Helen Plumbly, breeder and part-owner of Briery Belle, had an afternoon to remember at Warwick’s Eventmasters Christmas Raceday on Thursday when her seven-year-old, ridden by Tom O’Brien, landed the feature £25,000 Lady Godiva Mares’ Novices’ Chase (Listed Race), writes David Hucker.
Despite two non-runners reducing the field to six, this still looked a competitive contest with Desert Queen, a winner of four races under Rules, as well as two point-to-points, carrying a 6lb penalty for her success in a similar race at Market Rasen.
Led into the start by her trainer Harry Fry, she bounded away from the tape and was soon setting a good pace with Noel Fehily, clearing her fences in some style.
Favourite Briery Belle, an impressive winner at Carlisle on her reappearance, was the only one able to keep pace with the leader and, after closing her down going to the second-last fence, went to the front approaching the final obstacle to win by six lengths.
There was a big gap back to The Organist and Rock On The Moor, the only other finishers on ground that had been officially changed to soft by clerk of the course Jane Hedley after the first two races.
After early morning rain, blue sky and sunshine greeted racegoers for the opening eventmasters.co.uk Juvenile Hurdle, in which the 14 runners were well strung out from half-way. Market leader Tyrell had jumped into a clear lead at the second flight and was never headed as, one by one, his challengers fell away.
With Newmarket raiders Port Paradise and Singapore Sling both pulling up and Don Bersy falling at the fourth-last flight when upsides the leader, it was left to Final Choice, bred by The Queen and having his first run for the newly-formed Jockey Club Ownership South West syndicate, to chase him home, with 50-1 shot Unblinking back in third.
Despite a maximum field of 18 facing the starter, Westend Story, fifth at the Cheltenham Festival on his last appearance, was a hot 6-5 favourite to make a winning debut over jumps in the Wrights Of Campden Maiden Hurdle for the Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club.
But, some untidy jumping down the back straight saw him lose ground behind leader Willoughby Court, whose slick hurdling kept him at the head of affairs and he ran on strongly for David Bass to see off the challenge of Tommy Rapper, who looks a promising prospect for the Skelton team.
Sixth place on his comeback run at Uttoxeter after a 22-month lay-off had seen Brandon Hill dropped 2lb by the handicapper to a new rating of 120, allowing him to creep into the John Gallagher Handicap Chase with top weight.
The three-mile trip proved to be a real test of stamina, but Brandon Hill made much of the running to grind out victory by a length from Talk Of The South, who could not quite close the gap over the last two fences.
Seas Of Green is just one four horses to have run this season for the small Banbury stable of trainer Paul Cowley and she chalked up his first win when taking the Vendman Handicap Hurdle in the hands of conditional jockey Ciaran Gethings.
This was the first success for Seas Of Green since landing the same race two years ago and, after leading into the home straight, she ran on strongly to beat Baron Du Plessis by nine lengths, a result that caught the attention of the stewards who enquired into the apparent improvement in form compared with her previous run at Chepstow where she finished ninth of ten runners. They noted the trainer’s explanation that she had benefited from her seasonal reappearance run and appreciated the step up in trip.
Although only six had set out in the TFG Group Handicap Chase, four were still in contention as the runners approached the final fence but, with Mercian King making a mistake, it was Arquebusier and James Banks who took advantage to come away and win by a length and a quarter.
Those who stayed to the seventh and final race saw the most impressive performance of the afternoon when 5-2 favourite Cause Toujours, having his first outing for trainer Dan Skelton, ran away with the eventmasters.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, earning a 16-1 quote from bookmakers Paddy Power for the Cheltenham Festival in March.