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Berks & Bucks at Kingston Blount
Sunday 29th May 2016
by Andrew Norman

York Joins 300 Club!

Veteran rider Phil York became the sixth rider in the history of the sport to ride 300 Point-to-Point winners at Kingston Blount on Sunday.

"It's fantastic, another milestone," said York after guiding Ray Fielder's Merrydown Vintage home in the Hunt Members race, maintaining the gelding's perfect record from three visits to the track.

"I remember when I rode my 50th winner here and since then it's just been a case of passing each landmark."

Effingham-based York, who turned 50 earlier this month, has no plans to retire from the saddle. "I've never ridden to achieve anything other than to have fun and while it's still like that, I'll carry on," he explained.

Treated to a rapturous reception by fellow members of the weighing room, trainers and racegoers alike upon his return to the winner's enclosure, York, who rode his first winner in 1995, will bid to add to his tally at Garthorpe next week. "The next aim is 301!" he joked, "And then it would be nice to get to 304 and pass Polly Gundry. My first ever outside ride was for Ray so it's a small world to think he would provide me with my 300th winner!"

Guildford trainer Fielder, who was worried about heavily watered surface, said: "He loves it here but the ground was definitely a concern. He handled it well enough though and we'll consider having another go in a Hunter Chase next year."

Tim Underwood's remarkable Tempelpirate extended his unbeaten run to 13 in the 2m 5f Novice Riders race. The nine-year-old, under Ben Hicks, scooted clear three out to record a 15 length success – his sixth at the venue.

"He could run again at Garthorpe next weekend," said Underwood, "but as he's just coming back from two years off, I'm not sure I dare risk it. He's not had anything too serious, just a series of niggles. He's as a good as ever but he's still a bit burly!"

Borehamwood trainer Thomas Gallagher saddled his initial double as John Reddington's Mr Raj (Intermediate) and Annie Jordan (Open Maiden Div 1) both prevailed under Sam Davies-Thomas.

Mr Raj, a promising third at Fontwell earlier this month, profited from more patient tactics. "This is about his level," said Gallagher. "He's a spring horse who struggles on sticky ground. He would have been closer at Fontwell but he paid for jumping and travelling with the winner (See U Again Son), who's very useful. The tongue-strap also made a difference today and we'll try another Maiden Hunter Chase next season."

Improving five-year-old Annie Jordan was a runaway winner on just her third career start, pulling a distance clear in the faster of the two divisions of the Open Maiden. Gallagher acquired the grey mare from Galway trainer Martin Cullinane. "I hope she'll be good enough to go to the track in time," said Gallagher. "She's was very green in front but she'll mature in time and gaining more experience by tackling a Restricted next year will do her the world of good. I thought she'd win today as she's been working very well with Mr Raj."

55-year-old Mark Clark rode his first ever winner as Lord Aldervale scored at the 29th career attempt in the second division of the Maiden. The 20/1 outsider of eight, owned and trained by Lavant-based David Boxall, made all before drawing clear in the straight.

Clark started riding out for Richard Rowe before competing in a charity flat race at Plumpton, after which he decided to ride between the flags. Ten seasons, two seconds and four thirds later, and Clark finally entered the winner's enclosure.

"I'm delighted to finally ride a winner!" said a delighted Clark, who lives ten miles north of Boxall in South Ambersham. "I'm very grateful to Dave for letting me ride him. I had a horse called Whispering Boy but he went wrong and Dave has put lots of hard work into giving me this opportunity."

Alan Hill's Consigliere convincingly reversed the form with Swallows Delight from the previous fixture at Kingston Blount, running out a decisive winner of the Mens Open. Victoria Pendleton has been schooling the winner in recent weeks and the 13-year-old looked sharp, jumping well under the trainer's son Joe to record his fifth victory of the campaign.

"He may run again as we're going to give the national leading owner award a go," Hill explained. "We're chasing Sarah Easterby, but all of her horses have been roughed off for the season. Our horses are running well as we've had a winner, two seconds and a third today but we've probably been a victim of our own success as the watering has made for very competitive racing."

Consigliere's victory meant the pressure was on Claire Hart and Dabinett Moon to perform in the Ladies Open. A victory would ensure the mare was the South Midlands Area's top horse outright, but Fran Marriott's charge was outgunned by the Jenny Pidgeon-trained Top Smart. Gina Andrews' mount looked to be losing the argument over the back straight with but was hard-ridden and produced with a late challenge on the run-in.

With four wins and a second each in the area this season, Consigliere and Dabinett Moon (Leading Mare) were unable to be split. "You can keep the trophy if you get it engraved!" shouted Hill to Marriott during the after-racing presentation. Hill landed the Leading Trainer award with son Joe collecting the Gentleman Rider's prize while Claire Hart was the Leading Lady. Nick Meek scooped the award for the Leading Novice rider.

Like Meek, James Jackson-Stops will no longer be a 'novice' next season after Lisnager Star snatched victory close home in the Restricted contest. The eight-year-old ex-Irish Pointer, trained by Ettington-based Fran Nimmo, had pulled up a week earlier at Tabley but bounced back to provide Jackson-Stops with a sixth riding success.

"Fran and Charlie (Poste) are making a really good crack of things and it's an exciting and fun yard to be involved with," said Jackson-Stops. "They are banging out winners every weekend on this better ground. Lisnager Star is not slow as his best performance prior to today had been over 2m 4f and we may go down to Umberleigh to have a bit of fun."

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