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30 January 2012 Scene & Heard: Midlands Area Club - Thorpe

by Carolyn Tanner

Joe Docker, whose father John is Chairman of the meeting, recorded his 100th success between the flags when taking the Maiden Division One on the Holly Campbell-trained Popaway.

Joe, a management consultant who works in London, opened his account at Garthorpe in 1994 on Raise An Argument, who at 14 was just two years younger than his pilot.

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It was a chance to show off the suntans in the post-race photographs, as Joe and his family had returned from a six-week holiday in Australia a fortnight earlier, to be followed back to England a few days later by Holly, whose vacation had lasted a week less! In her absence, her father Stuart had been in charge of the training.

Described as "quite feisty, with a lot of attitude," Popaway was bought from her previous owners to stay in the yard. Roy Hartop and Robert Martin own a quarter share each, and although she runs in Holly's name, the original intention, said Stuart, was to call the partnership "Rob Roy and Campbell!"

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Had there been an award for the ride of the day it would surely have gone to Jon Rogers, whose victory, his first, on Crazy Eyes in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Riders' race was earned the hard way. Held up well in rear for two miles, Crazy Eyes showed a fine turn of foot to pick up the leaders in the back straight, but when his saddle began to slip three out Jon was forced to kick away his irons and ride the rest of the race without them.

Trainer Phil Rowley, for whom Jon works, admitted to being "very excited" about the future prospects of the seven-year-old, who belongs to the Crazy Dealers Partnership. "He's a bit of a handful on the gallops so he does quite a bit on his own," reported his 29-year-old rider, who came to racing from eventing, and confessed that he was happy to have escaped one phase of that sport. "I was never a fan of dressage," he laughed.

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Sheila Crow saddled two winners, her son Alastair's Current Exchange taking the Men's Open under Tom David and Derk Pugh's Walcot Lathyrus landing the Restricted Division One.

Current Exchange was left well clear when Caulkin, who had been given a patient and perfectly-timed ride by David Kemp, met the last all wrong and somersaulted. Sheila was adamant her charge would have prevailed, but there were plenty of spectators who were not so certain, while David confined himself to saying of Caulkin "I hadn't gone for him."

"He's got an engine, but he only just does enough every time," said Tom, who rides the chestnut at home. "He's a bit like a kid, but he's starting to grow up."

The son of Beneficial, who was recording his sixth successive Point-to-Point triumph, was led out unsold from the sale ring last year after failing to make his reserve. Whether or not he is still on the market is not clear, but no doubt the price has risen further after this latest victory!

Connections had wanted to take Current Exchange to the Heythrop four-miler but considered the ground to be too fast for him. He is likely next to take in a Bangor Hunter Chase.

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Walcot Lathyrus, who was partnered by Sheila's head lad Paddy Gerety, was reared by a foster mare, his dam Strong Cloth, herself a daughter of the prolific winner Dishcloth, having died while foaling him.

He was given a pipe-opener the previous day by his handler, who was told by Paddy "You didn't go quick enough!" and took great delight in pointing out to him "Now who's right?"

Octogenarian owner Derek Pugh was not present. Derek is disinclined to travel too far nowadays and is thus unfortunate in being based in the North West area, whose season is mainly crammed into just a few weeks in April and May, meaning that trainers from the region are forced to look elsewhere for opportunities.

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In fact, half of the meeting's prizes went to that area, as in addition to the Rowley and Crow successes the Cheshire stables of Gary Hanmer and Ollie Greenall were also on the mark.

Ollie legged up Sam Allwood to take the third Maiden on The Wychough, who has changed hands within the yard since last season and now belongs to the Ridgeway Racing Club.

"There are still a few shares available if anyone wants to join us," said their spokesman Mark Astbury.

Ollie had been less than positive about The Wychough's prospects beforehand, fearing that the ground may have been too quick for him. The six-year-old is ridden at home by Camilla Churton, who herself has Point-to-Point experience.

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Less than 30 minutes earlier Gary had sent out Richard Hewitt's Howareyougoingon to win Division Two in the hands of Josh Hamer. Bought in Ireland from Mikey O'Connor, Howareyouygoingon was unbroken until he was seven, and Richard's description of him as "a bit wild" brought forth the somewhat more blunt comment of "crackers!" from his trainer, who has done his fair share of sitting on him at home - "I'm one of the test pilots!" he smiled.

