Monday 7th May 2012

CHELTENHAM HUNTER CHASE EVENING

 

Andrew Norman reports from Cheltenham as the South Midlands Area enjoyed a double success at last Wednesday's Hunter Chase evening.

 

DOCTOR KINGSLEY, a qualifier with the Bicester and Whaddon Chase, gave Pete Mann and Pauline Harkin a night to remember after climbing the hill faster than any other horse on the card to collar Books Review close home in the Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Final.  It was the rider and trainer’s first success under rules. The winner stayed midfield for the majority of the journey, with rider Pete Mann giving the horse breathers and pats as usual. His jumping has caught the eye in Points this season and he took to Cheltenham’s fences with ease.

The rider got the ten-year-old motoring at the top of the finishing straight, with 20 lengths to make up on Books Review. The lead diminished up the run-in and despite still being 10 lengths down at the last, he took off and powered past Bradley Gibbs’ mount.

As the crowd cheered for the most popular winner on the evening, owner/trainer Pauline Harkin could not stop smiling: “We wanted soft ground and we got it tonight! He’s fallen in love with the game and it’s lovely because he responds to pats, not smacks. He has loved his hunting and he’s so confident now.”

Pauline’s husband, Doug, was delighted at the achievement of his ambitions for the gelding, commenting: “I said at the start of the season he’d win the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham. We’re absolutely delighted. He keeps pulling out more and more. We haven’t seen the best of him yet. He has the ability to switch off beautifully and he’s just got such a powerful finish. I sneakily schooled him one day when Pauline was at Newmarket at a training course. I've done a lot of silly things in my time but it was the biggest thrill I've ever had!”

“I give full credit to Pete. It was a super ride. I told him not to panic if you’re twenty lengths down at the top of the hill because he’ll gallop all the way to the line,” he added.

Pete Mann, who gave up riding in 2010 due to the constant burden of keeping down his weight, has won all four of his races upon Doctor Kingsley. “I can’t explain how I felt crossing the line,” he said, “I was absolute ecstatic. I wouldn’t say I was confident turning in but I never panicked because I knew he would finish well. Having ridden in the first race, I knew how much of a test it would be getting up the hill. The plan was to coast along for as long as possible then to just throw the kitchen sink at it! He finished as strong as anything on the night.”

"I didn't sit on a horse for 18 months but Mum asked me if I'd school one of hers. I winged a couple of fences down at Mark Wall's and I got the bug back. I realised what I'd been missing. I agreed to ride the geldings as I knew I wouldn't have to struggle with the weight. Then the opportunity to ride Doctor Kingsley came along. He won nicely at Whitfield, and then improved at Paxford. Doug told me of the plan and when he beat Penmore Mill at Guilsborough he suddenly had a serious chance! Doug and Pauline are really big characters in the Bicester country. Everyone in the area knows the horse now and he's built up quite a following!"

Despite the manner of his success in catching a tired horse close home, this performance must be treated seriously as it was the fastest time of all three of the evening’s races held over this distance. The horse was considered by many as no more than an average Pointer last year but has remained unbeaten this term - a remarkable training performance.

Earlier in the evening, RASH MOVE, a qualifier with the Warwickshire hunt,made it three from six in Hunter Chases by coming home a wide margin winner of the curtain raiser at Cheltenham on Wednesday evening.

The winner was always prominent and jumped superbly in the main. After increasing the tempo, he took it up four out and looked to be travelling stronger than the only other danger – Ronnie Ronalde. He was then left well clear of anything else after Jack Barber’s mount fell at the third last.

Tom Ellis made sure the eleven-year-old saw a good stride into the final two obstacles and he came home 12 lengths clear of Swallows Delight.

Although handler Fred Hutsby tasted victory at Cheltenham as a rider in 1998, aboard Mighty Moss, it was his first training success at the venue.

After entering Rash Move in both of the evening’s sub-three mile events, Hutsby was delighted at selecting the right race: “He doesn’t get three miles and we thought a two mile trip on softer ground would suit him. I just wish he wasn’t so old but he’s got no miles on the clock. He was lame in the box for six weeks over Christmas but it probably paid off getting him in later.”

The gelding’s jumping certainly got noticed and his ability to continue his momentum through a unique stiff jumping test such as this impressed the trainer: “He’s always been a good jumper. He looked like he the measure of Ronnie Ronalde when he came down.”

Owner Ken Hutsby confirmed that Rash Move will contest at least one more Hunter Chase before the season draws to a close.