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VWH at Siddington, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Saturday 23rd March 2019
by Russell Smith

OWNER Rozzy Smith-Maxwell celebrated a "special day" with How About It's thrilling win in the Pegasus Club Members' Conditions Race at the VWH meeting at Siddington, near Cirencester. First run in 1895, the historic contest is for horses owned by qualified barristers and ridden by them or family members. How About It, who was ridden by Rozzy's brother, John Smith-Maxwell to collar Degooch and Bohemia Houghton by a head in the dying strides, took his chance on Saturday with his owner a member of the Inns of Court's Middle Temple. And with their sister, Alexandra Dunn, training the 10-year-old at West Buckland, near Wellington, in Somerset, and younger sister, Fizzy (Felicity), the work-rider it was a truly family affair for the Smith-Maxwells. The winning owner, who lives in Clapham but is a member of the Worcestershire Hunt, said: "He is much loved and the West Buckland hills are good for his heart and lungs and that gets him fit. My brother rode a peach of a race. He planned to make maximum use of his ability to stay. It's a very special day and I'm very pleased to support the Pegasus Club. It's a fabulous thing to keep going." Her brother, who is studying rural land management at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, added: "The first-time blinkers made a difference at the end. I knew I had got there."

Atherstone trainer Kirsty Smith was surprised to see Petrou made favourite for the Mixed Open, sponsored by Arkell's Brewery, but the market got it right as her Charm Park winner followed up with a head success over Templebraden in another exciting finish. With the fancied Dabinett Moon running out at the third fence after the reins snapped, Abricot De L'Oasis made much of the running before Zac Baker took over at the head of affairs on Templebraden. However, Will Thirlby had been biding his time on Petrou, owned by his father, Tim, and produced his mount to pip James Ridley's charge after the pair had duelled over the last two fences. Smith said: "This was a better race this time, and for him to be favourite I was a bit shocked with the company he is in. I am thrilled with him. He jumped great and he likes to come from behind. We might try and go hunter chasing with him." Thirlby, who works for Tom Ellis and Gina Andrews, added: "Templebraden ran on well, but my horse saw him coming and didn't let him past."

Owner-trainer Tim Underwood admitted he was none the wiser about what Timmie Roe may achieve after his Irish import racked up a four-timer with a facile success in the Confined Conditions Race, sponsored by Strutt & Parker. Sent off the 1-3 favourite, the eight-year-old put in another supremely efficient round of jumping under Phil York as he hardly came off the bridle to saunter home by eight lengths from Carrig Dubh. When asked what he had learned from his charge's latest romp, Underwood, who is based at Beedon, near Newbury, said: "He has won a restricted, an intermediate and not a very good confined, so I just don't know. He will have two or three more runs in this sort of calibre, and then we will give him a break and might go to Cheltenham with him."

Nick Phillips landed the VWH Hunt Members', Subscribers' & Farmers' Race, sponsored by The Earl and Countess Bathurst, for a fifth time as Mankala completed a hat-trick of wins in good style. Phillips increased the tempo on the Dibby Brown-trained nine-year-old on the final circuit to come home three and three-quarters of a length ahead of Earthmoves and Miles Osborne. The winning rider said: "It was a fair test of the horse and he seemed to have a nice big engine to stay on at the finish. I think he will go on and win quite a few more point-to-points." Phillips's previous wins came on Lord Ken (2005), Intaglio (2007), and Moorland Sunset (2014 and 2016), while his brother, George, triumphed on Dinsey Finnegan in 2003. He added: "I am the master of the VWH and the family are local landowners, so it means a huge amount to win the members' race. It's been very lucky for us over the years." Brown, who also trained Moorland Sunset at her Bibury yard, said of Mankala: "Originally when we got him he didn't seem to have a turn of foot, but he has got stronger and he has now."

Clerk of the course Peter Mason gained due reward for his hard work with victory on Wick Green in the Restricted, sponsored by Sewell Mullings Logie Solicitors. Mason, who trains the six-year-old at nearby Ablington, powered his mount home by a length from Drakes Well, with long-time leader Draft Pick three lengths back in third. The winning rider also heads the owning Shy John Partnership, which consists of John and Sarah Ash, Roger and Kate Gegg and Roger and Carol Smith, and he said: "It's nice to have a winner here obviously. The owners are all local as well and part of the VWH, so it's great for them. Hopefully he will creep up the rankings."

Owner-trainer James Henderson, who is based at Buscot Park, near Faringdon, and his jockey son, Fred, got off the mark for the season when Order In Court, with a first-time tongue tie, landed the Open Maiden, sponsored by the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. Fred, who is studying for a master's degree in history at University College London, received the John Manners Memorial Trophy for the ride of the day after making all the running on the six-year-old before holding off Equus Dreamer and Jack Andrews by a length and a half. He said: "He has been second four times, but he has really come into his own and now we can look forward. That's my first winner this season, but what has been good is that my brother, George, is riding again. It's great to have him back." James added: "Streets Of London, who beat our horse Bespoke Cave and the second here, has won again for Tim Underwood, so we can dream this is good form."


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