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Saturday 22nd April 2006

by Geoff Handley

photos by Neale Blackburn

After what seemed like one of the longest and coldest winters for many a season, spring had finally arrived at Kingston Blount, the sun was shining with a pleasant breeze instead of the cold easterly winds that seemed to have been with us all season, What a difference the weather makes, the picnics were out in force as everybody appeared to be having a relaxing time at this picturesque Oxfordshire venue. Many of the race goers couldn't believe the announcer when he stated that the Atherstone meeting at Clifton planned for the following day had been abandoned because of waterlogging.

Having walked the course the going appeared to be on the quick side, with the official going described as good with good to firm in places, The course itself is undulating with a steep rise over the knoll and the a rapid descent.

A second walk over in consecutive weeks for the partnership of local trainer Alan Hill/James Tudor this time with Mr Snowman.( Bering Gifts last week at Kimble) a walk over always appeared on the cards as of the five original entries the winning trainer had three of them and Home By Midnight took up an engagement at Woodford in winning the Mens Open, Its wasn't the most inspiring of starts for the paying race goers, the racing proper didn't actually commence until after 3pm with the concluding race at 6.05, quite late for a Saturday evening. Maybe the organizers seriously need to consider having the members races at the end of the card.

James Tudor and Mr Snowman walk over in the VOAGSB hunt race

As for Mr Snowman this was his tenth success and his hat trick of wins at his local course, a winner of four Hunter Chases at Towcester (2) Leicester and Warwick this near veteran pointer was once considered smart enough to be Foxhunters material but a series of injuries including a fracture to his hock and leg somewhat blighted his career,

At last the proper racing started and a quick fire double for the Hill/Tudor partnership with Bering Gifts the 11/10 favourite and like his stablemate in the opener, this was Bering Gifts hat-trick at the course including victory in this same race last season and a win in a match two seasons ago, always up with the pace, a good jump at the third last saw him take the lead and he ran on well to beat Grecian Star with Jimmy Tarry still looking for his 200th career win. Chaucer’s Mill ran a reasonable race to be third of the seven runners.

Bering Gifts and James Tudor clear at the last in the Confined Hunts Race a double on the day for James and the Hill stable

Bering Gifts and owner trainer Alan Hill in the winners enclosure

Open Maiden over 2m 4f for four to seven- year- olds
Two horses dominated the betting, Camisky the odds on favourite bidding to give Hill/Tudor a quick hat trick and Little Miss Flute for Tom Illsley/Philip York.
Both these met earlier in the season in a Mollington maiden, Camisky was backed down to 4/1 from early 10's and Little Miss Flute on her debut started favourite but jumped very poorly and was pulled up, she improved last time at Barbury being nearest at the finish to finish fourth.
Both had every chance as they jumped the last but the favourite swerved on the run in and basically handed the race to Little Miss Flute to win by five lengths. This six year old mare should have a bright future, credit to the trainer as her jumping was much better this time than her debut, she had obviously been well schooled since that opening run. Not sure why Camisky swerved so badly, whether something spooked him in the crowd or he didn’t like coming under the whip, it was a disappointment for those who had taken the odds on.

Little Miss Flute and Phil York [right] on route to the 2m4f young horse maiden

Little Miss Flute and Phil York are led back

Club Members for Novice Riders
Favourite backers soon knew their fate as the odds on shot Nokimover in a bid to win his sixth race of the season blundered at the ninth giving jockey Alex Vaughan-Jones no chance of staying in the plate, looked well in the paddock and was travelling supremely well at the time, the drama was not over there for Nokimover as he entered the spectators area whilst loose, fortunately no harm came to horse or person.
Victory went to the versatile Step Quick, owned/ridden by Greg Wright and trained from her Warwickshire base by Sue Busby, purchased at the Doncaster May sales in 2004 for 10,000, it gave Greg his first career win last season at Higham before further wins at Badbury Rings and Hackwood Park. This former Peter Bowen chaser won twice under rules but remarkably before that won a further nine races between the flags making a grand total of 15 career wins. This very consistent twelve year old gelding appreciated the quicker conditions today, the field were soon well strung out with Teeton Priceless and Sam Jones taking them along at a good pace, Step Quick was always just behind the leaders but a good jump at the third last put him bang in contention and he saw off the determined finish of the pacesetter by just half a length in a cracking finish.
Third was Bullfinch (2 victories from twenty two starts) and fourth was Love At Dawn who ran in snatches, got outpaced and not fluent at many of the fences before eventually staying on late.

