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sir ww wynns
eaton hall
6th March 2005
by Jeremy Grayson

The opening meeting at Eaton Hall this season represented the first chance for owners, trainers and riders to evaluate the extensive improvements carried out on the course over the winter. Chief among these have been the reinstatement of the original course, heavy rolling of the ground to render it more or less totally flat, and the enlisting of Bangor racecourse’s expertise in rebuilding the fences. It was a pity that those efforts weren’t entirely rewarded with some bigger fields across the whole card, as only around 80 horses in total contested the eight events, but the fantastic weather and immaculate arrangement and organisation of the site did at least attract a sizeable crowd.

All races were run over an extended three miles, which translates as just under two and a half circuits of this flat, sharpish right-handed track (its nearest equivalents under rules would probably be Market Rasen or Taunton). Four fences were jumped in the straight, of which the first was located in the starting chute, whereafter two complete circuits (comprising four in the back straight, including the ditch, and the last three fences in the straight) were completed. The ground appeared to be riding on the soft side of good, but withstood the day’s racing brilliantly.

Race One; HUNTS MEMBERS, SUBSCRIBERS AND FARMERS

That grand veteran WANDERING LIGHT would have been a popular winner of this contest, and with this Members race having cut up to just four runners his chance seemed a good one. He was never travelling, however, jumping very deliberately throughout and requiring plenty of work to make up the lost ground between each fence. Tessa Clark finally gave up the unequal struggle on him two from home, and it remains to be seen how many more times this now 16yo will be asked to go into battle.

In a muddling affair, Oliver Greenall ultimately got DOUBLE RICH home just ahead of HIJACKED to land his fifth career victory. The winner is not a consistent animal and the runner-up had been well beaten in two intermediates prior to this performance, so the form is probably nothing to get too excited about. FERRYPORT HOUSE, a former Irish Maiden and Winner-of-One winner having his first run in this country, ran in snatches.

Race Two; OPEN MAIDEN (Division One)

REBEL ARMY initiated the first leg of a treble for Richard Burton here, when delivered late to reel in longtime leader SARAH’S PARTY up the run-in. The calibre of his eleven rivals was not up to much, and this 6yo was one of only two horses who could have contested the race had it been a young horse maiden, but it was still an impressive debut under an educative ride. Sarah’s Party was sent off the favourite on her British debut despite awful form figures in Irish points, but those punters relying on the move to Gary Hanmer working the oracle were very nearly proved correct. Compensation should not be too far off in coming.

BALLYHOLME, another Irish import, managed to take third place for the Talbot family despite his best form previously having been on firmer ground; whilst even on this sharp circuit TIMES TWO once again failed to last home after disputing the lead for much of the race, and really needs to find a 2m 4f maiden if he is ever going to score.

Race Three; OPEN MAIDEN (Division Two)

This was run at a time just a second quicker than the first division, but contained a few more debutants and / or unexposed types who could go on from here than that race did. UNCLE NEIL had already accumulated four runner-up berths prior to this race, including when highly tried in a 3m 5f open last season, and finally got reward for his consistency here with an exemplary display of jumping under that man Burton. Having landed a Kelso hunters’ chase the day before, this capped a very decent weekend for Sheila Crow.

PRECIOUS BANE was having his first look at fences in public here following eleven uninspiring runs under both Flat and National Hunt codes for Brian Baugh. He put in a sound enough round of jumping and should come on for what was his first run of any description since October 2002. KINGS REASON put up a promising racecourse debut in third, and this 5yo will doubtless be given all the time he needs by Gary Hanmer. TOP OF THE DEE has proved a less than safe conveyance over fences during the current National Hunt season, and took a horrible fall when starting to back-pedal at Weston Park last time. Here she finally managed to put in a clear round in fourth, although she didn’t fully convince as being able to last three miles.

David Greenway took an x-rated fall on TORPICA at halfway and was carried into the ambulance motionless. Amazingly, he was up and walking around the paddock again one hour later, but gave up all his remaining rides.

Race Four; MENS OPEN

Some real old favourites from the staying chase ranks lined up here in what won’t be the classiest Men’s Open run this season. That said, it did produce a good return to form on his pointing debut from NO RETREAT. A well-known animal in this part of the world, having previously been with Steve Brookshaw and Brian Baugh, he recorded his first win since 1999 here. William Hill must take much credit for an assertive ride, sending No Retreat to the front with a whole circuit to go and, with the horse’s stamina guaranteed, drew the sting out of all his rivals despite the best efforts of William Kinsey on the favourite CURLY SPENCER.

No Retreat has form to his name over the big Aintree fences, having run Amberleigh House to a reasonably close fifth in the 2001 renewal of the Becher Chase, and this fine jumper would certainly be worth giving a return to the course for the Foxhunters on this evidence.

Curly Spencer was a fine mud-loving chaser at around 2m 4f two seasons ago for Andrew Parker before the handicapper had too much of a say, and had put in very decent performances in two of the hottest hunters’ chases this season prior to this run (only Sleeping Night and Legal Right beat him at Wetherby). He is going to pick up one or two of these before too soon, as long as the ground stays on the easy side.

HOME MADE was well held in third here, but following on from his good second in the equivalent event at Eyton last week is serving notice of a gradual return to the form which saw him win two races as a 5yo. He still has years and years ahead of him. Not so the two 14yos ANDY’S BIRTHDAY, who was taken off his feet on the final circuit after showing prominently early, and needs a much more severe test than this gave; or the increasingly mulish GALEN, who offered Stuart Ross precious little assistance and pulled up turning for home.

