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Bicester with Whaddon Chase at Edgcote
Sunday 14th April 2019

by Jake Exelby

History was made at Edgcote yesterday as reigning Ladies' Champion Gina Andrews – who had ridden her 300th career winner at Bitterley on Saturday – overtook Polly Curling's 24-year-old record for the most number of winners ridden by a female jockey in a season. A double on An Scairp and King Of The Clothe – the latter fittingly trained by her husband Tom Ellis – took her to 41 wins for the season and, in the form she's in, who would bet against Gina reaching the half-century mark by the end of the campaign?

Gina's record-breaking 41st success came in the final race of the day, the Bentley Cambridge Intermediate, which also saw the card's closest finish. She attempted to make all on the well-regarded King Of The Clothe and looked in control, particularly when market rival Wick Green made a mistake five out. However, the pair were briefly headed two out and, while they hit the front again approaching the final fence, they were neck and neck with Wick Green all the way up the run-in, Gina holding on to win by a head in a driving finish. Gersjoeycasey ran his best race for a while to be 15 lengths back in third.

Gina entered the winners enclosure punching the air, to be greeted by a hug from husband Tom, a banner reading "Gina Andrews – Simply the Best" and a soaking with water from trainers Fran Nimmo and Alan Hill to which she responded, "I won't have to wash my hair tonight now!" Asked about her ambitions for the rest of the season, a sodden Gina laughed, "I haven't got any more. That's brilliant – I've been aiming for it for a while but my best year before was 29 wins and never thought it was realistic until halfway through this season. The horses we have at home are going so well – we've got a brilliant bunch of owners to whom we're very grateful – and it would be a dream if Tom could be champion trainer too."

"I thought she'd do it today," admitted husband Tom Ellis afterwards. "And I'm chuffed it's on one of ours. I can't tell you what it means to her – it's a massive thing and it's been preying on her mind. She was always going to beat the record if she stayed fit – I just didn't want her to get injured." As well as the winning jockey, Tom was keen to credit winning owners The Oak Partnership, as well as Charlie Tiso, who looks after King Of The Clothe – "The owners have been with us since day one and it's been a long old road with this horse. He fractured a shoulder a couple of years ago but Charlie nursed him back to health and it's down to her that he's on the racecourse." Tom was moving on to 30 winners for the season, "Nearly double my previous best! We've got a great team at home and good staff, which means happy horses," he continued. "Can I be champion trainer? There's still a long way to go, but we'll give it our best."

Gina had equalled the previous record on the Hannah Mahon-trained An Scairp, in the Savills Restricted, which again saw five go to post. Held up early, but always close enough to The Jaffna Queen, who attempted to make all and jumped well in the lead, Gina took An Scairp to the front three out and the well-backed even money favourite held on to win more comfortably then the one-length official distance would suggest. Coyaba was a never dangerous 12-length third.

An Scairp is now two from two in points, having competed unsuccessfully under rules since his Kingston Blount debut victory last Spring. "We brought him back pointing to get him back on track," explained winning owner Alison Hyde. "He ran well for Hannah last year – she gets on well with him – and he's got his ground now." Alison has now won with her last three runners – the Peter Mason-trained Bonanza Sam and Getabuck are the others – but she took no credit for the jockey booking, saying, "It was Hannah's choice – she knows Gina well." As for the winning jockey, Gina admitted to being, "Confident until we approached the last – he's a bridle horse and doesn't find much. This two-and-a-half miles would be his best trip."

Gina Andrews may have hit the headlines, but she wasn't the only one in double form, as Ettington trainer Fran Nimmo bagged a brace too. Her opening success came in the curtain-raiser, the Hunt Members, which was sponsored by the Clarke family to celebrate the birthday of Roger Clarke, who has been building the course at this point-to-point for over 40 years. Seven of the nine entries faced the starter, but it seemed on paper like a one-horse race – with Fran's Summer Sounds starting at 2/7 – and so it proved, the odds-on shot leading virtually throughout with Alice Stevens, quickening clear down the back straight and scoring by an easy seven lengths from second favourite Mia's Anthem, with Phare Isle 12 lengths away in third.

It was a fourth win of the campaign for the ten-year-old, following four victories last year, when he was owned by Jenny Jackson-Stops and ridden by her son James, who has now retired from the saddle. Jenny now owns Summer Sounds in partnership with Graham and David Fisher, who said afterwards, "That's two wins for Alice on him and two for Luke Scott, who's riding elsewhere today." "There's no official plan," added the winning trainer. "But it definitely won't be his last race – he make come back here." Asked about a young horse to follow in her yard, Fran nominated Switch Hitter – who promptly won at Maisemore Park to complete a first ever treble for the young handler.

