holding off the spirited challenge of Princeful, with Faasel well held in third.
Divine Intavention started last season by winning this same race before three subsequent hunter chase successes at Taunton, Ludlow and Folkestone. The nine-year-old was a winner with her first runner on Sunday for trainer Fran Moller, who now holds the pointing licence at the Banbury yard on behalf of owner Hugh Wilson. "He didn't really enjoy the softish going but coped well," remarked regular jockey Mark Wall, who added that the gelding might prefer a left-handed track.
Trainer Zoe Hammond, of Abberley, Worcestershire, achieved a training double thanks to Timeshift and Joe The Trucker. Timeshift had scored on this course on the opening day two years ago and now gave Zoe and Mike Hammond's son Charlie a winner on his race-riding debut. The 16-year-old jockey rode a cool race, delaying his challenge until crossing the second last. "I have spent time with David Pipe in the last couple of summers and would love to become a conditional jockey after another couple of seasons as an amateur," said the young rider who is currently studying for his GCSE's at Chantry High School, Martley, near Worcester.
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Timeshift is owned by Don Constable, who shares ownership of the fit-looking Open Maiden winner Joe The Trucker along with John Crook and Peter Clifton. The second leg of the Hammond training double was ridden by Tom David who rides out for the yard twice a week.
Will Biddick came to the Devon track fresh from a winning ride at Newbury on the previous day, and promptly set about defending his point-to-point title with a smooth success on The Wealerdealer in the opening race. Will was doing a good turn for his sponsor Geoffrey Brown, who owns the five-year-old gelding. "Will has done much of the pre-training, including work on the moor and hunting," said the owner, who buys and sells tractors at Twitchen on Exmoor.
Molland Gayle started the new season as she ended the last – with a determined win in the Restricted. The Dr Massini six-year-old outstayed Santiago Sun and Big Time Ben to give Ian Chanin a winning ride on the mare trained by his father Robert. "She stays well and will probably come back here for the Silverton Members'," said the trainer. Two of the six "runners" in this race refused to race, including the heavily backed Welsh challenger Buried Gold.