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Bicester with Whaddon Chase at Whitfield
Sunday 13th March 2016
by Andrew Norman

Hart Doubles Up To Level Title Race
Andrews Pegged Back Despite Intermediate Score

Claire Hart drew level with Gina Andrews in the Lady Riders Championship after riding a double at the Kingston Blount Racing Club Point-to-Point on Saturday.

Hart guided progressive five-year-old Woodfleet home in the opener, the first division of the 2m 5f Open Maiden. The Anna Reed-owned gelding enthusiastically made most under a positive ride and looks an exciting prospect.

Kingsclere trainer Richard Bandey said of his son of Fleetwood: "He wouldn't want the ground any softer than this. His form has been working out really well and we'll go for a Restricted now but he's still a baby so I want to keep him back from Intermediates until next season."

A pulsating finish to the second division saw the Julie Marles-trained Golden Tobouggan bravely repel Fizzlestix by a head. The winner, having only his second racecourse start, was bred by owners Clare and Adrian Hopkinson.

Winning rider Sam Davies-Thomas said: "It's not a surprise because he's been working extremely well at home. We gave the second a chance after a mistake two out but once we had company, he picked up really well. I hope Julie can keep hold of him but obviously he'll be of interest after giving 21lbs to a horse with experience."

Hart completed her double with another enterprising ride as Exclusive Rights got back to winning ways in the Subaru Restricted (2m 5f). The eight-year-old mare responded as Hart quickened the tempo in the back-straight, a decisive move with the fast-finishing Velvet Royale unable to catch the winner.

Winning trainer Pauline Harkin explained: "We've given her a wind-op since Higham and it's done the trick. We knew there was a problem as she's stopped quickly twice this season. She loves being in front and I think smaller fields help her. I'm confident she can progress and stay three miles."

Kingston Blount maestro Alan Hill supplemented his midweek Leicester Hunter Chase success in style by saddling a treble. Velvet Cognac justified favouritism to open his account easily in the Open Maiden under Archie Wright. The eight-year-old son of Grape Tree Road, for sale to stay in the yard, boasts smart novice hurdle form and should have no trouble progressing in this sphere.

Wright landed a double as classy thirteen-year-old Consigliere returned to the winners' enclosure in the Mens Open race. Making most, the Trempolino gelding had main market rival The Wealerdealer well held in second before he fell two out.

Hill's treble was completed in the Connolly's Red Mills Intermediate as Brians Well, who took the Restricted on this card last year, stayed on powerfully under Gina Andrews. "I'd quite happily take him to the Final," said Hill, "We've only just got him properly fit and he'll improve again from this. He's very tough so we'll certainly think about Cheltenham."

"I was very pleased with Velvet Cognac. He jumped and travelled well under a quiet, confident ride from Archie. I think we bumped into a good one (Ypsilanti) at Cottenham. Consigliere is a superstar. He hated the ground but he's genuine and got the job done."

"Archie has been riding out at Woodway for three years and it's great to give him a chance in Joe's absence. He's a very natural rider."

Hill was thwarted in the Ladies Open however as Start Royal, successful at this meeting in each of the past three seasons, gave best to former grade one-winning hurdler Khyber Kim.

The winner, under Camilla Henderson, stalked the favourite before taking it up in the back straight and sealed the contest with a better jump at the last to score by a length.

"We'll have to come here more often," said trainer Philip Rowley, "It's all about keeping him sweet at home and he's still enjoying himself. He's been great for us."

Lively Baron (Johnny Bailey) prevailed in an action-packed Club Members Conditions race. A former winner of the London National when with Donald McCain, the son of Presenting was purchased for £6,000 at Doncaster in May by Wiltshire trainer Laura Thomas for owner/rider James McNeile to have some fun with.

Devizes-based financial advisor McNeile, 56, said: "I've been suffering with flu but the horse needed to run so we booked Johnny. I won the Avon Vale Members race last season and am determined to prove that wasn't a fluke so hopefully I'll be back on next time."

Supreme Danehill, the mount of Victoria Pendleton, was sneaking into contention and held every chance before a mistake at the third last caused the rider to lose an iron. "The stirrup pedal flipped up and wouldn't drop," said trainer and mentor Alan Hill, "The bend is very sharp before two out and unfortunately gravity won. It would have been interesting as she was just creeping into it."

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