Winning rider Alice Stevens was moving onto four for the season, having won the Ladies Novice Rider title last year. "I've had a quiet spell," she admitted, "And it feels like a long time since my last winner. It's been tough in my first season out of novice status but I've got a good base with Fran and (Fran's partner) Charlie Poste and I'm riding out for Jo Priest and trying to build other connections – I'm looking forward to riding Chu Chu Percy for Jo in Ladies Opens."

Fran completed her double in the eight-runner Nimrod Veterinary Products race for Novice Riders, after what she described, tongue firmly in cheek, as an "enterprising" ride from Harry Arkwright on the enigmatic Susquehanna River, who was scoring for the third time this year but has also ran out or refused three times. The 12-year-old quickly went to the front and soon went clear, racing wide and jumping boldly. When he was headed by After Hours six out, he looked second best but kept at the leader, hit the front again at the first fence in the home straight and scored by a cosy three lengths from the tiring but persistent After Hours. Stage One was promoted to third, twenty-five lengths away, after Beggar's Velvet lost his weight cloth on the run-in.

"He went twice as far as anyone else," laughed Fran. "Quirky, isn't he? He takes his racing unbelievable well," she added. "He's run away with Harry every day this week and I'm delighted for him to ride three winners in his first season. When the horse came to us, he wouldn't eat – and Harry couldn't get up the gallops on him. You can write that!" she told me as the ecstatic 18-year-old joined us. "We give each other a lot of stick!" "This has been a dream of mine for ten years," said Harry, who is studying for his A-Levels at nearby Stowe school and rides out at Fran's yard before revising. "Fran and Charlie have been so supportive," he continued. "It's great to be around people who know what they're doing and who put up with me every morning!" The confident youngster has no ambitions to turn professional, but does want to ride in Hunter Chases.

The big race of the day was the Timico Mixed Open and, although only four went to post, it was one of the most intriguing contests of the day, with Hunter Chase winner and Aintree Foxhunters contender Pass The Hat coming up against the progressive Samarnni and Tricky Silence. And it was the latter that took the spoils, under a well-judged ride from Jamie Brace. Held up early, he led two out – despite a mistake at the fourth last – and stayed on strongly up the hill to beat Samarnni and favourite Pass The Hat by seven lengths and four.

Tricky Silence had an unusual preparation for this race, as owner-trainer Jamie Goss explained. "He's done two Team Chases since his last run," said Jamie. "This is just his hobby – Team Chasing is his game. He may go for the Golden Button in two years," he smiled, referring to the Ledbury cross-country race that his mother Yvonne won again this year. The seven-year-old, who Jamie bought unbroken at three from Doncaster Sales, is just one of three pointers in his yard, with his main business being pre-training. "He'll go for the Connollys Red Mills Intermediate Final at Cheltenham next," confirmed Jamie, "Not the Timico Final – I can't compete against the big trainers with their horses."

TFM Networks sponsored the Open Maiden, another four-runner contest, which went the way of odds-on shot Occupied, although not as smoothly as favourite backers would have wished. Always prominent, the ex-Irish six-year-old and Andrew Barlow were never fluent, making several mistakes and losing a stirrup iron as the first open ditch, then again three out. However, although Andrew did not recover his iron after the latter error, he held off Evan Eau and Bite My Tongue by three and three-and-three quarter lengths respectively.

With owner Mark Barlow on announcer duty and trainer Michael Kehoe away fishing, it was left to owner's wife Rosemary to do post-race duties, although she insisted, "It's nothing to do with me, I just bred the jockey!" Andrew agreed with his mother that Occupied has given him some heart-stopping moments. "We hit the ditch first time and lost an iron, then lost at again three out," he confirmed. "He did the same when third at Brafield-on-the-Green – he's just a bit novice, but he's a nice horse. We got him from Ireland and haven't had him long." Andrew, for whom Occupied is the only horse he rides now his father's Brackloon High races in Ladies Opens under Jennifer Harbison, admits that he continues riding "For the buzz, and because it's a family thing" and wants to stay in the saddle until he turns 50 in four years time.

Five ran in the Jockey Club & Club Veeda Mares Maiden. The market suggested that the contest would be between narrow favourite Miss Massey and Just Henny and it proved right, as the Tim Underwood owned and trained and Phil York ridden six year old continued their excellent season by jumping past long time leader Just Henny down the back straight, soon quickening clear and going away to win by twelve lengths, with Beech Hill a long way back in third.

"I thought 'Bloody hell, I'm in trouble here... but then she went 'Whoosh!'" was the ebullient York's immediate post-race comment, while Tim was more measured. "We've only had her two weeks, he told me. She's a half-sister to (Tim's multiple winner) Timmie Roe – that's why I bought her. I think she's alright – her fourth last time in Ireland was encouraging – but it's only an Edgcote Maiden! I'll be a bit more careful with her than I am with Timmie Roe – she's quite immature."


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