By Andrew Norman


Doctor Kingsley continued his love affair with Whitfield Racecourse at Saturday’s Bicester with Whaddon Chase Point-to-Point by scoring at the venue for the sixth time.

On ground described as ‘good to soft, soft in places,’ the popular 12-year-old justified odds-on favouritism under Pete Mann with the minimum of fuss, taking it up with a circuit to travel to run out a seven-length winner.

Fresh from a creditable seventh in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, the son of Classic Cliche will head back to Prestbury Park on April 30th to attempt a third victory at their Hunter Chase evening. “He’ll go to Guilsborough next Sunday for his final run before Cheltenham, where he’ll have entries in the Bonhams Final and four-miler,” said Doug Harkin, husband of trainer Pauline.

Stationed at Edgcote, the gelding, known for his exemplary jumping, hunts regularly with the Bicester. “He’s serious to hunt and we’ve never had him better. It does annoy me a little that they still call him ‘quirky’ in the racecard as he’s as genuine as they come,” added Harkin.

Lower Boddington trainer Francesca Nimmo was celebrating her second winner as a rider as 14-year-old Magic Sky drew clear of course winner Major Decision in the Ladies Open.

“He’s not the easiest ride as he's very keen but he’s a fantastic jumper, despite giving me a horrible fall at the end of last season! He’s been a fantastic horse and an unbelievable servant as he’s still as enthusiastic as ever at 14-years-old! He might go to Stratford for the AGA Ladies Final in May if the ground is suitable.”

The veteran of 77 races is one of seven Pointers in training with Nimmo, who, in her first proper season, has several ownership options available.

Chipping Norton handler Tom Lacey raced into pole position in the South Midlands Area Trainers Championship after saddling an impressive double.

Four-year-old Susie Sheep took the Jockey Club Mares and Fillies Maiden at a canter. Restrained under a tight hold from Sam Drinkwater, the filly coasted easily clear three out to come home a 36-length winner.

Previous unraced, the occasion did not faze the newcomer and one could not fail to be impressed with her overall display of calmness before and during the race. The daughter of Robin des Champs was purchased unbroken for €27,000 by Lacey at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale last June from Worcestershire breeder Robert Chugg.

“She’s a beautiful filly with a lovely personality. She’s very straightforward and a pleasure to train. They have improved the programme for fillies and mares so much under rules and, in time, I can see her making into a lovely staying chaser.”

Illicit Illusion, benefitting from the application of cheekpieces, completed the double in the Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate. Always on the sharp end, Drinkwater made use of his stamina and only hands and heels were required to push the son of Heron Island out to a three-length success. Connections were briefly dreaming of a trip to Cheltenham for the Series Final, but the winner unfortunately returned lame and Lacey confirmed he would miss the remainder of the season. When fully recovered, the six-year-old will no doubt continue his progression.

The runner-up, Hudson Gunner, arrived here eight days after unseating his rider in an open hunter chase at Newbury. Connections clearly think a bit of the seven-year-old Cocklebarrow scorer as although eligible for a Restricted, he was again highly tried. “The thinking behind running him in this was qualification for Cheltenham, which he has achieved,” said rider Sam Davies-Thomas. His mount should find another winning opportunity before the season closes.

14-year-old Euro Farmer made it two from two at the track when making all in the Hunt Members race under novice rider Laura Jenkins.

Trainer Sally Randell, who recorded her second Grand Military Gold Cup success as a rider recently aboard the Fergal O’Brien-trained Bradley, has had her string in rude health of late but hit the crossbar on three occasions at The Oakley last Sunday. “I had a big dread this morning that it was going to be another second!” she said, “These older horses know when they’ve won. He’s not without his problems and returned lame after his last two runs. He’s a hero and we had targeted him at this race.”

Trainer/rider Dale Peters made all the running with Nightcap Jack in the Restricted. The seven-year-old disappointed at Garthorpe but his second to the improving Popaway previously read well in the context of this race. The winner showed a willing attitude and was driven out to a two-length score from the well-backed Amithereyet.

All winners on the afternoon raced prominently and the trend continued with North Ledbury raider Green Winter landing the closing Open Maiden for trainer Heather Oliver and rider Phil York. The six-year-old, only just his second start, pulled hard but could be named the winner from a long way out and can progress. “He won’t run again this season,” said Oliver, “He’ll have a holiday now but is an exciting individual and could be anything. Phil was taken by him.”

Grand National-winner trainer Michael Oliver, who owns the Well Made gelding in partnership with Jack McGrath, added: “We bought him in Ireland before Christmas and he is a very nice horse in the making. He may head to the sales now.”