Step Quick and Greg Wright track loose horse Nokimover on route to the Novice riders

Step Quick and Greg Wright challenge Teeton Priceless and S Jones to claim the novice riders

Club Members (The Southern Grand National) over 4m 2f
The longest race on the calendar with three circuits of the racecourse, like all Grand National there was a false start only with this particular race there was only eight runners to sort out.
Just like last year there was a good finish and just like last year Philip York narrowly lost out, this time on Star Glow to the Wessex raider Strong Tea for trainer Sarah Waugh and jockey Rilly Goschen.These two had it between them from a long way out with Star Glow taking it up three out but Strong Tea was not to be denied staying on strongly and going away to win by four lengths, this was the winners seventh career victory ( four at Larkhill). Blasket Sound who took a strong hold was third for David Renney and the rank outsider Polo Pony ran a brave race in fourth under Rheanna Lobley.

Strong Tea and Rilly Goschen [green colours right] go the shortest route

Strong Tea and Rilly Goschen

Strong Tea, Rilly Goschen and the team celebrate Southern Grand National victory

The favourite Jurist at 7/4 was held up, anchored at the back, he hit the 13th hard and was always struggling to reach the leaders after that mistake, rather ran in snatches.

Open Maiden
The race was marred by the serious leg injury suffered by the favourite Bruern as he approached the tenth, this opened the way for market rival Allow Dancer to win and give Philip York a double on the day, this ex Irish Pointer had finished in the first four six times and had failed to finish in his other three, on his debut in this country he showed up for a long way before weakening in a Barbury Castle maiden. The race was run at a steady pace until the second circuit when Andy Martin on Golders Green suddenly injected some pace into the race, however Philip York always had Golders Green in his sights and a good jump at the last saw him stay on strongly, Sir Harry Henbit who was slightly tapped for toe when the pace suddenly quickened was third and could win a small maiden maiden.

Allow Dancer and Phil York track Cool Trader in the Open Maiden

Phil York and Allow Dancer at the last in the maiden

Restricted (With thanks to Gerri Cane)
Six runners went to start in the restricted. Phillip York and Shady Merlin led from the start (hat trick on the day) and by the open ditch first time round had opened up what looked to be a good 20 length lead over their rivals. This was reduced to by the chasing field to a couple of lengths along the back of the course on the first circuit, as the jockey appeared to give the horse a breather. This was the only point in the race when Shady Merlin’s jumping looked as if it might let him down but as they turned back past the crowds for the second time Phillip York picked him up and he again started to move away from his pursuers.
Until this point it had looked as though any of the field might be in with a chance but now Tim Lane and Stand On started to become detached and by the time they met the rising ground again this looked a very tired horse and shortly afterwards he was pulled up. Coming down the hill for the final time it looked as though it would be one of the two greys, Divine Mist or Sir Lancelot, who would be the main challenger to Shady Merlin but Lawman was moving well and by four our it was clear that he would be the only likely challenger to the eventual winner. As the two leaders came round the corner to the roadside of the course and over the second last Lawman and Rowan Cope mounted their challenge, and for a while, as the approached the turn into the home straight it seemed as if Lawman might overhaul Shady Merlin. However, by the last Shady Merlin had again pulled clear of Lawman and went on to win by 8 lengths in a time of 6.202. Lawman stayed on for second by 15 lengths from Sir Lancelot with Divine Mist a tired 4th. Mister Kingston finished fifth.

Starting prices: 1. Shady Merlin (6-1) P.York. 2. Lawman (3-1) R. Cope 3. Sir Lancelot (Evens Fav) C. Wadland 4. Divine Mist (3-1) J. Tudor 5. Mister Kingson (12-1) Miss K. Henry. PU Stand On ( 12-1) T. Lane

Shady Merlin leads over the first on route to a Phil York Treble

Phil York and Shady Merlin make every post a winning one

Shady Merlin hogs the limelight

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