Some overnight rain left ground that was predominately good, otherwise there would have a fair bit of rattle of underfoot. The racing was keenly contested and there were several close finishes.
There were just three runners for the Hunt Members, but all had a chance turning for home. The odds-on jolly Harwood Dale trailed for much of the journey, but Steve Charlton galvanised him into action for one final effort and he overhauled Major Shark and Chris Cundall on the run-in to carry off the prize. Major Shark can be expected to come on for the run. Don Rio set the pace for Michael Morley and was only tapped for toe from the home turn. This was a significantly better effort than when he had last raced in 2006. All three had question marks hanging over them on paper, but once Harwood Dale consented to put his best hoof forward, he quickened up well.
The Confined saw 13 horses face the starter and a trio fought out a close climax. Scenic Storm pulled out all the stops for Nathan Moscrop to catch Well Presented, who had been to the fore from flagfall, in the closing stages. Scenic Storm is now a teenager and has only lifted his hunt members a couple of times in recent years, but retains plenty of zest judged by this seasonal debut. He has though been placed on numerous occasions in better company, including going agonisingly close to bagging a hunter chase more than once. Scenic Storm certainly wasn’t winning out of turn and thoroughly deserves his position in the limelight. The hat-trick seeking Well Presented, shouldering a six pound penalty for his Sheriff Hutton and Duncombe Park triumphs, knuckled down for a tussle, but found the weight concession just too great. He was a very short price, but a worthy favourite nonetheless, and can keep up the momentum. In third, Pikachu Blue (Henry Brooke) again ran well following his pleasing display at Duncombe Park in February. Pikachu Blue still has plenty to give at 12 and is just about the perfect schoolmaster. The way he stayed on stoutly points to success coming his way shortly. Fourth-placed Wise Tale was well beaten, but he did cut out a generous gallop and this was much better. The likeable Bobby Buttons was booked for fourth when he gave Nigel Tutty no chance of remaining on board. The patiently ridden Madison De Vonnas was never close to the principals without being disgraced. Abandon Ship was an early casualty and Just Fluster blew away the cobwebs on his comeback.
The Mens Open attracted eight hopefuls and there was a ding-dong battle in the closing stages between Sonevafushi and Oliver Greenall and Imps Way and Mark Walford, which the former just got the better of. Following his clear cut success at Witton Castle last month on his first outing for current connections, Sonevafushi could have been expected to go downhill if his past record is anything to go by. However, the change of scenery might have done him good as he was hard pressed here, yet still battled on and fought his way to victory. In this sort of mood, he is a tough opponent and the Aintree Foxhunters is a possible target. Imps Way showed the benefit of her Duncombe Park reappearance and, even at 13, has lost none of her zest. She pushed Sonevafushi close and went down with all guns blazing. Imps Way has been a solid performer for a number of years and should keep giving a good account of herself. Although no match for the front two, Brown’s Beck filled third spot in the hands of Steve Charlton, keeping on soundly. This was Brown’s Beck’s first open and he acquitted himself admirably. He is a model of consistency overall and rarely runs a below par race at this venue. On decent going, he can continue to hold his own. Montreal plugged on for fourth.
The Ladies Open had a field of 11, although the numbers were reduced before a circuit had been completed when Eastern Royal was pulled up lame whilst leading. The honours went to Charlies Memory in the hands of Jacqueline Coward. Produced after the penultimate obstacle, Charlies Memory readily disposed of One Five Eight and Jo Mason. Charlies Memory only found A Boy Named Sioux too good on his Alnwick reappearance and that one has since followed up at Corbridge. Consistency is his best quality and a fair pace such as this plays to his strengths. One Five Eight has now collected a trio of second places in 2008, but he is no back number. He ought to add to his tally of six victories between the flags achieved last year before the season is out. Be The Tops was driven into third on the run-in by Emma Dwyer. Be The Tops would prefer a stiffer test of stamina than this and his fourth at Corbridge last week in a strong race also reads well. Gollinger in fourth isn’t getting any younger and doesn’t have a change of pace, but even so should make his presence felt on suitable courses. Del Trotter was prominent most of the way, but faded, whereas Misty Gem was beginning to get competitive and looking a threat when she decanted her rider in the back straight on the final lap. Misty Gem has improved with every race since coming to Yorkshire this year and she shouldn’t be discounted in future. Lodestar didn’t do too badly either.
