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Vale Of Aylesbury with Garth & South Berks
Kingston Blount
Saturday 9th May 2009
by Simon McInnes

photos by Neale Blackburn

Whilst this may seem a dramatic step purely to avoid going to Peper Harrow, the proximity to the M40 and a day of pleasantly clear roads meant that this meeting was relatively accessible, and despite the fastish ground, fairly well endowed with runners. On arrival, there did not seem a huge number of horseboxes in the parking area, especially considering that there was pony races as well, but a few more trundled along and those present must have brought multiple animals, as there were 45 declared over the seven races.

Going: Good to Firm (Good places)

Race 1: The French Horn, Sonning-On-Thames Restricted
1: Sheknowsyouknow 2: Sorbiediditmyway 3: Apple Days
Winner owned & trained: Michael Hawker, ridden: Mark Wall
After winning out of the blue last year, Sheknowsyouknow found things harder at this level, but in 2009 she has been more consistent, even if only winning once before today, and was able to take this mediocre restricted without too much bother. She was fifteen lengths to the good at the fourth last and gradually went further and further ahead. Life becomes a lot tougher for her from now on. Sorbiediditmyway was the one go try and take the winner on, but he struggled through the last three-quarters of a mile and was being worn down by Apple Days for second when the line came to his rescue. Farmer John, third at Larkhill last time in a rare completion, did looked like a horse who thinks that made for a sound career and now is time to call it quits.

Sheknowsyouknow and Mark Wall take the last on route tovictory in the Restricted

Race 2: The Shepherd's Crook, Crowell Open Maiden (4-7 yo) 2m 5f
1: Sir Ronan 2: Mirage Prince
Winner owned: D Spearing, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: James Tudor
The nature of this race changed dramatically in the dip going away from the paddock, which was out of sight from the point I had experimented with for viewing, assuming that the hidden ground would be fairly innocuous in how the events would unfold. Leader Charles Street Lad had some problem around about the eighth fence, and went from a few clear in front to almost tailed off, and Showman (five out of five for non-finishing), Aldridge Hill and Madam Molly (signs of residual inexperience on her second run) all departed at the same point. This left Sir Ronan (unseated debut and remounted for second in his follow up run) and Mirage Prince (reliable to make the frame but winless in thirteen tries) in control, and they were left further clear when Shrewd Dude fell four from home. Given his history, Sir Ronan put in a solid round of jumping and clearly has ability, but he was not really challenged to win this race and has to prove that he can do it under pressure.

Sir Ronan and James Tudor take the Young Horse Maiden

Race 3: The Fox Country Inn Ladies' Open
1: Avesomeofthat 2: Rustic John 3: Teeton Prince
Winner owned: AA Wintle, trained & ridden: Hannah Lewis
When with Seamus Mullins, stamina was not really Avesomeofthat's forte, although fast ground was, so for him to struggle earlier in the season was no surprise. However, it came right in his previous race, and he repeated the dose with authority, easing clear after hitting the front four out and finding the triumph as comfortable to secure as a cabinet member submitting an unscrupulous expense claim. Rustic John was on a roll earlier in 2009, but looks like he has gone a touch off of the boil. Teeton Prince was never dangerous and only inherited third when High Rank ran out of steam quite rapidly from the third last.

Avesomeofthat and Hannah Lewis take the Ladies

Race 4: Volkswagen Touareg Men's Open
1: Itsalf 2: Burntoakboy 3: Virginia Preuil
Winner owned: DH Morgan, trained: Julie Houldey, ridden: Dave Mansell
A healthy seven declared from eleven entries, but three stood out on form, and they dominated both the betting and the race. Itsalf did briefly rise to be favourite, but late money for Burntoakboy restored him to that position. The rumour going round the course was that the horse had been subject to problems in a wind operation, and there was an element of experimentation to this run to see how well he had got over it. The others were prepared to ensure any failings were exposed, as Itsalf and Virginia Preuil ensured a good pace, with the latter often niggled along to hassle Itsalf into stepping it up a bit more. Initially it seemed that Burntoakboy had passed the test as he passed Virginia Preuil when asked for a bit of effort on the far side of the course, but approaching the final turn it was apparent that he was not going to do any better than that, and Itsalf was not, in the end, hard pressed to retain first place.

Itsalf and Dave Mansell purple with yellow hoops on sleeves on route to the mens open

Race 5: Cornbury Festival Intermediate
1: More Trouble 2: Jewel Song 3: Intaglio
Winner owned: IR Mann, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: James Tudor
Despite a couple of pieces of bad luck, More Trouble has adapted really well in his first pointing season and this was win number four, but he did not have a totally easy time of it. Jewel Song made a decent stab of things in second, and his problem seems to be a lack of finishing oomph, otherwise he would have probably won more than the three times he has to date. One to note from the race was Intaglio, on his first run for eighteen months. His rivals did seem to have a bit of an edge on him for fitness, but he only dropped out of contention for second as they approached the last fence on the far side. A promising comeback.

More Trouble and James Tudor clear at the last in the Intermediate

Race 6: Lewis Open Maiden
1: Leadbrook Lad 2: Thenford Lad 3: Trenley Lawn
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Patrick Millington
From the fourth last fence this race changed it's complexion dramatically. Leadbrook Lad was eye to eye with Angies Castle, who had pulled up on five out of six runs (three each side of the Irish Sea). It did look as if Angies Castle had the edge, ever so slightly, when he fell three from home, and third placed, but beaten, Free From Magee pulled up lame at the same point. This left Leadbrook Lad a distance clear of Thenford Lad (in vain attempt at a win number thirteen) and Trenley Lawn (taking another backward step from a couple of decent tries mid season). Inexplicably, with the oppo mere dots on the horizon, the winner was ridden out strongly on the run-in, ensuring a huge margin of victory. Owston Ferry caught the eye in the paddock, but ran considerably worse than he looked, and after appearing to be not off at Penshurst, Ath Tiomain tried harder to day, with no improvement in the outcome for it.

Leadbrook Lad and Patrick Millington take the open maiden

Race 7: Richardsons Chartered Accountants Members
1: Bering Gifts 2: Long Courrier
Winner owned & trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Gabby Hill
In the preliminaries, commentator Chris Leigh revealed that we had a 61 year old veteran jockey up against a 16 year old having only her third ride, which did seem an untimely waste of info that could be used to fill dead time in the two runner race itself. That proved a wrong assumption, as the pair served up a decent spectacle, the lead changing hands several times, and then seeing the two split by no more than a length or so from the second last. With 7/4 briefly available, it was tempting to support the benefits of youthful vigour financially, but even after eleven (now twelve) pointing wins, I do struggle to forgive Bering Gifts his stint as a fairly ungenuine hurdler for Charlie Mann.

Gabby Hill is lead back aboard her first Point to Point winner Bering Gifts with Mum, Lawney [left]

Alan Hill gets the celebrations under way and drenches the photographer in the process

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