Race Five; LADIES OPEN

Carrie Ford sent just one runner to Eaton today in MYTIMIE, but Tania Harrison was made to work extremely hard to get the hot favourite home in the shadow of the posts. The unheralded 6yo ANOTHER CLUB ROYAL, previously a winner of a poorly-contested novices’ hurdle at Uttoxeter last season, did have a second to his name in a 2m 5f chase last time out, but this still seemed an audacious move by Donald McCain Jr to pitch him straight into Open company on his pointing debut. Tessa Clark set sail for home entering the straight and it looked like Mytimie had too much to do even after the last, but the gallant 10yo responded just well enough to Harrison’s urgings to steal the spoils and with it his third ladies open in six runs between the flags.

None of the others in the race offered too much hope of winning in the immediate future; RETURNED UN PAID continues to run below the level of form which garnered him a 3m 2f chase win under Rules for Paul Blockley eighteen months ago, whilst BENBOW’s jumping was sticky to say the least.

Race Six; INTERMEDIATE

With four of the five runners covered by just three points in the Pointer’s handicap ratings, this looked a really tight contest of its kind. HEAVY WEATHER is best suited by hold-up tactics, and despite the small field these were duly employed by Richard Burton to land the spoils here, giving the rider a hat-trick on the day. The horse was not especially fluent early on, but Burton did not panic, and was still able to get him into enough of a rhythm to go with longtime leader TRIBAL TRACT when that one cranked up the tempo four from home. By he time he flew the last, Heavy Weather was eight lengths to the good and ultimately won as he pleased. He is now two from five in British points, although that included three non-completions, so he is not one to follow with total confidence in this sphere just yet.

Tribal Tract’s exertions in what was only his second race in two seasons ultimately told, and he lost second place to HIGH FIELDS, stone cold last entering the final straight but finishing to good effect by the end of it. The baby of the party at six, he should find a similar contest to this before too long.

Race Seven; PPORA NOVICE RIDERS RACE

The biggest field of the day (13) included some real veterans obviously being put to use as schoolmasters for these inexperienced riders, and it was one such animal, the 13yo THE EENS, who gave Edward Bourne his first ever win between the flags with a well-judged waiting ride. Bourne sat the old boy off the pace set by MISTER MOSS (before Richard Collinson took the wrong course on him) and then GLACIAL TABHAIRNE, before scooting clear turning for home and letting the horse’s assured good jumping secure the victory over the last three obstacles. The Eens won five chases and a hurdle on soft to heavy ground for Ginger McCain before losing the plot entirely last season, and Donald Jr looks to have got him keen and competitive again. This is probably as good a grade as he can operate in nowadays, though.

The favourite MASTER JOCK was another one waited with until at least halfway, and tried to come from further off the pace than the winner. His staying on second was a much better effort than his finish in that position on seasonal reappearance at Weston, when Jemaro slammed him in the Albrighton member’s race by 25l, and this fairly regular winner (six from 18 in points) ought to offer a novice rider a wining chance in one of these soon enough. LAMBRINI BIANCO, a 7yo full-brother to both Royal Athlete and Tipsy Mouse, also came from off the pace and registered his best performance since winning a Bangor bumper three years ago. Glacial Tabhairne, a bit out of depth in a Men’s Open at Thorpe Lodge last time, enjoyed himself much more today, but couldn’t live with his own pace and faded in the straight.

For a horse known as a stayer of extreme distances, STEP ON EYRE was given insufficient encouragement to do so by Felix Patterson, who kept him detached from the pack for at least two thirds of the race and just let him weave through beaten / pulling-up horses from two out; he was never nearer than his finishing place of fifth. The favourite WINTER GALE, a confirmed hold-up horse, kept Step on Eyre company miles behind all else for a the first half of the race, but never got out of last place and pulled up five from home. This was too bad a run to be true and something may have been amiss.

Race Eight; RESTRICTED

THE YOUNG PURTY had a number of the major players in today’s two maidens behind him when scoring at Weston Park a fortnight previously and, pulling hard for his head early on, was clearly intent on adding to his tally here. He only had early pacesetter LILY BROWN for company for much of the final circuit here, and having shaken off that rival approaching two out looked to have the race in safe keeping. An awful blunder there knocked the stuffing out of him, however, and the patiently-ridden favourite TINARANA LORD ghosted to the front immediately to pinch the finale perhaps a shade fortuitously. He’d previously been worried out of a win in a PPORA Restricted at Thorpe Lodge a month ago, so connections may feel he was due a bit of good fortune here.

NIKILORR was prominent throughout without being able to land a blow at the business end of the race and looks onepaced. Lily Brown faded into fourth in the end, and stamina doubts remain about a mare who needed a falsely-run 2m 4f maiden to break her duck in points in the first place. MEENTAGH LOCH, winner of his only previous racecourse visit when a winner of a maiden here last year, did not go a yard today and was not asked to complete.

WINNING TRAINERS
Steve Wynne
Caroline Robinson
Sheila Crow
Mr J Groucott
Carrie Ford
Miss Jo Priest
Donald McCain Jr
Mr Gary Hanmer

WINNING JOCKEYS
Mr Oliver Greenall
Mr Richard Burton (3 wins)
Mr William Hill
Miss Tania Harrison
Mr Edward Bourne
Mr Gary Hanmer

COMMENTATOR
Mr E Windsor

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