A game performance from the consistent Kazuri Kate rounded off another memorable weekend for trainer/rider Claire Hart as the seven-year-old conquered two well-fancied rivals in the latest leg of the TBA Club Members Mares series at The Oakley Point-to-Point at Brafield on Sunday.
Hart, successful with Dabinett Moon at Siddington the previous day, drove the winner to lead on the run-in, claming recent Garthorpe scorer She's Real.
The winner has now made the frame in each of her last six starts. Cheltenham winner Popaway, herself a model of consistency, was bidding to follow up after winning on this card last term but had to settle for fourth.
"She's tough as nails and deserved to win again as she's the most consistent in the yard," said Hart, "She's not the quickest but her jumping is awesome so we were inconvenienced last time at Kingston Blount where fences were taken out. I've got to grips with her now, you have to get after her but she keeps galloping."
A trip to Cheltenham Hunter Chase evening for the TBA Mares Hunters' Chase on April 29th is being considered.
Stuart Morris unleashed promising five-year-old Sisco Kid, who triumphed in the second division of the Open Maiden on his British debut.
The son of Darsi, who had shown promise last season in Ireland, got up close home under Johnny Bailey to score by a neck from long-time leader Nightscape.
Acquired last summer, the Mark Barthorpe-owned gelding should progress in this sphere, with Morris having bided his time with the new recruit to wait for better ground.
The buoyant winning handler said: "He was weak and looked poor as a crow but we've hunted him hard and he's done brilliantly. There are several bumper winners to come out of his races and although he's not flashy, we've always liked him at home. He jumps like a buck and in fairness he's done everything we've asked of him."
Fourth season maiden Flicka's Witness registered a deserved victory in division one after a string of placed efforts. Jamie Goss, the seventh rider to partner the ten-year-old on his 13th start between the flags, was the subject of high praise from winning trainer Joan Johnston:
"That was a fantastic ride. Credit must go to Jennifer Harbison too as she does all the work with him at home. He's had a fair few goes and it's about time he won. The owners (Pauline and Denis Moylan) are great supporters of the sport and I'm delighted he's won for them."
The Moylans had to settle second in the Confined however with their Native Pride proving no match for Thetalkinghorse (Tom McClorey), who was able to live up to his name at the third time of asking since joining Gerald Bailey from Devon-based trainer Keith Cumings.
"He's lazy and to be honest I don't know how good he is," Bailey explained, "Keith recommended him to us and we go back a long way – in fact he put our original milking parlour in! We'll have a bit of fun with him. If we get a dry spring it might just suit him."
The seven-year-old son of Presenting was completing a double for Spratton trainer Bailey who had earlier saddled the rejuvenated Gunmoney (John Russell) to make most in the Mens Open.
The application of blinkers have enabled the stamina-laded ten-year-old to regain his form of late with another tilt at the Bonham's Final, of which he was second in 2013, a possible end of season target.
Bailey revealed his pre-race tactics: "We knew he'd stay and thought Rash Move (favourite, runner-up) wouldn't so I told John to go as quick as he can for as fast as he can. However, we learned from Horseheath that he doesn't want to get isolated in front."
"John is a real amateur but he's a great guy and we've got six horses now that are all owner/ridden and that is the foundation of our sport."
Alan Hill's remarkable Start Royal made all in the Ladies Open to register his 20th career success.
The dual hunter chase winner drew clear of a seven-strong field, dismissing the well-backed Top Smart by 12 lengths. The victory ensured rider Gina Andrews maintained a two-win lead over Catherine Walton in race for the Ladies title.
"It keeps Gina going," said Hill, "that's her 12th winner and I'll continue to support her. I've never been here but she knows the course well so I left it to her."
"We re-routed here from Penshurst in search of better ground. I don't think I've ever seen him jump as well. Kimble on Easter Saturday will be next and we may look at the AGA Ladies Final later on. They (Stewart & Hilda Nash and Michael Avery) don't realise how lucky they are as owners of this horse. He's 11 but he's still like a five-year-old."
Although playing down his chance of retaining the Connolly's Red Mills Trainers Championship, the Oxfordshire handler is certain to push runaway leader Jack Barber close with four 'home' meetings still remaining this season.
The Tom Weston-trained Jetnova continued his consistent campaign under John Smith-Maxwell by running out an easy winner of the Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members race for Novice Riders.
Owner Katherine Smith-Maxwell, mother of rider John, said: "I'm so pleased for Tom [Weston, trainer] after his awful fall. We've just brought him here today but the credit goes to him and his stable is flying. He's done a magnificent job with Jetnova, who has been a super ride for John because he goes on any ground; he stays and has some foot."
Winning trainer Weston, who is enjoying a tremendous season, is recovering well from his fall at the Cheltenham Festival and was able to watch his Tyre Hill Lady score at the North Ledbury on Sunday.
The card was rounded off with another well-received winner as Nick Docker guided Amithereyet to a one-length success over Brake Hill in the Restricted.
Popular local 70-year-old owner/trainer John Docker, father of rider Nick, still rides the gelding out at home and gave a fair assessment of his eight-year-old's capabilities: "He won a members race and was consistent in this grade last year but he's no superstar. A good one would always beat him but he's a good fun horse that's easy to do and a very sensible to ride. Only eight, he's young enough to progress."
Since its inaugural meeting in 2004, Brafield-on-the-Green has continued to develop as a racecourse and the venue was met with a typically large crowd on a sun-drenched afternoon. The ground, officially described as good, had been well watered building-up to race day and a new starting procedure, based along the lines of the recent changes under rules, was trialled by starter Chris King.
Oakley committee member Graham Tawell explained: "I think the new National Hunt starting procedure is the best thing in racing for fifty years and we've decided to go half way there. We've moved the starter twenty yards back from the line and the horses are held behind the line and then walk towards the starter. We've had fair starts all afternoon and the jockeys are very pleased with it so it's definitely something more courses could adopt."
"Every year we try to improve something and anything anybody mentions we look at. The running-rail came from all over the country and Peter Hobbs, our course inspector, said the track is as good as some National Hunt courses."