THE COLD weather did not stop the Harkaway Club fixture from going ahead as planned as the crowds flocked to Chaddesley Corbett.
Conditions were testing but Friday’s meeting attracted plenty of runners which resulted in two races being divided on the day.
Callum Bickers-Price had a day to remember with the 20-year-old Bromyard rider scoring his first success on Crowded Room in the Novice Riders.
Bickers-Price is employed by Abberley-based trainer Henry Oliver but also has a small team of horses which he prepares for point-to-pointing.
His initial efforts at race riding were cut short after just two rides last year when he suffered a head injury which resulted in eight months on the side lines.
Crowded Room was sent to the front just before halfway and quickly opened up a useful lead.
The remainder of the runners were obviously expecting him to tire in the stamina sapping conditions but with a mile to run Crowded Room was still extending his advantage.
The 11-year-old went further clear up the final hill and turned for home with an unassailable lead and won by 25 lengths, despite being eased down dramatically in the final 100 yards.
Bickers-Price said afterwards: “We acquired for 1200gns after he ran 31 times in Ireland for just 8 placings.
“Nobody else wanted him. He has a few quirks but jumps like a stag.
“I’m not the most stylish but to win by 25 lengths in testing ground in a 16-runner field.
“I’m over the moon with the horse and I cannot thank every enough who has helped me get to where I am today.”
Having suffered several reversals earlier in the day, Phil Rowley and Alex Edwards finally got their names on the scoresheets following Battle Dusts success in the Men’s Open.
Poole Master and Wild Bill cut out the donkey work in this contest but that left them exposed over the final four fences and turning for home the favourite Lilbitluso, Frelia and Battle Dust began to assert their superiority.
The former’s challenge petered out as they raced towards the second last but it was impossible to split Frelia and Battle Dust who rose as one at the second last and again at the final obstacle.
The Rowley runner was a little bit faster away and was able to maintain a narrow advantage as they raced towards the judge.
The winner was in training with Kim Bailey under Rules but had struggled over the last couple of seasons so the owners decided racing between the flags was more beneficial and sent him to Phil Rowley’s stable at Bridgnorth.
Eastnor trainer Nickie Sheppard saddled Ballycahane in the concluding three-mile Maiden and the eight-year-old rewarded connections by providing young Milo Herbert with his second winner.
After being purchased out of Arthur Moore’s stable the horse had run out at the second on his English debut but was always in a prominent position behind the long-time leader Alright Chief.
Climbing the hill, Herbert was still biding his time on Ballycahane who struck the front before the second last and opened up a clear advantage, winning by seven lengths despite a slow jump at the last.
The first two races on the card, the Restricted and two-and-a-half mile Maiden required division on the day after the safety limit had been exceeded.
Division One of the Restricted went to the Welsh Raider Bleu Et Or who had been pulled up on his seasonal debut a few weeks earlier.
There were excuses for that, however, as part owner Maurice Seabourn explained later.
“He had 18 months off the course and just blew up on his reappearance,” he said.
“I live near Chaddesley Corbett and walked the course several times in the lead up to the meeting and did not think conditions were that bad.
“We were not sure the horse would like the ground but he had the best conditions because it was the first race on the card.”
The winner was given a brilliant ride by Hannah Lewis who had the winner at the forefront of affairs from the start and sent Bleu Et Or into a clear lead before the partnership made a shuddering error at the last.
They recovered quickly and had sufficient in reserve to see off the renewed challenge of Champione on the flat.
Lewis was also seen to great effect later in the afternoon when War Path outstayed some better fancied rivals to land the Condition under the Upton-upon-Severn based rider.
Uncle Jimmy was still in front with half a mile to run and held a narrow lead at the penultimate but Lewis was seen at her best, driving War Path to the front approaching the final obstacle and staying on strongly to record a six-length success.
War Path had run well on his seasonal debut a few weeks earlier and provided a first training success for the rider since moving into Holdfast Stables in the autumn.
Local successes were thin in the ground as evidenced by Hindlip trainer Tom Weston who saddled runners in both Divisions of the Maiden, with the same result – they both finished second.
Twotwothree led from flagfall in Division One and only The Late Legend was able to offer token opposition in the home straight but his challenge was quickly dismissed as the winner sprinted clear for an 8-length success.
Things were much closer in Division Two where three horses, Mistercobar, Tucks Bergen and Iwasthefutureonce turned for home with equal chances.
They rose as one at the second last, but the former buckled over on landing which left the two remaining runners to battle it out for the honours.
Both gave their all but the Welsh challenger secured a narrow lead at the final obstacle which he clung on valiantly to all the way up the run in.
Jockey Lorcan Williams had scored earlier in the afternoon on Winterberry in Division Two of the Restricted.
The Robert Luke trained gelding outstayed their rivals on the flat to prevail by a length.
Top Wood and Gina Andrews showed their rivals a clean pair of heels in the Ladies Open.
Kim Smyly’s runner Mon Parrain was partnered by Paige Fuller and she was determined the favourite would not have things all his own way.
They had a ding dong battle until Mon Parrain began to beat a retreat after jumping the third from home.
The leader had the race in safe keeping over the final two fences, while Mon Parrain held on bravely to deprive Global Power of the runners up spot.