A large crowd were treated to some excellent racing on Saturday afternoon and on this evidence Shelfield Park is likely to prove a popular venue if the organisers build on this year’s success. Clerk of the Course Nick Pearce had a busy day combining those responsibilities with saddling Workbench in the Members and Mr Love in the Men’s Open and the former’s success provided a suitable reward for Nick and his wife Ella.
Workbench who has provided valuable race riding experience for Murray Dodd and Adrian Weaver over the last couple of seasons, ended his career on a high on a high note by beating Very First Time to claim to claim first place in the Members for Weaver and the Pearces. Weaver thanked connections for the opportunities they had provided him with. “I just follow instructions and do the best I can, the horse knows the job far more than I do”. Mr Love has run up a sequence of three wins already this season and was vying for favouritism with Miss Seagreen for the Men’s Open. Murray Dodd had him disputing the lead with the James Ridley trained Chase Me for much of the journey and the order remained unchanged until Tommie O’Brien and Miss Sea Green swept into the lead coming around the final bend, a move which seemed to take their rivals by surprise. Mr Love did his best to get back on terms in the home straight but Miss Sea Green had got first run and her two-length advantage at the penultimate had been extended approaching the last and she was three lengths clear crossing the line.
Asked to explain the mare’s absence since her run at Knightwick back in November Lucy Smith explained “she threw a splint before Christmas but I wanted to give her time to recover as I knew there were plenty of races for her later in the season. Smith was full of praise for the winning rider, “Tommie told me what he was going to do and did it - I am absolutely thrilled”.
Chase Me’s trainer James Ridley gained compensation for those horses' defeat when O’Brien steered Grove Cottage to victory in Division I of the Maiden. Gina Andrews and the expensive Goffs Land Rover purchase I’m Ravenous led for much of this contest but had been caught and passed by the Ben Bromley ridden Galassian, but the partnership overjumped and fell at the third from home when looking the likely winners. With that horse’s departure and Andrew’s mount weakening quickly, O’Brien seized the opportunity and sent Grove Cottage clear and they quickly opened up an unassailable lead.
I’m Ravenous was pulled up before 2 out while the runner up Doctor Tom did manage to reduce the leader’s advantage but never looked like troubling the winner. 12-lengths clear turning for home Grove Cottage weakened between the final two fences but had sufficient reserves to hold the runner up challenge despite being far from foot perfect over the final obstacles. Interviewed afterwards Ridley explained “He has been working well at home and we thought he would run a nice race. He has experience in Ireland but the race fell apart a bit. We have had him about 3 months after he was sourced by Martin Oliver in Ireland. We are based at Ketford where we rent 18 boxes”.
O’Brien’s double meant he retained his lead in the Area Championship, but James King is not giving up that Title without a fight and gave Ahead of the Game a beautiful ride to land the Conditions (Level 3) for owner Marita Warner-King with the horse carrying the colours of her late father Jason, of whom so many of us associated with the sport in the Area have so many fond memories. Elliott England and Robin Why Not set the pace accompanied by Port Jack while the two market leaders Bawnmore (Gina Andrews) and Ahead of the Game (James King) were both held up at the back of the field.
They both made a forward move going out onto the final circuit, and on the downhill run to the final bend Ahead of the Game hit the front and left his market rival tapped for toe around the final bend and despite all of Gina efforts they were unable to make inroads into that lead over the final two fences. James indicated afterwards “the key to this horse is to switch him off to get the trip, he is probably better over an easy 3 mile 2 furlong trip. It means a huge amount to win again in these colours”.
The Ladies races in the West Mercian Area are being run in memory of Lorna Brooke and are proving extremely popular and there was just one absentee from the original 10 entries. Agamemnon started favourite on the strength of his recent win at Kingston Blount, but Summer Sounds ensured a strong early pace, while Tb Broke Her and Toshima were also prominent during the early stages, and were still to the fore as the runners made their way down the back straight for the final time. Turning for home Agamemnon had taken the lead but a mistake at the second from home stopped him in his tracks and Megan Fox and Toshima took advantage of that situation to prevail by a short head.
The winner carries the colours of Justin and Baden Hoskins who have had to be patient as the horse has been off the track with a leg problem but has benefitted from the therapeutic effects of the River Wye near Jo Priest's stables at Caradoc. The trainer commented “we knew the horse was well because he worked with Ballyboker Breeze recently. He was due to be ridden by Lucy Turner but she was required at Uttoxeter to ride for her boss Venetia Williams so we put in a call to Megan on Friday. The 22-year-old reported “The horse jumped well and there was no pressure. I did not expect him to pick up so well from the second last”. There were winners later in the afternoon for Meisha Micklewright who landed the three runner Novice Riders on Dream Conti, while Gina Andrews took the Restricted on Loughan, and Alice Stevens took the second Division of the Maiden on Surprise Attack.