Andoversford proves easy pickings for Nicholls and O'Brien, but it's not all for the pros
by Pete Mansell
A first winner for trainer Ed Walker and an initial success for rider Kayla Ruddy who is attached to Fergal O’Brien’s yard at Withington were the highlights of Sunday's meeting at Andoversford.
Sumkindofking had finished in the frame four times since the start of the season but finally found a winning opportunity and a reward for his consistency which he took with a hard-fought win over Cheltenham de Vaige in the Robert Hitchins sponsored Andoversford Grand Annual Men’s Open.
Green Winter and Clondaw Bunny were the early pace setters, but were joined by Sumkindofking as they went out into the country for the final time, while Cheltenham de Vaige gradually began to move into contention throughout the final mile.
Green Winter ran his usual game race but did not have the pace to trouble the leaders during the second half of the race so became a match as Sumkindofking and Cheltenham de Vaige stretched their advantage battling for the lead.
The favourite’s stamina came into play on the climb into the home straight and he was 5 lengths clear racing around the final bend but was all out to hold his rival's renewed challenge as they raced towards the judge. The winner provided a first success for Walker who is based at Horsley, near Nailsworth, “I get the credit but the whole family is involved and they have done most of the work recently because I have been working aboard”, while winning owner James Chamberlain exclaimed “I am so thrilled, he has finally won!”. Chamberlain is a former Master of the Cotswold, host of the event.
Having won at Maisemore Park seven days ago, Rhythm Is A Dancer started a warm favourite for the Martin & Co Ladies Open, but had to pull out all the stops as Lord Scoundrel who had been fifth half a mile from home made up significant ground up the final hill and was closing on the leader until going very wide on the final bend. It appeared that he had forfeited any chance of victory but Macy Genco soon had him back on an even keel and he quickly made up the lost ground and was beaten by a lesser margin than he had handed his rival with his wayward antics. Nicholls last visited Andoversford 44 years ago when leading up horses for Dick Baimbridge, the champion trainer remarked on an enjoyable day nurturing his youngest daughter's riding career.
Kayla Ruddy and Katie Sinclair left Andoversford with wins under their belts. Ruddy and Lip Service were left well clear when the favourite Monsieur Gibraltar unseated the double-seeking Olive Nicholls at the 6th in the Ladies Conditions (Novice Riders).
Fergal O’Brien's gelding had given a good account of himself up to that point but still had to safely negotiate the remaining fences and Ruddy did well when the leader attempted to run out at the 11th and eventually finished alone when Proximo pulled up when beaten at the last.
This was a first win on her very first ride for 20-year-old Ruddy who is part of O’Brien’s team at nearby Ravenswell Farm.
35 minutes later and O’Brien was back in the winners' enclosure following the victory by Twasn’t the Plan in the Maiden. Katie Sinclair had her mount in front from the start and he seemed to enjoy his front running role. The 9-year-old had been placed numerous times under Rules but finally got that elusive victory when he was left well clear by Polly Sans' fall at the 13th.
The meeting started with a walkover for Darren Andrews and Cashmoll in the Restricted and the jockey followed up in the next when Knockaderry Flyer took the Tayler & Fletcher Veteran Horse Conditions race.
The 13-year-old has been with Naunton trainer Max Comley for three years and provided connections with some unforgettable moments. He was in front from the start, but Aunty Joan clung on desperately before the leader asserted on the final climb. He galloped on resolutely to win by 16-lengths despite his 6 lb penalty to land the spoils for The Jump on Board Partnership.
This was the second winner of the season for Comley's Brockhill Quarry stables, “We have had him for 3 seasons and he has won 3 races for us – this might be his last season”.
Winner of the Dubarry Outstanding Achievement Award went to Max for his treatment of Knockaderry Flyer to win at 13.