Eight horses came under orders for the Restricted and Oliver Greenall showed why he is leading the National Point-To-Point Riders Championship with a masterful ride on Sales Flow. Challenging on the outside in the home straight, the mare gradually wore down the front-running Dix Huit Cyborg to score. It had been something of a surprise when Sales Flow opened her account at Mordon last year, although the second in that race has since picked up a maiden, but there didn’t seem to be any fluke about this display. Dix Huit Cyborg and Steve Charlton weren’t beaten far in second. The chestnut attempted to make all and wasn’t overtaken until well after the final fence. He has often appeared to be a doubtful stayer at three miles, but saw it out well enough today. Top of the ground is a necessity. Humbel Origins, with Mark Walford on top, went off the favourite at a shade of odds-on, but could only manage third of three finishers. He was entitled to be well supported on the basis of a scintillating Market Rasen maiden triumph and a close second in a much better race here at Charm Park, both in 2007. He isn’t an easy ride, but should be capable of better. Imps Pride departed after a circuit and Whinny Bank got rid of Jo Mason before the race had begun in earnest.
A total of 14 runners set out for Division One of the Maiden and the spoils went to Malton under Oliver Greenall. It was a supremely judged ride from the jockey, giving him a treble on the card and a healthy five for the weekend after a brace at Dalston the previous day. Malton was put to sleep out the back of the field and stealthily slipped into contention, running out the winner without really knowing that he had been put in the race. He has sometimes seemed to shirk the issue in the past, but there is no denying that the talent is there, as his earlier placed efforts suggest. Runner-up Jabo, with Guy Brewer in the saddle, was only grabbed in the shadow of the post. He kept on willingly and had the measure of all bar Malton. This was another step in the right direction and he should sneak a little race. Thatsthereasonwhy guided Nathan Moscrop into third. Although beaten some way, he has a large chunk of ability. The seven-year-old has a bit about him and if he can settle better a maiden is well within his grasp. In fourth, On Yer Bike got outpaced once the tempo lifted, but did OK. He has time on his side and more improvement in him. The pace-setting Hello Noddy looked as though he would be third when he came to grief at the concluding fence. He lay winded for several minutes, but was thankfully apparently none the worse in the end. Castle Gunner chased the leaders before getting tired. Following the heroics of the Tutty family at Welbeck a week ago, they were unfortunately brought down to earth with a bump. With Nigel unfit after his tumble earlier in the afternoon, daughter Pip took over on the February Duncombe Park runner-up Go Moss Go, but the partnership got no further than the first fence, which also claimed Alisons Treasure.
With King of Slane, who unshipped his rider at the start and did a circuit of the track, being withdrawn, eight horses lined up for Division Two of the Maiden and the fence in the home straight was omitted due to the low sun. Cottam Phantom, with Jacqueline Coward aboard, made every yard and wasn’t strongly challenged in the final quarter mile. This was a fine effort for a horse that has seemingly lacked stamina at three miles in the past and gave his rider a double on the day. Handler Cherry Coward must be close to the top of the “hot trainers list” at the moment as this was her third win of the afternoon and her string have been in superb fettle in recent weeks. It had actually been an improved display from Cottam Phantom when fourth at Duncombe Park in February. That race is now looking like excellent form as Pristine Condition and Quinta De Lobo both came out of it to win maidens at Dalston yesterday, where Jimmys Duky was only nabbed on the line or he would have been another, and three of the others have since been placed. Meanwhile, the winner that day Messager landed a restricted in impressive fashion at Corbridge last week. Runner-up today Lord Gee, with Oliver Greenall in the plate, couldn’t peg back the winner on the lengthy run-in. Although he doesn’t appear to be a stable star, it will be a surprise if he doesn’t find a maiden before the season is out. Exit Fast was third for Matt Briggs, just ahead of Miss Tosca in fourth. This was a decent effort from Exit Fast, while Miss Tosca can’t quite get her head in front and a maiden against her own sex might offer the best opportunity. Saddlers’ Harmony took a crashing fall at the open ditch six from home when still holding every chance. If his jumping can hold up for a full race, he should win a maiden.