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Grafton at Whitfield
Sunday 15th May 2016
by Andrew Norman

Champagne Flows For Nimmo At Grafton

Ettington trainer Francesca Nimmo saddled a quick-fire double at the Grafton Point-to-Point at Whitfield on Sunday.

Positive tactics from rider Hugh Nugent, celebrating his initial brace, saw Champagne Rian make all in the Novice Riders contest before the headstrong Clondaw Island repeated the feat in the first division of the Subaru Restricted (2m 5f).

The former, fresh from scoring eight days earlier at Chaddesley Corbett, was purchased privately from Rebecca Curtis for owner Dave Tompkins, who partnered the gelding on his first two starts this year. "He's very exuberant so isn't the easiest ride," explained Nimmo. "That's three runs in three weeks! He seems to take his racing well and likes this better ground. We've changed his training and he's a different character riding round the fields as he doesn't like the gallops!"

The Nimmo/Nugent partnership, successful with Sirius Star at last year's fixture, were back in the winners enclosure 35 minutes later after The Picnic Partnership's Clondaw Island put his recent jumping deficiencies behind him. Returning from a heavy fall at Sedgefield, the front-running son of Heron Island was more controlled than previously this season. "We decided to swap the hood for earplugs," said Nimmo. "He's not had his ground until now this season and we probably asked Hugh to be too positive on him at Sedgefield."

Phil York inched another step closer to joining the '300 club' after propelling seven-year-old mare Gersjoeycasey home by a short-head in the second division of the Restricted. The veteran rider, now just one shy of the prized milestone, may ride at Lower Machen this Saturday. York's father Ray, who owns and trains the daughter of Milan, said: "She got nowhere in the mud but placed on the firm in Ireland. It's no surprise she's won two on the bounce now the ground has come in her favour. She needs three miles really so that's why Phil tried to make it into a stamina test."

Popular old-timer Shakalakaboomboom, sent off joint-favourite for the 2012 Grand National, prevailed for the first time since 2011 in the Veterans Club Members Conditions race. The 12-year-old, under Camilla Henderson, looked set for a repeat of last month's second in a similar event at the track but stayed on up the run-in to profit from a last-fence blunder from the hat-trick seeking The Admiral Benbow.

The victory marked the first success for fledging Wiltshire-based trainer Kate Leahy. Leahy, who only saddled her first runner six weeks ago, juggles training her two Pointers with working for licensed trainer Sally Randell.

"It's amazing, I'm lost for words!" said Leahy. "The feeling of sprinting after them when they passed the finish line was incredible. Camilla asked if I wanted to train Shakalakaboomboom for her. Obviously it was an easy decision and it's gone from there!"

The 21-year-old has also made an impressive start to her riding career, illustrated by partnering her other charge, Paddycards, to a highly respectable runner-up spot earlier in the afternoon on just her second ever ride.

Likeable mare She's Real registered her fourth victory of the campaign with a smooth four-length success in the Intermediate race. An emphatic winner at her beloved Garthorpe seven days earlier, the eight-year-old was dropped out last by Tom Chatfeild-Roberts but picked off her rivals with ease.

Chatfeild-Roberts, enjoying his best season to date with nine winners, is the nephew of Melton Mowbray trainer Helen Connors. "She's a very special mare," said Connors. "She didn't get home when we first had her but she's gradually learning to settle. Unfortunately she was far too keen at Cheltenham and Tom couldn't hold her! Her breeding caught my eye when we bought her at Doncaster and it's great to have a nice mare to breed from. She's been running in all these lovely mares' races and surely they have to be an incentive for people to buy mares. She might go to Garthorpe next month as she doesn't look done for the season just yet."

A classy ride from Lady Riders Championship-chasing Gina Andrews saw Sharp Suit justify favouritism in the Ladies Open race. Despite jumping right throughout, the nine-year-old brushed aside a 7lb penalty to back up last month's Peper Harrow score.

"He's always jumped right, he's not very big and it's his way of coping," explained Alan Hill, who trains the former Cheltenham winner for owner Rodney Mann. "Gina is riding with so much confidence and that was a masterful ride the way she kept him up to his job. He has to go right-handed and I hope to find another race for him before the end of the season."

Midnight Monkey rallied gamely to get up in the shadow of the post, denying last year's winner Fermat, in a thrilling Hunt Members race. One of three horses in training for Steane Park-based trainer Christopher Henn, Jonathan Connell's eight-year-old was a popular winner given the family's long-standing affiliation to the Grafton. "He was as fresh as paint in the week," said rider Nick Meek, after his sixth winner of the season. "He hit a flat spot two out and I thought he'd be third but got a second wind and ran on. The ground is riding good and they've done a really good job with the watering."

Katesoneoneeight got off the mark at the 20th attempt in the 16-runner Open Maiden to give Blisworth trainer Katie and rider Sam Lee a second career victory. Purchased unbroken for £400 as a three-year-old in 2012, the Erhaab gelding had been consistent this term. "He's kept us entertained and it's very satisfying to finally do something with him!" said the winning trainer. We've persevered with him as he's a real trier."

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