07 March 2012 Report: East Devon - Bishops Court
by Granville Taylor
A large crowd saw a total of 100 runners contest the eight races at Ottery St Mary on Saturday, with overnight rain easing the ground to good to soft.
Massimo was a worthy winner of the Mixed Open under Robbie Henderson. The lightly raced 12-year -old made steady progress on the final circuit before overhauling Different Trades jumping the last. The winner is trained by Angela Davis at Sutton Montis near Yeovil for owner John Boulter. "Massimo has had so many problems since winning a hunter chase at Cheltenham in 2008," reflected the owner. "It is close to a miracle that he is still racing. He missed a couple of seasons and was also lame after finishing second on his only run at Detling last year.
Jack Barber went close on Different Trades before steering Benedicus home in a fast run Intermediate to ride his seventh winner of the season. "He won on this course last year and we can now look for a little hunter chase," said Forde Abbey trainer Jane Western. "He has grown up since last season," she added, intimating that he could be aimed at one of the Intermediate finals in May.
Will Biddick continues to set a hot pace for the National jockeys' title, and a double on The Boogeyman and Mendip Express took his seasonal total to 17. Gorteenwood made the running in the 19-runner Restricted until slipping up rounding the spinney bend approaching the penultimate. Merv Woodward took over on Double Bank, but Biddick swooped on Mendip Express on the run-in to win going away.
The Cornish rider had initiated his double on the Graham Roach newcomer The Boogeyman in the second division of the Maiden for four to seven-year-olds. Despite racing a bit green, this King's Theatre six-year-old got the better of True Gem after jumping the last. "He has taken time to mature and there is plenty of improvement to come," reported assistant trainer Harry Fry.
Richard Barber trains both Mendip Express and The Boogeyman, and completed a treble thanks to the consistent Barney's Mate in the Novice riders' contest. Jockey Conor Smith timed his challenge well to head Apollo Blaze after the cross fence and held on well as New Little Bric finished with a flourish.
Devon & Cornwall champion Jo Buck partnered her fifth winner of the season as Devon Mead outstayed his ten rivals to win the first section of the Maiden. Jo now holds a joint lead for this year's National ladies' title after adding another success at the Taunton Vale on the following day. Devon Mead's trainer Leslie Jefford trains the six-year-old for a five-strong syndicate and said: "He has always shown promise but has needed to grow up. We tried cheek pieces for the first time today."
Ed Walker saddled Kudu Shine to finish a creditable runner-up behind Devon Mead, but his yard went one better when Blazing Whale landed the Members' race in a canter under Ed Barrett.
Tropical Secret was also being called the winner of the concluding Maiden a long way from home. This eight-year-old, who looks a promising stayer, was bred by his owner Sally Hutchings, and is trained at Highbridge by Jim Baker. Alice Mills sent Tropical Secret to the front at the 15th fence and was not hard pressed to hold Warwickshire challenger Mister Tibbs. Alice rode her first winner under rules at Ludlow two weeks ago.