Andoversford Races attracted a good crowd on Sunday afternoon, where there were a host of activities and stalls to keep everyone occupied which meant the wet weather failed to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.
Sam Jukes enjoyed a successful day with a double on Stone in the feature Robert Hitchins Group Andoversford Grand Annual and The Well Road in the Rendcomb College Intermediate. As well as the trophies for those wins, he also took away a host of other prizes including the Dubarry Award for the Outstanding Performance of the day and the Brewin Dolphin sponsored Leading Trainer Award following these victories.
Stone won at this meeting 12 months ago and was made favourite to do so again but did it the hard way by leading from start to finish.
Squirrel Esquire moving into a threatening position as they left the back straight, but it is a long hard slog up the final hill at Andoversford and even more so in the prevailing condition - having said that it was a challenge that Stone and Jukes seemed to relish.
Stone and Squirrel Esquire went nose to nose and hoof to hoof from the second last but Jukes managed to secure the inside berth around the final bend and this often proves crucial as challengers are forced to take a wider path.
Stone came to the last with a narrow advantage and with neither horse willing to go down without a fight the result was in doubt until the line where the judge ruled that Stone had prevailed by half a length.
Gloucestershire Clive Bennett and his wife Eileen rarely miss a local fixture. Their son Will explained the absence as his father was visiting his wife in hospital where she is receiving treatment for respiratory problems. He phoned them with the good news and it is hoped this success provides a fillip to aid in her recovery.
There was more good news for the Bennetts because 35 minutes later connections were back in the winner’s enclosure following The Well Roads victory in the Rendcomb College sponsored Intermediate.
The Well Road went into the lead at flag fall but was pursued throughout the first circuit by Midnight Monkey while Milo Herbert was content to anchor the well fancied Ballycahane in third place.
They moved into the leader’s slipstream at the third from home and looked poised to challenge but The Well Road was in his element when they hit the rising ground and pilled on the pressure and extended his advantage to win 25-lengths despite easing right down on the flat.
The meeting started with the surprise defeat of the odds on favourite Premier Portrait in the Tayler & Fletcher 10-years-and-over Conditions race. The 11-year-old came into this race with a much better level of form than all of his rivals but the sport is a great leveller and when Harry Homer and Out Now poached a 12-length lead down the back straight the favourite looked in trouble.
The final hill at Andoversford has changed the result of many races over the years and it did so again as Billy Alprahim and High Kite came with a well-timed run to catch their tiring rival just before the final bend, Premier Portrait finished like a train but found it impossible to make up the 4-length deficit from the last.
Premier Portrait’s rider Gus Levinson found himself in a similar situation in the Lumley Insurance Restricted. Upton Venture was prominent for the first circuit along with the Andrew Campbell trained Light Flicker who took the lead at the 10th.
Levinson’s mount Toby Macquire looked dangerous in the final half mile and these two had a tremendous battle all the way up the final hill and into the home straight before the favourite got on top in the final 25 yards.
Gus is based with Paul Nicholls at Ditcheat and is having a year out before continuing his studies. Toby Macquire who was sourced with the help of Tessa Greatrex, was winning his second race following a victory at Charlton Horthorne earlier in the season.
The Martin & Co Ladies Open provided yet another close and exciting finish. Western Diva had won her last two races but was beaten with half a mile to run, where the front running tactics of Maybe Plenty had all her rivals at full stretch.
Katy Lyons mount started off up the hill with a useful lead but Brodie Hampson was getting a response from Hellorboston so there was very little between the two horses as they turned for home. Brodie Hampson’s mount had fitness on his side having won at Brafield a couple of weeks ago, whereas Maybe Plenty was returning after a long absence and that proved crucial in the closing stages.
The GX Land Rovers Maiden went to the un-raced 4-year-old Eurobot who prevailed in the capable hands of Gina Andrews. The 5-strong field departed minus Howld Your Whist who refused to start and then got rid of his jockey as the runners made their way towards the first.
Milliondollarman’s effort petered out at halfway while Brookthorpe Taylor did his best to stay in touch with Eurobot until the considerable weight allowance took effect up the final hill which allowed the winner to stride clear and claim an uncontested victory.