by Geoff Handley

The meeting only survived the destructive gales of the previous day thanks to the strenuous efforts of the committee led by Secretary Jenny Pidgeon, who replaced all the blown down marquees with lorry trailers for providing accommodation for changing rooms, declaration offices & the sponsors area. Saturday’s South Midland fixture, the VWH at Siddington failed to beat the elements. 

It was a chilly & blustery day at the North Oxfordshire course with heavy showers throughout the afternoon and the official going was good (good to soft in places)

Hunt Members
Be My Dream twice placed in Hunter Chases from five runs last season & with two runs behind him in Opens this season led from start to finish. Well ridden by Paul Cowley, he only had to be pushed out to win. The odds on favourite, Court Alert, ridden by Stuart Morris, won this race last year but on his seasonal debut he only finished third of the seven runners running on at one pace.

There was drama as the runners came into the home straight for the second time when Andy Martin appeared to strike out at James Owen. Not sure what this altercation was all about, but  the stewards took a dim view of this incident as Andy Martin was found guilty of improper riding and was fined £100. However it was not all doom & gloom for Andy Martin as he drove the 5/4 favourite, Freedom Fighter, home by 5 lengths appearing to be well suited by the stiff uphill finish.

More drama yet again between Messrs Owen/Martin as three horses passed the post together; Finder Keeps (Owen), Stennikov (Ed Walker) & Sing High ridden by Andy Martin. Only two short heads separated the three runners with Finder Keeps just getting the verdict. It was then announced that Andy Martin on the third horse had objected to the winner for using his whip on him & not the horse. The stewards overruled the objection.  Favourite Miss Hoity Toity tried to make all but on the rain softened going could only finish fourth.

The Ladies Open
Only five went to post with longs odds on shot Killerine, ridden by Heather Irving, making all to win by 4 lengths from Polar King. Not as impressive as last Saturday at The Oakley, but congratulations goes to Heather for her 50th victory, 49 in points & 1 Hunter Chase.

The Mens Open
Stuart Morris gained compensation after his disappointment in the first race with a hard earned victory on Fisherman Jack, beating Jimmy Tarry on the favourite Grecian Star by ¾ of a length. Andy Martin on Mr Smudge finished strongly to finish third. Fisherman Jack had pulled up last time in a Towcester Hunter Chase & prior to that had finished a remote 4th at Huntingdon. Pagermar trained by Pam Sykes & Richard Burton having his first ride of the day finished fourth of the eight runners.

The Restricted
Caroline Bailey sent out her only runner of the meeting, Agua Ardente, and he duly obliged, but only holding on by a neck from Teeton Fizz. Ridden by Nick Pearce, the stable is starting to hit form with a double last Saturday. This was Agua Ardente’s second victory of the season and having finished a neck second on his seasonal debut to Out The Black at Barbury Castle, the form looks strong as Out The Black has gone on to record two more impressive victories. The late money came in for Misty Ramble who was upsides with the winner when coming to grief on the final circuit.

Confined Maiden (Div 1)
This maiden was more like a bumper with both fences in the home straight not being jumped because of the low sun & a fence on the far side being damaged, a total of 8 fences omitted. Victory went to Native Thunder ridden by Sally Duckett who made all. Jumping the last some half a mile out, it was all very reminiscent of the Cartmel run in (finished 3rd last week at Brafield to the promising Born To Dream). Favourite Northall Lad was being pushed along when coming down, he has now failed to complete on all his three starts (looked well in the parade ring but at 6/4 was a very short price).

Confined Maiden (Div 2)
As like the first division 13 went to post and victory went to Jimmy Tarry on his Lah Di Dah Lad. Jimmy rode five winners at this meeting back in 99, amazingly this 10 year old didn’t make his debut until the age of eight. Runner up was Mountain Trooper. Well backed, the James Owen ridden 5 year old was going well until a blunder 4 out, but still ran on well & looks to have a bright future. This comes on the back of a promising 2nd over 2m 4f over the same course.