Thomas Storms To First Double
Trainer Also Rides Winner On Memorable Afternoon
Wiltshire trainer Laura Thomas saddled her initial double at the Kimblewick Point-to-Point at Kingston Blount on Saturday. The handler, based on the Marlborough Downs, sent out PC Turner Open Maiden winner Urban Storm after guiding Gift Of Dgab home in the Ashley Wilde Group Conditions contest.
"It's brilliant!" said Thomas, "it makes all the hard work worthwhile." Picked up for £1,800 in 2014, Gift Of Dgab was carrying a minor tendon injury but connections have been rewarded for their patience. "I wanted to have a bit of fun with a no pressure horse," Thomas explained, "he had a bit of a leg but we decided to take a risk on him. I didn't want to spend all year worrying so we gave him a season off."
Thomas' second career victory as a rider, the ex-Gigginstown twelve-year-old made most in a facile success. "He loved the soft ground and was keen so I popped him out in front. We've had an eye on this race for some time and were confident as three winners had come out of his last race (VWH Members)."
Urban Storm completed the double under Johnny Bailey. Runner-up over track and trip last month, the six-year-old was always prominent and stayed on best in the testing conditions. Thomas' father Norman, who owns the gelding, said: "He was in training with Ben Pauling but didn't live up to expectations and the owners wanted out. Ben told me he would win a maiden so we made a suitable deal."
The Levinson Family's Premier Portrait justified odds-on favouritism to score for the seventh time between the flags this season. Two wins clear of four horses tied on five victories, the nine-year-old looks set to become the Connolly's Red Mills National Leading Horse for 2016.
The winner travelled ominously well but rider Gus Levinson, who leads the way in the Fuller's National Novice Riders' Championship with nine wins, had to get serious up the straight with the partnership unable to master determined veteran Dream Garden until late. It was a remarkable effort from riding debutant Lucy Nielsen, who almost guided the runner-up to a surprise victory.
"We'd like to go for the top horse," said winning trainer Charles Levinson, "He's got two speeds – normal and very fast! He could have gone on but we wanted to keep the horse as fresh as possible. He'll probably only have one more run this season as we don't want to bottom him."
The Levinson Family, based in Andoversford, have campaigned their charge cleverly this term and the son of Portrait Gallery would have had an eighth victory to his name had his rider not failed to weigh-in at Chipley Park in January. "He came from Kim Bailey," added Levinson, "he was a bit of a worrier and found it tough mentally to enjoy himself in a big yard. He likes slower ground so it's lucky we've had a wet winter."
Alan Hill's Supreme Danehill relished the stamina test in the Sandhurst Area's feature race, the Philip Scouller Memorial South Grand National. Making all under the trainer's son Joe, the winner drew well clear of favourite Vincitore, who failed to act on the ground. He joins horses such as Ocean Du Moulin and Mysaynoway to win the contest for the stable in recent times.
"Philip's son Elder owns Consigliere so it's lovely to win this race," said Hill's wife Lawney. "He was going nicely for Victoria here last time and Darren Edwards, who used to ride him, said he always wanted to try him over four miles. He's not the easiest of rides and needs to go left-handed on soft ground. Kingston Blount is a home match for us so we always try and have a winner if we can!"
Quirky nine-year-old Moorland Sunset stayed well to repel five-time course winner Ravethebrave in a competitive Confined Hunts race. The winner is a character but rider Nick Phillips has gelled with the nine-year-old, who was completing a hat-trick.
Bibury-based owner Scilla Phillips, mother of the winning rider, said: "Nick bought him from Ian Popham in a straw deal a few years ago! He's quirky but taking him down to the start early and applying the hood has made all the difference. Dibby [Brown] has been training for us for two and a half years and does a wonderful job. She has great attention to detail."
Free-going five-year-old Why Lie may target the £10,000 Goffs Point-to-Point Bumper Final at Aintree next month after making all in the Guy Luck Memorial Open Maiden over 2m5f. Jumping boldly, the winner quickly forged 30 lengths clear under trainer/rider Dale Peters and maintained his advantage.
"He's got a lot of ability," said Peters, who trains the son of Zagreb for owner Toby Hunt. "He's a bit of a boy and gives himself a hard time because he puts so much into his work. I think he'll be better on better ground and the Aintree Bumper is an option for him. He'd be a tidy little hurdler as he's very pacey but Toby is a pointing man and I'm sure he'll get three miles in a Restricted."
John Reddington's Mr Raj walked over in the closing Restricted race. Trained by Thomas Gallagher and ridden by Sam Davies-Thomas, the Oscar gelding was surprisingly the only horse to declare from the 16-strong entry.