OXFORD UNIVERSITY HUNT CLUB
Sunday 19th February 2006
by Geoff Handley
photos by Phil Britt
A bitterly cold day at this pleasant Oxfordshire venue with the dull and overcast conditions soon turning to rain. The ground was described as officially good but was riding a little bit softer as the afternoon wore on. Even the Red Kite's seen earlier swooping over the tree lined Chiltern Hills disappeared as the rain came down.
There was a bumper 174 entries for the seven races, for what was the first of four fixtures at Kingston Blount
Fourteen runners went to post in the Confined resulting in a decisive win for To The Top and getting favourite backers off to a great start. Trained a stone's throw away from the racecourse by Alan Hill, this eight year old gelding gave the trainer his first success when comfortably winning his members at Tweseldown a few weeks ago, Alan is now in charge of the yard's pointers now Lawney is operating under rules from nearby Aston Rowant.
FAIR KIOWA IN THE COMBINED HUNTS
To The Top was always well placed under jockey James Tudor, taking it up four out he was always in command. Taken out of a Hunter Chase at Leicester last week because of the prevailing ground he looks one to watch out for under rules in the next few weeks. After a rather quiet start to his pointing career, To The Top won three times last season including a maiden on the opening day of the season at Cottenham, he then recorded two more wins in Wales including an impressive winner of a seventeen runner Restricted at Howick in the fastest time of the day and a victory in an Intermediate at Bonvilston. .Jockey James Tudor had seven winners to his name at the course last season and is already clear in the South Midland Championship with eleven victories to his name.
PHILIP YORK AND BLAZE ON - HANG ON
There was plenty of money in the ring for To The Top, his opening price of 7/4 didn't last long and most of the bookies were soon chalking up Evens Fav as the money poured on, there was in fact flip-flopping favs as Geos which opened at 5/4 soon drifted out to 3's and came in for little support. Geos must be one of the highest profile names to point, owned by Seven Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson, trained by his wife Diana and ridden by daughter Camilla, he has had a brilliant career under rules, winning the Bula Hurdle and the hugely fierce Tote Gold Trophy beating the likes of Rooster Booster and Monkerhostin as well as finishing fourth in the 2002 Champion Hurdle. His chasing career included a fourth in the Champion Chase at the Festival behind Moscow Flyer. However the market weakness proved justified as he didn’t land a blow, never really getting into the race, always in mid division he eventually finished fifth.
TO THE TOP AND JAMES TUDOR TAKE THE OPENER
The runner up was Hot Plunge, his chance was ruined at the start when this quirky customer was left at least twenty five lengths, when he eventually consented to start, he made eye-catching headway staying on strongly to within fifteen lengths of the winner and surely alleviating any doubts about his ability to stay. A regular performer in Hunter Chases including in the Foxhunters at Aintree, he won a 2 mile event at Hereford. Jockey James Owen did well to get the best out of Hot Plunge, who has the ability to win again but will punters be tempted to back him in future?
Third home was the gallant Galaxy Minstrel who cut out most of the running until four out under Sarah Phizacklea and fourth home was Grecian Star who made an eye-catching seasonal debut for Jimmy Tarry's yard who showed their wellbeing later on in the day.
A ninth career win for Find Me Another who was having his fifth run of the season even at this early stage, a drifter in the ring, probably on the back of the two most recent runs when unseating the rider both times, and the fact that this ten year old gelding had been a beaten fav no less than nine occasions, however a winner three times last season including a match over course and distance, From the powerful yard of Caroline Bailey, Find Me Another was well ridden by Amy Stennett, always well up with pace, she got a great jump at the second last to seal issues and beat the hot favourite Step And Run by 15 lengths who before today’s run had won eight of his eleven starts and ably piloted by jockey Jane Williams Third home was Gentle Rivage who was also up with the pace, he should soon be winning a Ladies event.
A STENNETT AND FIND ME ANOTHER WIN THE LADIES OPEN
FIND ME ANOTHER AND PHYSICAL GRAFFITI IN THE LADIES OPEN
STEVE THE FISH
A competitive looking Mens Open and what a cracking race it turned out to be with the four market leaders all in with a chance at the last fence. Victory went to the strongly backed Christy Beamish, backed into odds on in the ring, the favourite was held up by Gary Hamner but was making eye-catching headway on the final circuit, carving his way through the eight strong field, closing with every stride to seal victory with a great jump at the last to beat the useful trio of Another Raleagh, Hot Toddy and Dunston Bill who bravely tried to make only, only succumbing to the other three at the last. The two placed horses are ones to watch next time. The winner looked really well in the paddock and I got the impression there was plenty left in the locker. Looks a hunter chase certainty in the next few weeks, his only appearance under rules was when a respectable fourth behind Lord Beau (went on to frank the form in The John Corbet Cup at Stratford) in atrocious conditions.
