Berks & Bucks Draghounds, Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, Oxfordshire
Berks & Bucks Draghounds, Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, Oxfordshire Sunday, May 29, 2022
By Russell Smith
JAMES King and Will Biddick travelled to the Berks & Bucks Draghounds meeting at Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, for one ride apiece, having started Sunday locked together on 51 winners in their battle for the Men's Championship.
King nudged one ahead when Craven Bay followed up his recent course win by taking the Restricted, sponsored by Pangbourne Asphalt, for Aston Rowant trainer Alan Hill.
The reigning champion sent the six-year-old into the lead at the third-last, and although his mount slowed down at the final fence, King stoked him up to come home five lengths ahead of Whiskey For Jack and Phil York.
King said: "He is a tricky, but talented customer.
When he hit the front, he pricked his ears and had a look around. It's great to have a winner for (owner) Graham Henderson and Alan Hill, whose family have been great supporters and friends."
Henderson, who lives at Cheveley, near Newmarket, was back on a racecourse for the first time in seven weeks following a knee replacement operation.
"It is nice to be out and about," he said. "I was getting cabin fever at home. He is a character. He likes to get in front and then stop. He thinks he has done enough and waits for everyone."
Biddick was hoping to level the scores on hot favourite Local Drama in the Maiden, sponsored by Thorne Plant Hire Ltd.
But the Bradley Gibbs-trained newcomer didn't jump fluently, and the seven-times champion pulled him up on the final circuit as Monument Hill ran out an impressive winner for Hannah Clarke's Milton Abbas yard, near Dorchester, under her partner, Charlie Marshall.
The home-bred nine-year-old, second on his three previous starts, jumped into the lead at the second-last and shot clear to beat Carry On Buddy and Phil York by 12 lengths.
Marshall said: "He loves passing horses, so I didn't want to get there too soon. I only committed at the second-last and he absolutely winged it. He had a wind op last summer and has been improving ever since. He has just bumped into good horses."
Monument Hill is owned by the trainer and her mother, Sarah Clarke, whose husband, Neal, admitted the win came with a certain poignancy.
"My mother, Patricia Clarke, died on Friday," he said.
"She always supported us, but this is nice to breed a horse that can win."
Freddie Gordon moved within one winner of Charlie Sprake in the race for the Highflyer Bloodstock Novice Men's Championship with victory on Highway One O One in the Mixed Open, sponsored by the Friends & Family of Dickie Lim.
Gordon's mount, trained by his mother, Jenny, at Winchester, had been only fourth on his previous start at Edgcote, but with front-running tactics employed on Good ground here, the 10-year-old notched his fifth win this term.
The Anthony Ward-Thomas-owned gelding came home three and three-quarter lengths ahead of Epi Sacre and Fred Henderson, with Hawkhust two-and-three-quarter lengths back in third. Gordon, who is hoping to join Paul Nicholls as an amateur rider, said: "He didn't enjoy the ground very much last time, but I did the wrong thing on him. He loves to be up front and last time I dropped him in. He is a really nice jumper. We will keep him going and get one more run out of him. He has done us proud."
Among the race-sponsoring friends of Dickie Lim was Bob Groves, who worked for Captain Tim Forster and recalled the same red and white colours being carried by Martha's Son, owned by Ward-Thomas's, late father, Michael.
"It's nice to see them in the winner's enclosure here," he said.
Tom Ellis capped being crowned the South Midlands Area leading trainer - with the awards sponsored by Stratford Racecourse - by saddling Misstree Song to complete a four-timer in the Intermediate, sponsored by Mettal Ltd.
Given a confident ride by Gina Andrews, who received the prize as the Kingston Blount and Kimble Championships top rider, the eight-old mare overcame a mistake three out to sweep round the outside and lead at the second-last.
The daughter of Librettist soared over the final fence to seal a four-length victory over Voie Dans Voie and Izzie Marshall. Ellis, who is based at Marton, near Rugby, said: "The plan was to start later with her because she likes quick ground. She only had her first run in April, and it makes a big difference. I imagine she may turn out again next week at Bratton Down."
Owners Sarah and Nigel Faulks, from near South Molton in north Devon, had double cause to celebrate as Misstree Song's mare, Misstree Pitcher, has just given birth to a filly by Dink, the sire of classy two-mile chaser Nube Negra.
Sarah said: "Tom and Gina have done brilliantly with her. Gina rides her fantastically. She likes top of the ground, and it was almost too sticky today. It adds to it with her having a little sister."
Thomas Murray is considering campaigning Gabrial The Great solely at Kingston Blount next year after his veteran landed a fourth course and distance success.
The owner-trainer-rider, from Elmley Castle, near Evesham, followed up his victory on the 13-year-old at the track three weeks ago by repeating last year's win in the PPORA Club Members Conditions Race (Level 2) For Novice Riders over 2m 5f, sponsored by Transaction International.
It also saw Gabrial The Great share the award as the joint leading horse in the Kingston Blount and Kimble Championships with the Alan Hill-trained Knight Bachelor.
Burdened with an 8lb penalty, Murray picked his way through the nine-runner field, before hitting the front at the fifth-last, and quickly galloped clear to cross the line nine lengths ahead of Electron Bleu and Lewis Hislop.
"I might just keep him to Kingston," said Murray. "He is not a soft ground horse, so I may give him the winter off, freshen him up and come here. I held on to him and there was plenty of pace, which worked in my favour. I wanted to keep the fire in his belly."
Nick Wright and his jockey-son, Archie, from Badlingham, near Newmarket, were delighted to see Forever Field claim a game victory in the Owner-Trainer Conditions Race (Level 3), sponsored by Omnia.
The 12-year-old was headed by Tangoed and Daniel Kyne approaching the last fence, but Archie got a great leap out of Forever Field and wrestled back the spoils on the run-in to score by a length.
Tangoed was subsequently disqualified after Kyne failed to weigh in, with Fixe Le Kap and Fred Henderson promoted to second.
Archie said: "He is probably my favourite horse in the yard and on his day, he is very good. I thought if I got a good jump at the last, I’d then see what happened. Forever put his head down and really tried.
"That is me done for the season and what a way to end. Ali Aston does everything with him at the yard - a massive thanks to the team at home."
Nick added: "I am thrilled with him. The ground was terrific. Congratulations to Alan Hill for that. I think with winning like that we will wait for later in the season next year and run him when the ground gets quicker."
Aunty Joan was pulled up, but Richard Pringuer's 12-year-old still won the South Midlands leading mare award on countback with a fourth-placed finish at Brafield-on-the-Green securing the prize.
SOUTH MIDLANDS AREA AWARDS (Sponsored by Stratford Racecourse)
Horse: Master Templar (owner Jenny Hayward).
Trainer: Tom Ellis.
Men's rider: Fred Henderson.
Novice rider: Megan Fox.
Trainer (5 horses or fewer): James Henderson.
Lady rider: Izzie Marshall.
Mare: Aunty Joan.