Easter Monday 17th April 2006
by Ian Marshall
Morning showers left near perfect ground for this Easter Monday fixture and as a result there were plenty of runners that produced tight finishes in all six races.
The Hunt Members was for horses qualified with both the Staintondale and Derwent and there were six declarations, three of whom completed the course. Brown’s Beck and Whitley Grange Boy had a real tussle from the final fence, which the former got the better of by a nose. Brown’s Beck responded gamely to Steve Charlton’s urgings on the run-in. He kept improving by one place last season and remained in the same vein on this seasonal reappearance. Whitley Grange Boy will continue to boost Oliver Pimlott’s fledgling riding career. Colonel Ludlow in third was attempting to bring Chris Cundall a step closer to a century of winners. He is more suited to a shorter course as he was unable to quicken sufficiently in the last half mile. Abbey Whin was out in front for the best part of a circuit before dropping away.
A bumper field of 17 lined up for a highly competitive Restricted and there was a surprise victory for Hattie and Philip Cornforth. There were still several with chances turning into the home straight, but it was the mare that stayed on best of all. She can be difficult to restrain, but on this occasion had more than enough left in the tank at the death, having been up with the pace throughout. Sajomi Rona kept up the good work of recent weeks in the hands of Ian Smith and chased Hattie the entire way to the line to be runner-up. Harwood Dale, with Mark Walford in the plate, stuck on doggedly for third, certainly holding his own in the higher grade. The horse he beat at Brocklesby Park, True Legend, won a maiden over the weekend. Eastern Royal put three disappointing displays behind him in fourth under Clive Mulhall. One for the future could be Winanoscar, who has performed with merit on each of his three outings in 2006. He didn’t get outpaced until the run to the last and might be able to find a restricted on reasonable ground. Mile High City and Clever Nora weren’t disgraced, but Bulmer Bank, made a warm favourite after getting to within a length of Ruggtah at Brocklesby Park in March, was never traveling and hardly seems to run two races the same. Lambhill Stakes led until the penultimate obstacle and was beaten in about fifth when he came down at the last. Freds Heir has changed stables and ownership and been off the track since scoring in an Alnwick maiden in January. He might have been in need of the race.
The Mixed Open was an exceptionally hot race that brought together ten horses that included some very talented individuals. The first four home were covered by just six lengths. Barryscourt Lad triumphed under Mark Walford, meaning that the injured Ben Woodhouse missed out on another winner. Prominent from the off, Barryscourt Lad grittily powered forward on the flat in search of the lollipop. He was down the field in the Aintree Foxhunters, but had previously won a point-to-point at Witton Castle and an Ayr hunter chase. Imps Way (Clive Mulhall) was held up in the early stages, making stealthy progress to lead with five to jump and chasing resolutely in second when she was passed by Barryscourt Lad. Her attention will soon be back to hunter chases with some hope of additional prizes to go with her two Hexham successes in 2005. Robber and Michael Morley have been a formidable presence this year and the pairing are keeping their sound form. In fourth, Duchess Account (Emma Brader) posted a lifetime best effort, finishing like the proverbial train. She will be a tough nut to crack in a slog around Heslaker and could possibly go further afield looking for races at extended distances. This should have put Civil Gent spot on for cracks at the sharper tracks of Easingwold and Garthorpe.
The Confined also featured ten runners and Oliver Greenall got on the scoresheet aboard Trooper Collins, the eight-year-old being produced at the final fence to gain the verdict by three-quarters of a length. On the whole, he is pretty consistent, already having landed a Bangor intermediate this year, prior to getting bogged down at Mordon. Runner-up Charlies Memory, partnered by Jacqueline Coward, didn’t give an inch in an eventually vain pursuit and one can envisage him adding to his tally of three victories in 2006 in the coming weeks. Flat Stanley was plucky in third with Niall Saville on top and went close again. Another success must be just around the corner. Sweeping Storm in fourth has been putting in his hardest work at the finish all campaign for Richard Smith and has been knocking on the door without threatening to carry off a race. Gabla showed much more than on Saturday at Stainton, while Dilsaa, formerly a fair hurdles and flat performer with Kevin Ryan, isn’t particularly easy to evaluate and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to find him winning before the season is out. The five-year-old debutant Mister Worthington was in touch until the back straight for the second time and will be a different proposition when next seen.
The Open Maiden was a thriller and had 15 competitors. There were four in line at the last and it was Riot Act and Jacqueline Coward that conquered their rivals. A peach of a ride saw Riot Act pick up the leaders leaving the far side and join issue in the final furlong before forging ahead to the judge. Richard Mason’s charge is a full brother to the same owner’s Just A Man, who has been a dual scorer this year. Protecting Heights in second really doesn’t appear to be a natural jumper, but nonetheless has enough ability to outweigh any shortcomings and should land a maiden under Guy Brewer. Third were Top Pack and Richard Wakeham. They got in a bit tight to the last, which might have cost them the race and their turn should come in the near future. Moraira (Simon Walker) was fourth, staying on at the one pace from the home turn, but running a solid race in the process. Royal Return got rid of Oliver Greenall at the 4th, but Mr Bee Gee will benefit for the experience. Whisky In The Jar showed up for a long way and there are signs of promise in stable companion Ellerslie De Hooch, while Comfortably Numb gave encouragement on his third outing after a lengthy lay off.
15 horses went to post for the Open Conditions Maiden, which was solely for animals that had previously been placed neither second nor third. You might imagine a low key affair, but this race has thrown up some useful types in the past, none more so than the 2005 winner Skew Whip. This year’s renewal pitted two highly regarded youngsters against each other: Bob Woodhouse’s The Howardian and Maxine Stirk’s Sunday Lunch, with Mark Walford on the former and Guy Brewer on the latter. A ding-dong battle between the pair over the final couple of fences saw Sunday Lunch fill pole position. Sunday Lunch is a fine stamp of a horse and exhibited the worth of his debut in a Whittington intermediate. He just didn’t give up, having been left in front at the 15th following Archenko’s fall, and can add brave to his many nice characteristics. His next appointment could be at Doncaster Spring Sales. The Howardian is due to go under the hammer himself at Cheltenham Sales later this week. He is without doubt an above average performer, as this was his initial visit to a racecourse, and he stuck his neck out and tried his best. Welham (Oliver Greenall) in third got round for the first time on his fourth start. He got as close as three lengths to the principals and has the physique to progress. Midnight Prince (Jacqueline Coward) was a distant fourth. Radical Jack was well supported in the ring, but never figured. Archenko, however, cut out the running and still held a slight advantage when he crumpled on landing six out. It was too far from home to say where he would have finished, but it is difficult to imagine him ending up any worse than fourth and he is beginning to show some potential.