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Loughan provides perfect appetiser for National week

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GINA Andrews enjoyed the perfect tonic ahead of her Randox Grand National bid with a dominant triumph aboard Loughan at the Vine & Craven Hunt meeting at Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, on Sunday.

The 10-time ladies' champion rider, who will partner Latenightpass for her trainer-husband, Tom Ellis, in the Aintree spectacular on Saturday, made virtually all the running on the nine-year-old in the Savills Auctions Mixed Open.

The son of Yeats went clear on the second circuit in the 2m 5f contest and had enough in hand to hold off the staying-on Drakes Well and Tom Hutsby by four lengths.

Reflecting on riding a winner before her Aintree adventure, Andrews, who also trains Loughan at Marton, near Rugby, under her married name, said: "It does my confidence good I suppose. I have been getting a bit of stick about whether I should ride between now and then. It has got to me a bit. I always said nothing's changed. I carry on as normal and treat it like any other race.

"It is a chance of a lifetime for people like us and please God we have a safe run round and anything else is a bonus."

Loughan was completing a hat-trick after front-running victories at Dalton Park and Garthorpe, and Andrews explained: "The change of tactics seem to be working the oracle. I have been lucky in that the races we have found for him have not been particularly competitive, but he has still got to jump the fences and he is a superb jumper."

The gelding, owned by Will Wales, Stuart and June Spence and Brian and Susie Campbell, could now go for the two-mile race at Cheltenham's hunter chase meeting on May 3.

With wet weather leading to abandonments across the country, Kingston Blount was the only course to race at the weekend with the team receiving plaudits all round for producing ground officially described as Good, Good to Soft in places.

Archie Loweth shone on Pym to snatch a thrilling victory in the Jockey Club & Retraining of Racehorses Veteran Horse Conditions Race (Level 2).

Having made much of the running on the Claire Sherriff-trained 11-year-old, the teenager's mount was swamped by the rest of the field as the pace quickened after the fourth-last.

But Loweth, 19, kept his cool and Pym came again to collar Secret Cargo (Katie Featherstone) and Benefaktor (Gina Andrews) at the last and win going away by two-and-a-half lengths and a length and a half respectively.

Pym, who was formerly smart under rules with Nicky Henderson, had given Loweth his first winner at High Easter last month.

"He is an out-and-out stayer and took time to get going through the gears," he said. "Coming to the last I knew I would get there. He is as game as anything. Mr (Tim) Talbot is a big owner in the yard and it's really good to get a winner for him."

Sherriff, who trains at Lemsford, near Welwyn Garden City, added: "I am just happy to see the horse is enjoying racing again. The cheekpieces seem to have worked and helped. Archie didn't panic and knew what he was sitting on."

Devon trainer Dean Summersby and rider Darren Edwards's first visit to Kingston Blount paid dividends when Jet Smart ran out a convincing winner of the Print Concern Restricted.

The six-year-old was left clear to record an 11-length victory over For One Night Only and Gina Andrews after Subtle Fortune crashed out through the wing at the third-last when still in contention.

Edwards said: "We came here understanding it was a flat track, so we were a bit surprised when we got here and saw the rolling hills. The horses have hit form in the last two or three weeks and we are desperate to go racing now. Thanks to everyone who has got the course in great nick."

Summersby, who trains the ex-David Pipe inmate for owners Belinda Fuller, Les and Shirley Roberts and Eileen and Tony Worth at St Giles on the Heath, near Launceston, was delighted that the four-hour and 450-mile round trip had been worthwhile.

"He is so easy to train and just does it so easy," he commented. "I was amazed how he has done it."

Owner-trainer-rider Ben Durrell admitted Bonamargy exceeded his own expectations after the 10-year-old showed the benefit of a wind operation to take the J Passey & Son Ltd Conditions (Level 1) for Novice Riders.

The gelding put in a fine round of jumping at the head of affairs under his 48-year-old rider, and with Count Simon blundering his chance away at the third-last, came home seven lengths ahead of For Rita and Abby Henry. 

Durrell, whose son, Tristan, a conditional jockey now with Dan Skelton, won on the son of Arcadio at Kingston Blount two years ago, said: "He has had a wind operation and I thought I would bring him here today to have half a run, but he went the whole hog.

"I used to point a bit before Tristan rode and I gave up riding points. When he finished, I had itchy feet and I started again."

Bonamargy is owned by the DurrellDry Partnership consisting of the Durrell family, who are based at Chapel Brampton, near Northampton, and Pam Dry, while the horse is now trained out of Kelly Morgan's Waltham on the Wolds yard, near Melton Mowbray.

Max Comley and James King, the season's leading trainer and rider, teamed up to take the LT Security Ltd Vine & Craven and VWH Hunt Members, Subscribers & Farmers Race with Ryans Fancy.

King sent the 10-year-old past Learntalot at the fourth-last, and with the only other runner, Wireless Operator, going through the wing at the next, he went clear before holding off Izzie Marshall's rallying mount by three-quarters of a length.

The former champion rider said: "I probably got there plenty early enough, but the opportunity was presented to him. He was just pulling up a bit in front and had enough left in the tank."

Cheltenham handler Comley saddled the winner before dashing off to Exeter where he had a runner, and he explained: "He is owned by Rebecca Bell, who led him up. He is an owner-rider horse, who has been round the block, and she will have some fun with him."

Bell, who heads the Bardie Bell Bones Partnership which owns the gelding, added: "It is thrilling. He is such a cracking horse, and it makes me proud to be doing everything with him."

Court Cian had been let down by his jumping but got his act together to take the Simpsons Subaru Six Years Old and Over Maiden in good style for Michael Kehoe, who trains at Stewkley, near Leighton Buzzard.

The six-year-old went clear under Charlie Case on the second circuit and, despite a slow jump at the last, he still had 14 lengths to spare over Our John and Immy Robinson at the line.

Formerly trained by Gearoid Patrick Brouder at Newbridge in Co Kildare, the son of Court Cave was bought through JD Moore.

Kehoe, who owns the son of Court Cave in partnership with Mark Barlow, said: "He is very keen, and his jumping is not great. He went hurdling once and got struck into and we had to stop.

"At the start of the season his form figures were FFU and then he jumped round Larkhill and went back there and finished third."

Case added: "He has got plenty of ability. He just needs to put it all together and the last few runs have helped him."

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