"He has settled down," added Gary, who had considered the Rock Hopper gelding to be the least likely winner among his three runners at the meeting. "He was a bit disappointing in his first two runs but he's travelled better in the cheekpieces. He was schooled over 12 fences yesterday so this is a day off for him!"

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One which got away from Gary and Josh was Fairymount, who looked to have the Intermediate won rounding the final turn but slowed markedly and was overhauled on the run-in by George Henderson and his father James's home-bred Always Roses, to whom he was conceding 14lbs.

"She's as game as a pebble, and she's obviously benefited from a wind operation in the summer," said Chris Bealby, representing his trainer wife Antonia. "She's too small to cope with regulation fences but I'd love to get her back in my yard to run over hurdles."

George, 19, is currently studying Economics at Reading University

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"I feel so sorry for Hannah," were Claire Hart's first words as she dismounted from Rathcor after winning the Ladies' Open. Claire picked up the ride just three days earlier from her great friend Hannah Lewis, who was committed to going to Higham. [Fortunately she did not leave the East Anglian venue empty-handed.]

Rathcor damaged a tendon at Market Rasen 14 months ago, and Stephen Rea, who bought him as a syndicate horse, was told by vets that he wouldn't race again. "He's a real Christian, but today he reared up in the box as if to say ‘look at me,' so we knew he was well," admitted Stephen. "We all had a good few quid on him!"

This was one of the races in which riders can earn points for the AGA Total Control Championship, and the Cheltenham final is now on Rathcor's agenda. Prior to that the aim is to try to qualify him for the Foxhunters at the Festival.

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Another stand-in rider to enjoy success was Harriet Bethell, who works for Brian Ellison. Harriet won the Club members' race on Helen Connors's Django who, since his days with Jessica Harrington, has been spending his days in the hunting field. Django would have been partnered by Jack Day had he not been claimed for another of the nine runners, Tallantire Lass, who was pulled up.

"He was awesome!" enthused Harriet of her bold-jumping mount, who was retired from Rules racing due to sinus problems. "I kept waiting for them to come to me but he just kept galloping."

Helen has no plans in the pipeline for Django apart from "another day's hunting this week," she smiled.

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The Restricted Division Two winner Rumbavu has also been following hounds, in his case as recently as Wednesday. "That's tested his fitness," laughed Robert Waley-Cohen of son Sam, who needed all his strength to keep his front-running mount going as the pack closed on him in the straight. "It's certainly made me blow a bit," agreed Sam, who professed himself pleased with Rumbavu's performance, while at the same time opining that the six-year-old was saving a bit for himself.

"He's still green and a bit babyish," pointed out Robert, adding "He's the only one we've had who's won from the front." Rumbavu was purchased at Cheltenham in 2010 after his sole run between the flags in Ireland.

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Not many riders are cheered prior to a race, but for the second successive week 50-year-old "adrenalin junkie" Christopher Padfield was welcomed into the paddock for the Club Members' race with a round of applause from his enthusiastic supporters. Although well behind for most of the way, he negotiated 13 obstacles safely before pulling up, a marked improvement on his race-riding debut at North Carlton, where he pulled Phairy Storm round the first fence when under the mistaken impression there was a false start!

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Those who forecast chaos with regard to dividing the 70-entry Maiden on the day were disappointed. The declarations team dealt with the split quickly and proficiently, with the divisions being clearly posted on a board outside the weighing tent.

Unfortunately their efficiency was somewhat let down by the number board. The lettering was indistinct, and for the final three races the operators neglected to put up any riders at all, despite there being several alterations to the racecard.

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There were plaudits also for commentator Matt Coleman, who did a sterling job with hardly a pause for breath throughout the afternoon, including when having to call the final contest in almost total gloom. The late finish was due to racing being put back an hour to allow any frost to come out of the ground, so with the overcast conditions which prevailed all day the organisers did well to complete the programme.

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"The only casualty of the day was Jeremy Mahot, who was stood down after a heavy fall on Withers Breeze in the Maiden Division Two and was saved from a second spill when Jimbury hit the deck in Division Three. The unlucky replacement was Josh Hamer. Jeremy was back on form and was riding again the following day."

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