ALICE Homer could hardly believe it after riding her first winner aboard Agamemmon in a thrilling Skinner's Ladies Open at the behind-closed-doors Kimblewick Hunt meeting at Kimble, near Aylesbury, on Saturday.
Having just her third ride between the flags, the 19-year-old delivered the gelding - owned and trained by her grandfather, David Tatlow, at Honington, near Shipston-on-Stour - to head Free of Charge approaching the last fence.
Gina Andrews's mount rallied on the run-in, but Homer drove the nine-year-old out to score by half a length, with Back Bar and Izzie Marshall 15 lengths back in third.
Victory was even more special for Homer as she rides out for Andrews and her trainer-husband, Tom Ellis, at their Marton yard, near Rugby.
She said: "It was amazing - that's my first ride on that horse. I never dreamed I would beat Gina on her horse.
"I felt her breathing down my neck and my horse just kept trying. It is unbelievable - it just means everything."
Homer, who had won three qualifying classes for the Royal International Horse Show the previous day, was awarded the 'Silver Fox' for the best ride presented in memory of the late meeting secretary Wendy Wood.
The winning rider explained that they had bought Agamemmon, who had begun life in point-to-points with Tom Lacey, from Heather Haddock out of Henry Oliver's yard after another of their horses picked up a leg injury.
Tatlow, a multiple champion point-to-point rider in the 1960s, said: "It is very difficult to put into words how a grandparent feels when your granddaughter rides her first winner like that. It was so well ridden and well judged. I couldn't be more proud."
Andrews still recorded a double on Al Shahir and Killinkere for Ellis, who continued his phenomenal run by notching a treble with the Jack Andrews-ridden Another Mystery.
The seven-times ladies' champion made all the running on Al Shahir to take the Oriental Express Countryside Alliance Club Members, Nine-Year-Old and Over Conditions Race (Level 3) by 11 lengths from the staying-on Lisheen Prince and Izzie Marshall.
The nine-year-old was running for the first time since November 2019, and Ellis explained: "I had him of Dan (Skelton), and basically they had just hit the end of the road with him. He ran once at Cottenham in quite a good race won by Vivaldi Collonges and picked up another leg injury."
The dual champion trainer made it a quickfire double when Jack Andrews repeated his sister's tactics with a front-running victory on Another Mystery in the Elliott of London Maiden.
The son of Norse Dancer held off fellow four-year-old Dash Full of Cash, from Chris Barber's Dorset yard, and Tiernan Power Roche by a length.
Ellis said: "I would think the front two are lovely horses in that they have pulled a long way clear.
"He will go to the sales unless we sell him at home. We thought he would go well. I was very impressed with him. He was very professional."
Andrews added: "He has done everything right and schooled brilliantly. My worry with such a big, angular horse was that he would need another summer or two, but after doing that as a four-year-old he must be very talented."
Ellis's hat-trick was completed by Killinkere, who came from off the pace under Gina Andrews to collar the Barber-trained Famous Clermont and Roche at the last fence in the Gade Property Restricted and score by a length.
The seven-year-old was repeating last November's course-and-distance win - when Maitree Express who unseated Sam Waley-Cohen at the third-last here when leading - was runner-up.
Ellis said: "This was the one I fancied the most today. I think that was a well-above average Restricted. Chris's horse was third in a decent-looking novices' hurdle at Newbury behind Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson horses.
"Gina ran into a bit of traffic and the front two got away from her, but it has probably done her a favour as they got racing quick enough. That is 10 winners from our last 21 runners."
Barber and Roche had the upper hand, though, in the Waverton Investment Management Men's Open over 2m 4f when Envoye Special stayed on well to deny Deans Road.
Andrews attempted to make all the running on the Ellis-trained favourite, but Roche pounced approaching the last before his mount forged seven lengths clear on the run-in.
Barber said: "He is not easy at home, but he is just coming round to our way of thinking, and Tiernan has given him an absolute peach. We have got him where I feel I want him to be and I think he will keep improving."
It was Roche's second winner since accompanying ten horses from Harley Dunne's Wexford yard to be based with Barber at Littlewindsor, near Beaminster, after point-to-pointing was suspended in Ireland due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 23-year-old said: "He jumped brilliant and when I gave him a squeeze and a click, he quickened all the way to the line."
Ben Sutton rode his first winner since having his appendix removed when Sir Mangan repeated his course-and-distance success from November by taking the Hildreths Garden Centre PPORA Club Members Novice Rider Conditions Race (Level 3).
Sutton took up the running on the 13-year-old, owned by his father, Nick, and trained by Alan Hill at Aston Rowant, with a spring-heeled leap at the water five from home, before romping home by 11 lengths from Bouggietopieces and Frances Poole.
The 23-year-old rider said: "That was awesome. Going down the back he kept quickening up and I couldn't believe how far in front he was after the second-last.
"During lockdown I ended up in Gloucester hospital and had my appendix out. I just had a very weird feeling in my stomach as if I had ate something dodgy. It's great to kick off the second half of the season with a winner."
Hill completed a double when Normofthenorth recorded a 15-length verdict over Tempelpirate in the NFU Mutual Kimblewick Hunt Members, Subscribers & Farmers Race under Izzie Marshall.
The seven-year-old victor was half the age of the runner-up, who had served it up to his younger rival before weakening on his first start since winning at Cocklebarrow in January 2019.
Hill said: "He is a slow burner. He is not very big and probably a better horse than we are seeing."