by Rachel O'Brien

The Oxford University Hunt Club's P-P took place at Kingston Blount on Saturday and for the majority of the afternoon the crowd enjoyed plenty of sunshine with some close finishes.  The going I suspect was heavy, as the times were slow and jumping was at a premium with far more fallers than usual.

The first race (Confined Hunts), however, was run in fog and only 2 fences were clearly visible from the car park, which left much to the imagination during the race.  When the horses did finally emerge from the gloom, Rough Tiger (F Hutsby) was being hotly pursued by Lottie The Lotus (GJ Tarry) and with Jimmy's impeccable timing, a good jump at the last appeared to give Lottie a half-length advantage at the line.  However, to the astonishment of the crowd and Fred Hutsby (so I'm told) the judge announced a dead heat. Perhaps he'd dropped off during the foggy bit!

Thankfully the fog had cleared before the Land Rover Men's Open, which despite only having 4 runners, was competitive with Grecian Star (GJ Tarry) taking on Rectory Garden (R Biddlecombe).  After a slowly run first circuit, the tempo increased along the back and Jimmy threw caution to the wind at last year's bogey fence asking Grecian Star for a long stride. By the time they had reached the home turn Jimmy was in control and a good jump at the last sealed the race before going on to win by 21/2l.

The third race was the Ladies Open with only 3 of the 6 runners remaining on their feet.  Ickford Okey had been going well in the lead when departing after 1 circuit, which left Do It Once (W Rucker) and Aqua Star (T Spearing) to fight out the finish.  Do It Once took up the lead at the last and easily accounted for a tired Aqua Star by 3 lengths.

The 6 runner Member's Race featured Destin D'estruval from the Ruckers yard but he showed little enthusiasm after 1 circuit and was pulled up about 1 mile from home.  This left Private Pete (J Oldring) and Henry Bruce (already a winner this term) out in front and once again two horses arrived at the last fence together, but Private Pete quickened after the last to win by 4l.

The Restricted was the most competitive race of the day with 16 runners, most of them attracting money at the bookies. Once again, jumping was the name of the game and Severn Magic lost her jockey when leading down in the dip, leaving 5 still in with a chance.  By the last fence G and T (J Owen) who had previously shared a dead-heat on the course, had fought off all but Grand Canyon (A Charles Jones) and stayed on gamely, quickening after the last to win by 5l.

In the Maiden (Confined) Div 1 there were 12 runners and again a competitive betting market.  Jumping again took its toll and Ryan's Rambler (F Hutsby) who was sent off an unraced favourite came to grief 3 out.  It was then left to another unraced horse Luvrejohnnie (owned by Mad Manners, ridden by ACJ) to arrive at the last fence on a good stride and hold on gamely by 11/2 from Gone Ballistic who came to a standstill and did well to get going again.

The last race Maiden (Confined) Div 2 was dominated all the way by Highfield Gent who went too fast on the first circuit and was out on his feet when falling heavily at the last.  I'm pleased to say he did get up after a few minutes and may be one to watch on better going, assuming the fall doesn't have a detrimental effect.  Having watched him and Goforitkate battle it out over the last 3 fences, I hadn't noticed Crewski (ACJ) finishing like a train and he swept past them as though they were standing still to win by 5l.  Out of 14 runners only 3 finished yet again, in the slowest time of the day 9 seconds slower than Div 1.