Claire Hart continued her excellent campaign by riding a double at the Warwickshire Hunt Point-to-Point at Mollington on Monday.
The rider, who registered her initial treble at the track last month, partnered recent Warwick Hunter Chase winner Vincitore to success in the AGA Mixed Open race. Trained by Hart at her Adlestrop base, the nine-year-old was always in control, making all with an exhibition round of jumping. The in-form gelding will head to Stratford to contest the AGA Ladies Open Final on May 29th.
"I love Mollington!" said Hart jubilantly, "We wanted to qualify him for Stratford today and he's won it with his jumping. He has to carry the full penalty in Hunter Chases now so he might run in another point before then."
Hart's other victory on the afternoon was Tangolan in the Four, Five, Six and Seven-year-olds Open Maiden over 2m5f.
The winner is owned and trained by Chipping Norton-based Christy Mews, who was saddling her first ever Point-to-Point runner. Acquired from National Hunt trainer Phil Middleton after an unsuccessful spell over hurdles, the seven-year-old stayed on best after travelling well on the front end to land a significant gamble.
"He's very game," said Mews, "Claire and Kielan [Woods] have been very helpful in getting him ready for today. I'd like to train more Pointers in future so it's amazing to start like this!"
There was another dream start for 21-year-old Jana Graham, successful with her first ever mount after guiding Glassawine home in the Hunt Members race.
The grey, benefiting from a recent wind operation, proved too good for odds-on favourite Dunara Castle. Ironically, the runner-up was partnered by Pete Mann, stable jockey of triumphant trainer Julie Marles.
Delighted winning rider Graham, who has spent two years with Leamington Hastings handler Marles, said: "I didn't even think about winning; getting round was the priority! Julie thought he would be an ideal first ride and I'm very grateful to be given the opportunity. I've always wanted to ride in Points and hopefully next season I'll give riding a proper go."
Pete Mann gained compensation later on the card after Sea Rock responded to strong driving to edge a thrilling four-way finish in the Open Maiden.
The six-year-old's determined success ensured that Golan sired both Maiden winners on the card. Benefiting from first time cheek pieces, Edgcote trainer Pauline Harkin said of her charge: "He's a good horse at home and we'll look forward to next season. He's made hard work of it today but it's good to see he's got battling qualities. The horses have been on antibiotics but are just turning a corner so hopefully we can end the campaign well."
There was a real family affair as veteran grey Fermat showed age is no barrier in a competitive Restricted race.
Six years after his sole previous success, the Smyth-Osbourne family's lightly-raced 13-year-old has had an unusual racing career, which included a four-year absence between 2009 and 2013. Ridden by Edward Smyth-Osbourne for mother Joanna, the winner will now bid to make it third time lucky in the Grafton Hunt race on May 17th, a race in which he has twice found one too good.
William, son of trainer Joanna, said: "He ran really well at Clifton the other day and has come on for the run. He's a hunting horse that we have a bit of fun with. He didn't run last year as Edward was in Australia but he really enjoys his racing!"
19-year-old Mae Daffern became the second rider to land her initial victory on the afternoon after guiding Basil Fawlty to a wide margin score in the Novice Riders race.
Nightcap Jack looked a threat before ducking out at the penultimate fence to leave the winner in splendid isolation. There was further drama at the final obstacle however with Daffern somehow managing to maintain the partnership after a shuddering error.
A chase winner for David Pipe in 2013, the ten-year-old had yet to score in 11 previous attempts in Points but was a good second in last year's renewal of this event. Daffern, whose boyfriend Matt Hammond owns the winner, works for the horse's Broadway-based trainer Kim Smyly.
Off the mark on just her second ever ride, the ecstatic Daffern said: "He was very good today but I wasn't sure if I was going to make it over the last! He never came off the bridle and I was always confident. It's definitely given me the appetite for more!"
Moorland Sunset (Nick Phillips) was a surprise winner of the Confined Hunts race. The eight-year-old Pasternak gelding looked to have run his race in the paddock but held runner-up Kazuri Kate resolutely up the run-in.
Favourite Full Trottle unseated early on the second circuit with rider Tom Ellis suffering a broken leg that will force him to miss the remainder of the season.
Winning trainer Elizabeth Brown, based in Bibury, said: We'd like to have run him more but he had a few problems after Cocklebarrow and so we gave him an easy time. I wasn't sure he'd stay on this stiff track but Mollington have done a great job in producing such lovely safe ground with an excellent grass cover and that's why we're here!"