Monday 1st May 2006
by Ian Marshall
With several other attractions to compete with, including a meeting at Sedgefield, a sparse crowd was at the attractive surroundings of Witton Castle for this Bank Holiday fixture. The going was given as Good to Firm, Firm in Places and, even though there was an excellent grass covering in the home straight, it was particularly firm in this area. The remainder of the course was patchy, but did have more give, however it was rather rough in parts and had not fully recovered from racing here in February.
The Hunt race was a match between Moscowtastic and Simon Robinson and Clever Fella and Helen Orton. The former went off long odds-on, but it was the latter that came out on top despite a monumental blunder at the final fence. Content to sit a couple of lengths behind his rival, Clever Fella led at the third from home and held all the aces thereafter. Moscowtastic had looked a decent horse in a couple of hunter chases this year, but he finished badly lame and might not be seen again on a racecourse for quite a while.
There was a field of seven for the Intermediate and a very tight conclusion that went to the judge, whose verdict went to northern raider Wild Edgar under Henry Trotter by a head from Just A Man and Ben Woodhouse. Some observers felt it should have gone the other way, but many can remember back to Duncombe Park in February when Just A Man gained a decision in a restricted from Kindle A Flame, which received criticism in certain circles. Wild Edgar showed fighting qualities to battle back having been headed leaving the far side. Just A Man was just touched off and now that the key to riding him has been found, he’ll be winning once more soon. Ben Woodhouse had made a remarkable recovery to be fit to take the ride as he had broken his collarbone at Stainton on Easter Saturday. Sweeping Storm (Richard Smith) in third appeared to have challenged at the perfect moment, but was run out of it. Flat Stanley in fourth needed plenty of stoking along by Niall Saville and did well to end up as close as he did in the circumstances. Magic Route was handy and still traveling well within himself when stumbling and unseating Tina Jackson on the bend before three out.
Eight horses came under orders for the Restricted, which saw Richard Tierney display coolness personified to triumph on Gollinger. Holding on to the ten-year-old until the post was virtually in touching distance, the jockey coaxed the gelding to get up. It was an astute piece of handling and Gollinger has now won both his points since entering the care of current connections. Runner-up Victor One could hardly have got any nearer to the winner under Chris Dawson and is going the right way. Third was Brown’s Beck with Steve Charlton on top. Brown’s Beck is a likeable type and an honest horse, who should receive further reward for his endeavours in the future. Master Jackson (Serena Brotherton) in fourth found little under pressure. Kappillan was totally outpaced on the prevailing surface, while Valley Rover has his own thoughts on the game. It was the fastest time of the day.
The Mens Open drew in 11 runners and Astral Prince confirmed his well being in the hands of Nigel Tutty to run out a comfortable winner. His octogenarian owner/trainer has him in fine fettle and Astral Prince could make a bold bid for a hat-trick at Easingwold at the weekend, where he plundered a confined eight days ago. Bouncing off the sound surface, he had too much speed for Royal Snoopy and Rupert Abrahams. Royal Snoopy comes into his own at the tail of the season and might now follow the hunter chase route. He was attempting to win this race for the third year in succession. Third and fourth respectively were Rigadoon (Steve Charlton) and Unlimited Free (Jack Newitt). Neither could quicken at the business end. Donnybrook isn’t so effective on firm going, while Sir Alf was on the heels of the leaders and moving with purpose, when slipping up on the flat approaching the home straight.
Just three runners for the Ladies Open that Wilfie Wild landed for Lynne Ward on a course where he has few equals. He hung right on the flat, which hopefully isn’t the sign of a problem. If coming out of the race in fine shape, Wilfie Wild will be heading to Hexham for the Heart of All England hunter chase. Mister Bromley went down by two lengths in second under Serena Brotherton and returned to somewhere near his true form. Samantha Drake did herself justice straightaway on her first ever ride in public aboard third-placed Ridgeway, who was another four lengths behind. He likes fast ground and a sharp track, and has been fitted with blinkers the last twice, which have brought about a revival, so he could be of interest if he turns out at Easingwold on Saturday.
Nine horses set out for Division One of the Open Maiden and Brightwell was an impressive winner, with Ben Woodhouse in the plate. It was the five-year-old that had put Ben on the sidelines, but he repaid him today. Brightwell is undoubtedly a promising sort and can go on to better things. He always had the leader in his sights and just had to be kept up to his work to score. Toms Party under Guy Brewer made most and was passed by Brightwell at the last fence. He wasn’t given a hard time when his task became hopeless and this strapping gelding shouldn’t have too much trouble in picking up a maiden. Octavio (Joanne Brown) was the third and final horse to finish. He does seem to have a bit of potential. Hanson would have been third or fourth if he hadn’t gone lame before the second last. The favourite Croghan Lord was pulled up and dismounted before the 13th.
Division Two of the Open Maiden had seven runners and a chance spare mount for Guy Brewer on Whisky In The Jar came up trumps as he kept his lead in the Yorkshire Area Gentleman Riders Title. Whisky In The Jar pulled himself to the head of proceedings with two circuits to cover, after which enterprising tactics meant he never saw a rival. Once he has matured and isn’t so inclined to take such a fierce grip, Whisky In The Jar could turn out to be a fair performer. Second was Midnight Prince, with Jacqueline Coward in the saddle, who could never reel in the victor, but is a youngster that is beginning to get the hang of things and could bag a maiden. Mr Bee Gee had Ben Woodhouse for assistance, however he was readily left behind by the front two. He doesn’t seem to be of the same standard as the stable’s other two novices seen in 2006 and there is much work to do on his jumping. Silver Sovereign (Ian Smith) was a distant fourth. The Viking was fourth, but looking held, when he came down three out. One or two mistakes are costing him dear.