CHRISTY BEAMISH AND GARY HAMNER WINNING THE MENS OPEN
RACING FOR THE LINE IN THE MENS OPEN
TUBBER ROADS IN THE MENS OPEN
A quality field of twelve runners contested the Intermediate, the two market leaders were both well backed with good support coming for Tooley Park as well as the favourite Palmers Peak and they had it between them approaching the straight, Tooley Park coming slightly wide but a great jump a the last sealed issues. A winner of five of his last seven starts, Tooley Park looks to have a bright future ahead of him, well ridden by Lenny Hicks; it was a double celebration as it was also his birthday, trained by Jimmy Tarry. Palmers Peak lost nothing in defeat and is improving nicely, he should win again. The third favourite, the promising Home By Midnight jumped rather low at some of her fences and that proved his undoing when she came down five out when still with every chance. She is worth following.
BANKIT AND JONATHAN JARRETT IN THE INTERMEDIATE RACE
TIM UNDERWOOD AND WHITES TOUCH
TOOLEY PARK AND PALMERS PEAK AT THE LAST IN THE INTERMEDIATE RACE
An easy victory for Wood Colony for Jimmy Tarry/Nick Pearce, as the rain got into the ground, the field were well strung out, the race was turned into a procession, taking it up on the final circuit from the early pacesetter Airmark, the race was basically over and favourite backers were counting their winners long before the finish. After a slow start to his pointing career, Wood Colony is improving rapidly and trainer Jimmy Tarry (double on the day) has a pair of useful animals in his yard. Runner up was Chateau Burf who was giving Stuart Morris a rodeo style ride both in the paddock and down at the start as well as kicking out, the other riders gave him a wide berth. The unbeaten Touch of Velvet came down in the back straight on the first circuit.
NICK PEARCE AND WOOD COLONY TAKING THE RESTRICTED RACE
PERSIAN SILK AND R BARRETT
RUNNER-UP CHATEAU BURF AND STUART MORRIS IN THE RESTRICTED RACE
An eventful race with plenty of incidents, the race though was marred by the sad collapse of the even money favourite Liamos as the runners came down the Knoll on the first circuit, jockey Philip York walked away unscathed.
ASHLEY LODGE AND MISS J LODGE IN THE CONFINED MAIDEN
This led the way to Pasarella to take the lead and was still going well when coming down at the open ditch (13th) On the back straight three horses had every chance with Pro Am, Divine Mist and Brazil all in contention, the race changed dramatically when Divine Mist fell at the second last leaving Pro Am to win from Brazil. Both of these horses had been mentioned in running in previous reports, (Pro Am: Mollington 20/3/05 Looked well in the paddock and ran a reasonable race before tiring, will win soon) Heavily backed that day at Mollington, those who stuck by him this afternoon were duly rewarded at odds of around 8/1, though 12's were available in some spots. Owner trained by Mike Tuckey and ridden by Ben Tuckey, this was some compensation for Ben who had earlier been cautioned by the stewards in the opening race.
BEN TUCKEY AND PRO AM ON THEIR WAY TO WINNING THE CONFINED MAIDEN
Brazil again shaped nicely (22/1/06 Dunthrop, put in some splendid jumps, came down when tired) This ex Tom George gelding available at 33/1 will have no difficulty winning his maiden.
FRENCH BOY AND EMILY HARBOUR BATTLE WITH TWO A PENNY, IN BLUE, IN THE CONFINED MAIDEN
The real eye-catcher of the day was the third paced horse, Two A Penny who was doing all her best work close home, runner up in a short maiden on this course last season, this mare at the age of six looks to have a bright future.
Many of the race goers had already left the course at the end of a cold day; however they missed the closest finish of the day as Bally Wirral just getting the better of the odds on favourite Stag Party (Harry Fowler) on the line. Jockey Godfrey Maundrell got a great jump out of Bally Wirral at the last with the fav being rather deliberate. This was a far better result than last years event for the jockey, when riding the 2/5 favourite, he lost his irons and had to bale out as they came down the knoll. The third of the six runners was Mr Naborro with Justin Mort aboard.
BALLY WIRRAL AND GODFREY MAUNDELL TRAIL AT THE LAST BEFORE TAKING THE CLUB MEMBERS RACE FROM STAG PARTY AND HARRY FOWLER
A cracking days racing with eighty runners participating in the seven races, enhanced by the excellent commentary of Mark Johnson who provides up to date information of all the betting, market moves, minutes to post time, as well as informative race reading. The course is still expensive though for punters with a charge of £20 or £25, no single occupancy discount although you could pay £12 to park in the adjacent field holding the horse boxes and involved a climb over a closed gate, maybe this should be bourne in mind for next year particularly with Towcester giving free admission to punters.
GANGSTER AND MISS S TARRY IN THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY HUNT CLUB MEMBERS RACE
GRECO FINISHING FOURTH IN THE CLUB MEMBERS RACE