Tom Ellis extended his lead in the Foran Equine Trainers' Championship by saddling a double for partner Gina Andrews at the Oakley Hunt Point-to-Point at Brafield-on-the-Green.
Samarnni – winning the fifth of his last six starts – showed a willing attitude in the Dodson & Horrell Confined before King Of The Clothe impressed in the Landscope Land & Property Restricted.
"He's a hell of a jumper," said Ellis, after watching the latter lower the colours of well-punted favourite Monbeg Oscar. "He's a smart horse who stays well and prefers decent ground. We bought him in the summer of 2017, but he fractured his shoulder and we weren't sure if he was going to race again. Charlie Tiso, who works for us, has spent countless hours with him during his recovery and what we're seeing now is down to her."
A typically strong, determined ride from Andrews galvanised Samarnni to collar the bold front-running Gunmoney – attempting to make all for the fourth time at this venue – close home.
"He has a fantastic attitude," said Ellis of the lightly-raced eleven-year-old. "His wind isn't great, and he'd prefer a sounder surface, but I knew from the second last he'd get there as he has a real will to win. The downhill finish at Garthorpe, where he has won three times, suits him best."
Despite leading the trainers' title, Ellis played down his chance of maintaining his advantage. "I doubt we'll have enough to run later in the season," he opined. "Alan Hill and others will have plenty more to run on the quicker ground. We went into this season just thinking we had a nice bunch but never considered being in this position. We're lucky to have some great supporting owners and syndicates, which I think are the way forward for Point-to-Pointing. Instead of just having one, you can have shares in three or four and enjoy the experience with others."
Gina Andrews has now ridden an exceptional 26 winners between the flags this season – 11 more than Alex Edwards, who leads the Gentleman Riders' Championship.
"I had tonnes under the bonnet. He's very talented," smiled rider Dale Peters after guiding Rebel Dawn Rising to an impressive all-the-way victory in the second division of the Brayfield Farms Ltd Open Maiden.
"It's nice to get off the mark this season. I seem to have had a lot of seconds!" said Thetford owner/trainer David Kemp, who purchased the five-year-old from trusted associate Sean Doyle. "He was backward in Ireland, but he came on good recommendation from Sean, who I have had good relationship with over the years. I suspect he wants to go the other way around as jumping right must have cost him about ten lengths there."
Kemp had to settle for second place in the first division, as his other son of Getaway – How To Get Away – was eclipsed by fellow five-year-old Ericsbar. The Stowaway gelding, third at Chaddesley last month, swept to the front two out under Ed Glassonbury.
"We bought him as a three-year-old and although we've always thought he was alright, he's been a bit unlucky on the racecourse to be honest," said winning handler Josh Guerriero. The Cheshire-based raider, assistant trainer to Oliver Greenall, added: "He's really coming to hand. It's great to see him go and show that after running well behind two nice four-year-olds last time. The owners want to go under rules with him next season, so it's likely he'll transfer to Olly's yard."
Diamond King showed his class to make a winning pointing debut in the Fisher German Ladies Open. The former Cheltenham Festival scorer was guided to a facile success by Phine Banks, who explained that they have been trying to keep the eleven-year-old sweet in Martin Weston's yard: "Olly (Murphy) contacted us in January to say he was becoming available. We've taken him hunting and are just having fun with him. He's been in good form at home, but we needed to wait the appropriate number of days for him to be able to race after running under rules. We'll certainly keep him pointing for now."
The triumph of Black Valentine in the Brian Currie Milton Keynes Mens Open saw rider Will Thirlby and trainer Kirsty Smith combine to gain revenge on dual course-winner Thetalkinghorse.
Atherstone-based Smith's Ardkilly Witness was pipped by the runner-up at Horseheath last month but while the winner unseated his rider at Bangor last time, it was Gerald Bailey's charge who blundered his chance away here – consistently let down by his jumping on the second circuit.
"Although he's eight-years-old, that's only the eighth race of his life," said the winning trainer. "He won a novice hurdle for Paul Nicholls so has to run in Opens but hopefully he'll end up in hunter chases. He's an absolute pleasure to train and I'm thrilled with him."
Owner/trainer Graham Tawell, Chairman of the Oakley Hunt Committee, saddled the first two home in the George Weaving Memorial Hunt Members race. Hellorboston repeated last year's success, asserting up the run-in to repel stablemate Midnight Monkey. "I wasn't necessarily expecting that!" explained Tawell. "Monkey had the benefit of a run, whereas it's been too firm for the winner. Donald McCain always said he was a soft ground horse and he won a decent Ladies Open at Andoversford last season in a bog. It rained all night, which probably tipped it in his favour."
Luke Scott doubled his career tally by guiding the Fran Nimmo-trained Summer Sounds home in the Bells Motor Group Novice Riders race after hot-footing it from High Easter.
Sixteen-year-old Scott, stationed with Olly Murphy, had found one too good in the opener at the Essex venue three hours earlier but never looked in danger here, making every post a winning one. Graham Fisher, part-owner of the eleven-year-old hat-trick scorer, said: "We're lucky to be involved with him. We were at Fran's and heard there was a half share going so we jumped at the chance."