CHARLIE Dando, who almost died following a horrific shooting accident 13 months ago, was thrilled to ride his first winner since returning to the saddle with victory on Kit Barry at the Vine & Craven point-to-point meeting at Barbury Racecourse, near Marlborough. The 26-year-old farrier, from Old Sodbury in Gloucestershire, was on a day's pheasant shooting when a shotgun he went to take from a friend, who was acting as a loader, went off causing life-threatening injuries to his lower left leg. He was airlifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where his heart stopped twice on the operating table as surgeons fought successfully to save the limb. Following his rehabilitation, Dando was determined to ride again and all his efforts were rewarded as he piloted Kit Barry, owned and trained by his father, David, to a 12-lengths victory over Lawsons Thorns in the Fuller's Brewery Restricted Race. Charlie said: "It's great to have my first winner back, especially on my old man's horse. I am thrilled for him. I had an artery bypass, an artery graft, a nerve graft and a skin graft to finish it all off. It could have been a lot worse. I am very lucky to be alive. I just wanted to get back doing the things I enjoy - hunting and racing." David added: "It's absolutely brilliant for him to have a winner on our horse. If you had said to me a year ago he would do this I would never have believed it. It's amazing."
Bibury trainer Dibby Brown admitted to mixed emotions about the prospect of running Cousin Pete at the Cheltenham Festival after her stable star took the Timico Mixed Open. The ten-year-old duelled for the lead with Abricot De L'Oasis over the last five fences, before getting the upper hand to record a two-lengths victory under Nick Phillips, and set up a crack at the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase on March 16. Brown said: "It was his jumping we really wanted to focus on today, and he jumped absolutely brilliantly. Now I am more hopeful going to Cheltenham. Part of me doesn't want to send him there because I love the horse very much. When we sent the horse there before and he won at the hunter chase meeting he came back a bit sore. But the other part of me is very excited about running in such a prestigious race, so I am very torn." Phillips, who heads the Kilkenny Racing Partnership which owns Cousin Pete, added: "If I can get into the first four or five I would be thrilled, but that's probably asking a bit much."
Teenage rider Huw Edwards was all smiles after riding his first winner at the 48th attempt when Skyhill Allstar landed the Jockey Club Estates Open Maiden. The 17-year-old, from Stanton upon Hine Heath, near Shrewsbury, made much of the running on the seven-year-old, trained by his father, Simon, before surviving a mistake at the last to beat Velvet Steel by three lengths. Huw, who had finished runner-up on seven occasions last season, said of his winner: "I have been ready for it. I have been getting fed up of seconds, so it's good to get it and hopefully I can keep going now."
Simon, who was also notching his first winner with his 53rd runner, had bought Skyhill Allstar from Shark Hanlon in a private deal after the seven-year-old had been led out of the Goffs UK January Sales at Doncaster unsold.
Owner-trainer Tim Underwood, who is based at Beedon, near Newbury, opened his account for the season with a first-and-last-race double courtesy of Tempelpirate and Golden Crisp. Last season's leading national owner gave Craig Dowson the leg up for the first time on Tempelpirate in the Jamie Snowden Racing PPORA Club Members Conditions Race for Novice Riders. And the move paid off as Dowson, who is amateur jockey with Robert Stephens at Penhow, near Newport, produced the 11-year-old to pip Pink Eyed Pedro by a head for a repeat of last year's win. Underwood said: "It is good to get off the blocks. Craig gave him a fantastic ride. Tempelpirate is so consistent. You know when you are coming here he will put his best foot forward and do everything right. He has just been unlucky his last three runs." Dowson, 30, who had only opened his account between the flags at Howick a week earlier, added: "I would like to say I gave him a good ride, but he looked after me and jumped from fence to fence."
Page Fuller abandoned waiting tactics as Golden Crisp completed Underwood's double with her mount's slicker jumping earning a four-lengths verdict over Ericht and Camilla Henderson in a match for the Sporting Agenda Vine & Craven Hunt Members' Subscribers' & Farmers' Race. Fuller, who was getting off the mark this term, said: "He was so relaxed in front and jumped beautifully. I was just worried that I would get caught at the end."
Wick Green, a 20-1 outsider, stayed on best to beat market leaders Dissertation and The Late Legend by a neck and a length and a half in a cracking finish to the 2m 4f Ramsbury Vodka Four, Five And Six-Year-Olds Open Maiden. The five-year-old was bought by trainer-rider Peter Mason, who is based at Ablington, near Bibury, from breeder Charles Horton as a replacement for former stable star Shy John after his career was ended by injury last year. Mason, who was sending out his first winner this term, said: "Shy John started as a maiden and worked his way up, won hunter chases and ran round Cheltenham, so we can dream that this horse may get there one day. It was not a surprise as he has gone nicely at home and last time he was a bit unlucky."
Laura Horsfall was another trainer to open her account for the campaign when Follow The Paint stormed home by ten lengths from Cecil De Volanges in the 2m 4f Countryside Alliance Club Members Conditions Race for Mares and Fillies. Johnny Bailey was on board the eight-year-old with Brodie Hampson having broken a collar-bone, and he was quick to capitalise on his market rival's blunder at the fifth-last to go clear. Horsfall, who is based at Highfields, near Towcester, said: "I have had a few seconds, and I'm just glad to have got off the mark." Follow The Paint is owned by the trainer's racing club, with spokesman Steven Astaire, who bought the daughter of Painter's Row privately from John Heard, saying: "It was Brodie who told us to run in this. She said it would be perfect for her and then she broke her collar-bone."