The South East area hosted 2 meetings over the Easter weekend with contrasting results.
Regrettably the meeting held on Easter Saturday suffered from a significant lack of runners and resulted in 4 walk-overs from 6 races.
The first walk-over was an unlucky occurrence as 2 horses were declared for the open maiden race, however Iron In The Soul bled in the paddock and having made his way to the start was reviewed by the veterinary team who withdrew him from the race leaving Winola for owner/trainer/jockey Katie Featherstone only having to return to the paddock past the winning post to lose her maiden status.
The conditions race for 9yr olds and over attracted 2 entrants and odds-on favourite Conkies Lad with Charlie Marshall in the saddle happily obliged beating Kentucky Star by 15 lengths.
Charlie Marshall had to work a little bit harder in the 3 runner restricted race. Sitting behind the long-time leader and race favourite Shallamar and Phil York, Marshall moved Steel The China into the lead turning down the hill for the final time. Steel The China managed to get a clear advantage over Shallamar by the penultimate fence and extended that lead on the run to the final fence and came home 8 lengths clear. The Crazy Crab completed for third but a significant distance behind Shallamar.
Charlie’s sister Izzie then walked over in the mixed open on Court Dismissed who was the only declaration. They were followed by Phil York and Streets Of London who also only had to make their way from the final fence to the winning post in the 2mile 4 furlong conditions race having no opponents to race against.
There was slight hope that the hunt member’s race would see horses tackling the obstacles, however in the end it was only Head Spin for the Grissell team who was declared and he made short work of leaving the paddock and returning the winner under James Rawdon-Mogg.
Monday’s meeting at Aldington started with a three runner maiden race. Lauren Braithwaite trained Sandygate and Gina Andrews were sent off the bookmaker’s favourite to lose his maiden status. The victory was looking on the cards until the penultimate fence where Gina was unseated leaving September Fields and Rupert Stearn with only the final fence to clear. Despite a tired jump September Fields cleared the final fence and was the only finisher after Beech Hill had also deposited jockey Hannah Darpoe on the floor earlier in the race.
Rupert followed up his victory (his 100th career success) with further success in the men’s open aboard Franks A Million for the Turner family who managed to justify favouritism and can home three lengths ahead of Florella and Charlie Marshall for Cynthia Woods.
The restricted race was a lively affair with five runners with Gina Andrews once again aboard the favourite Forgiving whilst Will Hickman had picked up the ride on Orchard Hill for Nigel Padfield. With three fences to jump all five runners were in with a chance but it was Forgiving and Orchard Hill who managed to break clear of Pinsandneedles, Dontdillydally and Winola running to the penultimate fence. The leading pair were still side by side approaching the final fence but it was Orchard Hill who got away from the fence first and managed to claim a one and a half length advantage at the winning post. Winola finished strongly to take third ahead of Pinsandneedles and Dontdillydally.
Gina also had to settle for second in the ladies open in which Libby Lawson trained Don’t Do Mondays under Izzie Marshall led for the whole race to defeat Generous Ransom by four lengths with See You Jack and Beth Mellish finishing in third.
The Conditions race for Veteran and Novice riders drew the largest field of the day with eight of the nine entrants declared. The field was quickly whittled down with Lukes Hill a first fence faller before Ballygrooby Bertie then ran wide on the first bend and lost significant ground on his rivals and was subsequently pulled up at the end of the first circuit. Race favourite Willflywontsink was also pulled up along with The Crazy Crab at the end of the first circuit leaving just four runners heading out on their final circuit. Amigo and John Morrey had the lead until they were joined at the third from home by Knockedoutloaded with Peter Bull in the saddle for Nigel Padfield. Knockedoutloaded had gained the advantage at the penultimate fence but Amigo rallied under his owner / jockey and was back upside Knockedoutloaded at the final fence. The pair battled to the line with Amigo finding the extra required to get his head in front at the vital point of the race. Head Spin and Albert Symonds completed in third ahead of Chris Pendry aboard Dystonia’s Revenge.
Gina Andrews finally made it into the winner’s enclosure for the final race of the day, the conditions race. The bookies had a tight market with the three runners priced at evens for Free Of Charge (Gina Andrews), 7/4 for Stingthebookies (Will Hickman) and 9/4 for Glint Of Steel (Charlie Marshall). Free Of Charge led from the fall of the starter’s flag and despite both Stingthebookies and Glint Of Steel challenging for the lead over the final half circuit did not see another rival finishing five lengths ahead of Glint of Steel with Stingthebookies twelve lengths further back in third.