JOCKEY Alex Edwards took another leap towards his maiden national title with a win at Bank Holiday Monday’s Chaddesley Corbett point-to-point meeting.
Time is running out for the opposition as Edwards is now 12 wins clear of Will Biddick with just three weekends remaining before the season closes at Umberleigh on June 16.
While it may be mathematically possible for Biddick (the champion for the last six seasons) to prevent the rider from claiming his first National Title, in reality he faces an almost impossible task to stop him from doing so.
Edwards has already secured his second Area Title but to win his first National Championship surpasses anything he has achieved in his career thus far.
The Bridgnorth-based jockey has really come to the fore over the last couple of seasons and owes a debt of gratitude to trainer Phil Rowley who has provided him with the bulk of his winners.
Rowley is locked in a major battle with Oxfordshire based Alan Hill for the Trainers Title.
The former came into the holiday weekend six wins clear of his rival and the status quo remained unchanged on Monday evening.
Rowley saddled Bears Affair in the Men’s Open but there is no such thing as a racing certainty even though his form was head and shoulders above that of his solitary rival Drumhart.
For the first half of the race things went to plan but the favourite was passed by his rival who put in a much quicker jump at the 12th.
Drumhart held a two-length advantage as they turned into the home straight and piled on the pressure to go further clear between the final two fences, but having been foot perfect up to that point, he hardly rose at the last and that left the door open for his opponent.
James King did well to maintain the partnership but his mount was coming to the end of his tether and Bears Affairs started to reduce the deficit, but the leader clung on bravely to prevail by three quarters of a length.
The winner has taken some time to find his form this season and was not without support as he carries the well-known colours of Pat Tollit.
Having suffered this setback to their Title chances, the scales tipped in favour of Rowley and Edwards in the Conditions when the favourite Rockinrolldixie, who had been fractious in the pre-race preliminaries, dug in his heels as the starter dropped his flag and refused to race.
With this major obstacle removed from the equation, Sam Jukes set a steady pace on The Well Road and they led until challenged by Sulu Magic and Teeton Kato after the third from home.
Sulu Magic took the lead between the final two fences but The Well Road and Teeton Kato fought their way back into contention approaching the last where the three horses rose in unison.
The Well Road was sandwiched between his rivals but whether that contributed to his fall is debatable but his departure allowed Sulu Magic to see off his remaining rival’s challenge on the flat.
Dymock-based owner Clive Bennett and jockey Sam Jukes gained compensation 35 minutes later following Marcle Ridge’s pillar to post victory in the Restricted.
Again, their path to victory was eased when their chief market rival Stay out of Court was withdrawn on veterinary advice at the start.
Marcle Ridge had caught every one’s eye with the manner of his victory over this course two weeks earlier.
That race was over two-and-a-half miles while this race was over three, but connections were confident of his staying powers because he went to the front from the start.
He made a couple of novice errors but kept up a relentless gallop and for three quarters of the trip held a 4-length advantage over his nearest pursuers.
This had been extended to 12-lengths on the final bend but Jacks Ranger, Snow Puma and Teeton Turnip suddenly began to eat into his advantage and with the gap being significantly reduced it was feared his front running tactics may have taken their toll.
Jukes was toying with his rivals because he asked his mount to lengthen his stride, got an instantaneous response and they put the race to bed in a matter of strides.
Jacks Ranger was secure in second place when he departed at the last and that allowed Marcle Ridge to claim victory by 15-lengths.
After early season disappointments connections have now found the way to ride him, and it will be interesting to see what he does in the future.
Rowley and Edwards were fancied to take the concluding Maiden with Milzipa, but frustratingly had to settle for the runners-up spot behind the Jo Priest trained Swiss Heights.
The nine-year-old had finished in the runners up spot on his last course visit but went one better in the hands of Zac Baker.
Round Robin led for most of the journey but was joined by Swiss Heights and Milzipa with half a mile to run.
There was not much between the leading pair approaching the penultimate which the leader met on a perfect stride whereas Milzipa blundered away his chance and that handed the advantage to Priests Upton-upon-Severn trained gelding.
The Ladies Open resulted in a surprise victory for Bohemia Houghton on Wes Hardin. Patricktom Boru and Watch the Birdie were both well fancied and the race was run at a breakneck speed from the start.
Argot and Patricktom Boru vied for the lead and were eight lengths clear with half a mile to run, but Wes Hardin began to make up ground and his owner/trainer/rider timed her run to perfection challenging between the final two fences and having three-lengths to spare as they passed the post.
In the Mares Maiden Squeaky showed her rivals a clean pair of heels to land the prize under James Martin, while Connor Brace steered the favourite William Money to an easy victory in the Novice Riders Race.