Midlands Area Club at Thorpe Lodge - report

Jonny Bailey and Legal Legend at Thorpe Lodge

Legal Legend, the nine-year-old gelding purchased as a foal by the late Sir Michael Connell continued his excellent string of wins at Thorpe with a fourth victory, this time under Jonny Bailey in the Sharp Nutrition Men's Open. "He's everyone's favourite at home, and loves jumping," Lady Connell commented. The horse is now qualified for the Foxhunters.

Nick Meek later completed a double for the Connell stable with a win in the Maiden with Midnight Monkey. Owner Jonathan Connell described the win as unexpected and explained that Thorpe Lodge is a lucky course for his team and the wind op which the horse had last summer has clearly made a difference. The eight-year-old kept finding himself in front but stayed on well and had plenty left on this good to soft ground.

The Pauline Harkin-trained Popaway returned to form in some style in the D&M Barthorpe Ladies Open, winning by five lengths under jockey Immy Robinson. This is another for whom a wind operation has been a huge help. "She's so happy now," said Immy, "I coasted round the final bend but when I asked her for a final push, her ears pricked and she had lots to give."

The Rucker family's Minella Friend won a well contested Subaru Restricted race, just beating Upton Venture and Desert Sting in the final furlong. All three qualify for the Series Final at Stratford on 20th May.

Sarah Bowen and Minella Friend

Sarah Bowen and Minella Friend

Earlier in the day the Midlands Area Club meeting had opened with a Members Conditions race with some experienced runners. Samantha Klug had led the race for about two circuits on Callhimwhatyouwant but eventually succumbed to pressure from well-backed Thetalkinghorse who went on to win comfortably for Gerald Bailey with Tom McClorey on board. Susie Culloty's Vaxalco was second under Sophie Walker and Colonial Boy an encouraging third for Joe Hill.

Peter Mason returned to race riding after a lay off with a foot injury, winning the Intermediate on the self-trained You Too Pet, which had been unlucky not to win at Larkhill last time out. This time the timing was perfect as they eased away from Paddycards and Road West after the final fence. This horse has lots of potential and may look for some Hunter Chases this season before the Intermediate Final in May.

Arthur's Secret, a six-year-old trained in Worcester by Martin Weston led the PPORA race for novice riders From start to finish under Abigail Banks. Clearly strong from the start, Banks kept him under control for two and a half miles before allowing him his head so he could win easily from Coole Avenue and Rodeo Clown, who also qualify for the Series Final at Garthorpe on 8th May.

Kelly Morgan and Agent For Chaos

Kelly Morgan and Agent For Chaos

The second division of the Maiden saw another impressive display, this time from Agent For Chaos and jockey Kelly Morgan, who co-owns the horse with Tom Jackson. Tom Morgan trains this nine-year-old which only arrived in their yard three weeks ago. "He's got plenty left in him," Kelly told me, "he's a clever horse, marvellous to ride and Tom has done a great job preparing him."

The next meeting in the Midlands Area will be the Cottesmore meeting at Garthorpe on 28th February which includes the latest round of the Aga Ladies Open.

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