Another exciting AGA Ladies Open race as Phine Banks steps up her title challenge at Bitterley

Is Bitterley the most picturesque point-to-point course in the country? I’ve been to rather a lot of courses all over the UK but this one is now in my top 5, what a marvellous setting for a sporting event! I was joined by several AGA colleagues today and they were also impressed with the setting!

Henry Daly briefs the fence stewards
Henry Daly briefs the fence stewards

Minella For Party wins the Members race
Minella For Party wins the Members race

The action got under way with a popular win for Minella For Party in the Members race, and Victoria Collins, Sarah Dawson and Hannah Watson celebrated accordingly – long into the night!

The crowd looked decent, and they were rewarded with some great action on the track
The crowd looked decent, and they were rewarded with some great action on the track

Hannah Watson was the first person I spoke to when I arrived as we had parked next to each other, however, I didn’t take this as any kind of sign so Minella For Party wasn’t carrying any of my pocket money!

Action from the Restricted race
Action from the Restricted race

The AGA Iconic Mini made it’s seasonal debut today, although things didn’t quite go to plan so we vowed to try again the following weekend at Sandon.

De Forgotten Man after winning the Bonhams Mens Open
De Forgotten Man after winning the Bonhams Mens Open

There was a Bonhams Mens Open race on the card and we parked next to each other in the sponsors car park, I comfortably won the battle of the flags but the nice Bonhams man definitely had the best car!

The battle of the sponsors flags!
The battle of the sponsors flags!
A few words for Stella Havard from winning trainer Philip Rowley
A few words for Stella Havard from winning trainer Philip Rowley
Ali Galliers-Pratt and Emma Moseley enter the paddock
Ali Galliers-Pratt and Emma Moseley enter the paddock before the AGA Ladies Open

The AGA Ladies attracted a field of 6 (quality again), although I must apologise to Carl Evans as I had marked Sagalyrique down as a runner and he then talked about this horse in his preview. It had been marked as a runner in the decs tent but the decision was then made not to run, thankfully Carl accepted my apology.

The General Lee (former AGA winner) and Lorna Brooke
The General Lee (a former AGA winner) and Lorna Brooke

I expect an exciting race every week, and we had another one today, with the first three in the betting finished in that order. Invisible Man (Phine Banks) and Universal Soldier (Hannah Lewis) fought out the finish, with Bubbly Breeze (Ali Galliers-Pratt) chasing them home.

Invisible Man
Invisible Man (Phine Banks)
Bubbly Breeze
Bubbly Breeze (Ali Galliers-Pratt)
Invisible Man gets the better of Universal Soldier
Invisible Man (nearside) gets the better of Universal Soldier
Two AGA wins in the space of 7 days for Phine Banks
Two AGA wins in the space of 7 days for Phine Banks

Invisible Man is owned by point-to-point legend, Pat Tollit, who is still very sprightly at the age of 82, and is still very much enjoying her pointing.

Mrs Tollit and Phine join the AGA girls for the presentation photos
Mrs Tollit and Phine join the AGA girls for the presentation photos – L-R: Nicky Spencer, Rebecca Horsfall, Pat Tollit, Phine Banks, Caroline Smith and Emma Tracey

It was great to have four of my colleagues from AGA along for the day (with their families), and they were all in the paddock after the race to present AGA mementoes to Phine and Mrs Tollit.

Another photo opportunity with the AGA girls
Another photo opportunity with the AGA girls

Three of the girls are part of the AGA Cookshop team (one of them, Caroline, invented the Iconic design), so never one to pass up on a photo opportunity I suggested we get a few pics by the AGA Iconic flags. Naturally the AGA hats were ready to be deployed and as you can see from the pic, all four girls chose pink!

Caroline wanted Angus to have a pic wearing the hat but he wasn't too keen!
Caroline wanted Angus to have a pic wearing the hat but he wasn’t too keen!
Cake and point-to-point go hand in hand
Cake and point-to-point go hand in hand

Phine Banks celebrated her win by giving everyone cake! I was first in the queue (I like cake), and Phine had plenty of other willing takers, including Jelly O’Brien – although I think my slice was bigger!

I said 'pretend I'm funny', and Jelly duly obliged!
Another photo opportunity, for this one I said ‘pretend I’m funny’, and Jelly duly obliged!
Action from the 148cms and under open pony race
Action from the 148cms and under open pony race

There were two Charles Stanley pony races after racing and a fair few people stayed to watch (great for the young riders), and who knows, we could have been watching a future champion!

Alfie Dobson was cheered all the way down the home straight
Alfie Dobson was cheered all the way down the home straight
Petite Pois and Tom Marquand
Petite Pois and Tom Marquand
Ravara Super Ted and Camilla Broster
Ravara Super Ted and Camilla Broster
A lovely pic of Ali Galliers-Pratt (3rd in the AGA Ladies) and Harry Finch
A lovely pic of Ali Galliers-Pratt (3rd in the AGA Ladies) and Harry Finch
An armful of goodies for Camilla Broster
An armful of goodies for Camilla Broster

Well, another great day on a point-to-point course had almost come to a close, and my final task was to take all of the AGA banners down before saying goodbye (and thank you) to Honourable Secretary Mandy Davies. I will definitely visit Bitterley again.

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