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VWH at Siddington
Saturday 25th March 2017
by Russell Smith

GLOUCESTERSHIRE owner-trainer Charlie Dando sent out his first winner since suffering life-threatening injuries in a shooting accident at the end of January when Brass In Pocket took the Open Maiden in good style. Dando, who is based at Little Sodbury, was on the Duke of Beaufort Hunt joint master Matt Ramsden's stag weekend in Yorkshire and missed seeing the eight-year-old storm clear under James King to secure a six-lengths success over Wild Ginger (Jonjo O'Neill). But his father, David, was on hand to welcome back the winner, knowing his 25-year-old son would have wanted to be in the saddle. "I haven't got the heart to ring Charlie and tell him he has won," he said. "He had a shooting accident and damaged his leg and all the nerves. He is lucky to be alive as he had a cardiac arrest on the operating table, so it is a tonic for him in a way. It is brilliant for him, but he won't see it like that because he wants to ride him. He plans to get back next year." King added: "I am delighted to get a winner for the Dandos after what happened to Charlie." Dando was sent Brass In Pocket from Ireland by JD Moore at Christmas 2015, and his father admitted the victory was a surprise. "I thought he wanted better ground, but James gave him a lovely ride," he added. "I thought if he had been third or fourth we would have been absolutely delighted."

Brackloon High followed up his Coronation Gold Cup triumph by taking the Mixed Open for Michael Kehoe's Stewkley stables, near Leighton Buzzard, but not before giving his supporters an almighty fright. The 12-year-old looked to have the race in safe keeping when he went clear approaching the second-last only to put the brakes on, and although Andrew Barlow managed to get his mount over the obstacle he was quickly challenged on all sides. However, the veteran consented to run on again and after regaining the lead, he held off the fast-finishing Stone and Sam Jukes by a neck. Kehoe said: "He pulls himself up when he is in front. He just thoroughly enjoys it, but he is a horse that you can't hit the front with too soon. When he got to the tree down there you could see he thought had done enough. He is not ungenuine. He is just cute."

It was the third consecutive thrilling finish on the card, which started with Horatio Caine getting up in the final strides of the Members, Subscribers & Farmers Race under Lambourn-based owner-rider Cordelia Chugg to foil Moorland Sunset's bid for a third win in the event by a head. The outcome came as a surprise to Chugg, who said: "I thought Nick (Phillips) had got it and I was a little devastated because my horse tried so hard. But when I was walking back and they shouted out Horatio Crane I was just absolutely ecstatic." Chugg works as a Norland nanny in London during the week, and then rides out her own horse at Lambourn trainer Karrie Fanshawe's yard and for Warren Greatrex. Fanshawe said: "It's our first winner of the season, but we have only got two point-to-pointers and I concentrate on producing youngsters to sell."

Zac Baker received the John Manners Memorial Trophy for the ride of the day after producing The Gunner Brady with a well-timed challenge to take the Confined Conditions Race. Baker brought the Tracey Bailey-trained eight-year-old with a sweeping run on the outside to cut down Rye Cross and Urban Storm after the last fence to score by half a length and two lengths. He said: "I half got stopped by Peeping Thom turning down the hill and I thought there goes my race. I must have been 20 lengths off them jumping the fourth-last, but he kept jumping his way closer to them and I thought it was do or die at the last." Bailey, who trains at Chilton Foliat, near Hungerford, said: "Zac has given him a peach of a ride. He sat and waited and it is quite a long straight here. At the second-last I thought he was not going to get there in time, but he was like Pegasus." The Gunner Brady is leased by Nick Sutton to The Profligate Partners, of which he is a member along with former jockey and trainer Paul Fitzsimons, Barney Windsor-Clive and David Woolley. "They are very optimistic owners and as he is qualified for the Timico Mixed Open at Cheltenham they would like to go there," added Bailey.

Sarazen Bridge put up an excellent round of jumping to follow up his Barbury maiden win for Bibury trainer Dibby Brown by making all the running to take the Restricted Race. The six-year-old was challenged by Very Intense (Johnny Bailey) at the second-last, but stayed on gamely under Phillips to score by three lengths. Brown said: "He is a super jumper and that is what won it for him today. He is not the quickest, but he jumps like an old handicapper. He is very genuine. We are really excited by him." Sarazen Bridge was led up by owner Alice Dorman, a physiotherapist who has recently landed a job with the New Zealand eventing team. "She got him out of Jonjo O'Neill's yard," added Brown. "She is a very good friend of mine and rides him out every day."

Karinga Dancer, beaten at long odds-on at Whitfield last time out when Barbury Castle trainer-rider Laura Thomas reported the ground to be too soft, bounced back to winning ways in the Volvo Pegasus Club Members Race. First run in 1895, the historic contest is confined to members of the Inns of Court, to which all barristers must belong. And Karinga Dancer became eligible with Lady Susannah O'Brien, a former criminal barrister, among the ten-strong Barbury Racing Club, who own the 11-year-old. Given a waiting ride by Thomas, the gelding joined Kyles Faith at the third-last, before surging clear to beat last year's winner by seven lengths. Lady O'Brien said: "I love the hunting and riding. I once rode in the Pegasus Club race about 30 years ago although I wasn't very successful. I pulled up. It is very exciting. I thought Laura rode a brilliant race. She was very patient." Thomas added: "I thought they went plenty quick enough for the first few fences and one thing I knew was that he has an amazing turn of foot."

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