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Vine & Craven fixture relaunches at Kingston Blount

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THE Vine & Craven Hunt point-to-point is back after a five-year hiatus with a new home at Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, Oxfordshire, on Sunday (1pm).

Previously staged at Barbury Racecourse, which has now closed, the Sandhurst Area fixture hasn't taken place since 2019 due to a combination of reasons including Storm Ciara and the pandemic. However, the organisers are delighted to see the meeting return to the programme and are looking forward to some competitive action with 64 entries received for the six-race card.

It's the first of three fixtures at Kingston Blount this spring with racing also taking place on May 12 and 26. The going on Tuesday was reported to be Good to Soft, although fence four (under the wood) will be omitted due to wet ground.

The Savills Auctions Mixed Open over 2m 5f has attracted 11 entries with Gina Ellis responsible for the top-rated pair, I'm Spellbound and Loughan, who is also engaged at Bitterley on Saturday.

Ellis opted to swerve Lockinge on Monday with I'm Spellbound, and the hint may be worth taking as the eight-year-old was poised to win at Larkhill last time out only to fall at the last.

Enchanted Magic finished fourth that day for Hannah Clarke and could renew rivalry.

"He is a very talented horse," said the Milton Abbas trainer. "He has had a lot of problems hanging violently left in every run. We think we have fixed that, but you don't know until they get on the track. He could be very exciting."

James Henderson plans to run Frisson Collonges, who missed Lockinge in unusual circumstances.

"He was stung by a bee," explained the Buscot Park owner-trainer. "He is all right now, but he wasn't able to do anything for a few days."

Definite Dilemma, second to Kaproyale at Charing for Ella Gillings, before unseating at Higham last Friday, also enters calculations.

Two hunts combine for the opening LT Security Ltd Vine & Craven and VWH Hunt Members, Subscribers & Farmers Race.

Clarke is hoping Wireless Operator and owner-rider Ollie Chamings will be on the same wavelength after having their ups and downs before finishing fourth to For Rita at Badbury Rings.

The trainer said: "They are definitely getting more together, which I think is key. If Ollie listens to Wireless, it is usually fine. We are really hopeful they will go well."

Alan Hill is keeping his fingers crossed that less testing conditions will see Learntalot in a better light under Izzie Marshall after the eight-year-old was well beaten at Brafield-on-the-Green.

The Aston Rowant trainer said: "He ran very well on soft ground under rules, and I just got it into my head that is what we should be doing. He went and won first time out on soft ground, but watching him run last time at Brafield, and talking to Izzie after the race, I think I am barking up the wrong tree."

Henderson plans to run Bloodstone. "He has been disappointing," he said. "He won a Restricted at Lockinge last year and then one or two little things went wrong with him. Hopefully, he will be all right next weekend."

Max Comley, the season's leading trainer, has entered Ryans Fancy, who was fourth to Killinkere at Higham on Friday, and Monday's Paxford winner Burtown. The line-up is completed by George Edgedale's Guilsborough third Kilpin.

Clarke believes Monmouth Hill is ready to do himself justice on his seasonal appearance in the Jockey Club & Retraining of Racehorses Veteran Horse Conditions (Level 2) for Nine Year Olds and Over.

The 11-year-old, who broke his maiden here in 2022, hasn't been seen since scoring at Milborne St Andrew last March.

Clarke said: "He needs better ground, and he had a little injury last season. It has taken time getting him back and back on fire."

Hill will speak to owner Richard Cranfield before deciding whether to let Back Bar take his chance after the 12-year-old finished fourth at Higham on Friday.

The Woodway Farm handler said: "It was quick ground, and he could never really get into the rhythm we would expect. He is A1 and I will talk to the owners."

Top rated is Mitchouka, who was second to All The Ammunition at High Easter for Michael Kehoe, while Pym, who won on the same card for Claire Sherriff, is another leading contender among the nine-strong entry.

Hill is upbeat about Larkhill maiden winner Carryonaway in the Print Concern Restricted.

He said: "We are really looking forward to running because he has run two very nice races for us, so we are excited by him."

Five of the 12 entries won last time out, including Right Hand Of God, who landed a Charing Restricted by six lengths for Clarke.

She said: "It has taken a little bit of time to find the key to him. He won last season and had other opportunities to win but he is not the most straightforward."

Subtle Fortune, who romped home at Bangor-on-Dee for Phil Rowley, Dean Summersby's Kilworthy winner Jet Smart and For One Night Only, who claimed a short-head success at High Easter for Gina Ellis, also have strong claims. 

Tim Underwood is set to be double-handed in the Simpsons Subaru Six Years Old and Over Maiden with Kyler Kane, the mount of Phil York, and Echo Gate, who is to be ridden by Walter Barnett.

He said: "If I had to get on one of them, I would get on Kyler Kane because he is willing. The other horse isn't willing.

"The trouble with Kyler Kane is he is a bit neurotic at the races. We found after he ran at Charing that his blood was all wrong."

Clarke is looking for an improved showing from Timino Road, who has been pulled up on her last two starts under her partner, Charlie Marshall.

The trainer said: "She ran a great race at Charing and was bang there two out before finishing sixth. Charlie thought she would win next time out but she turned out to be in season."

Court Cian, third at Larkhill for Michael Kehoe, and Clare Lloyd Davies's Badbury Rings runner-up Trendy Lady will also have their supporters.

Barnett is due to ride Count Simon for Robert Varnham in the J Passey & Son Ltd Conditions (Level 1) for Novice Riders.

The 10-year-old performed with credit when second to Lusitanien at Charing in early February.

With Monday's Lockinge winner Cusp Of Carabelli set to miss the race, Abigail Henry's For Rita looks a danger, while Methodtothemadness, a winner of four chases and a hurdle for Lucinda Russell, is an interesting recruit for Lee Moulson.

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