Heavy showers through the afternoon dampened enthusiasm and Good To Soft ground got progressively more demanding as the card wore on. The car park resembled a quagmire and several tractors were needed to extract racegoers, including some in 4x4s.
The opening Confined Conditions race drew in 11 hopefuls and was for animals that hadn’t won under Rules or in an open point-to-point. Gradually making his way from virtually last to first, Wantage Road had too many aces for his rivals under Laura Mason. Wantage Road hadn’t been at his best on a couple of occasions this year, but he ran on strongly in the closing stages to win well. When the cards fall right for him, this fellow is capable of decent form. Runner-up King Among Queens (Jake Greenall) moved up, seemed to get tapped for toe, and then kept on again, but the winner was pretty comfortable. Cope Howe and Jacqueline Coward were third. Cop Howe might not be the force of old, but he still did his best, although the front two were finishing better. As usual, Nectar De Guye attempted to make every yard, but he weakened down the home stretch into fourth. Miss Tosca came next and did OK.
The Bedale and West of Yore Hunt Members had nine participants and Lewesdon Duchess scored in effortless fashion. Travelling sweetly in a handy position, she sauntered clear from three out, barely breaking sweat. A restricted should be within her grasp on recent evidence. There was a typically sound display from Buckshaw and Ian Smith in second. Buckshaw is still a maiden, but he has shown more enough to suggest he won’t stay that way for too long. Texas Ranger, successful in this event 12 months earlier, filled third for Alison Pocklington. He normally attempts to make all and was a worthy favourite. Being beaten in the region of 20 lengths, Texas Ranger had a valid excuse as he returned with a cut leg. Nina Chester got badly outpaced and kept on behind in fourth. Deja Vu was well held when pulled up in the home straight.
The Restricted contained six horses that had lost their maiden tag this year among the 13 runners. Blazing Bull put up a good performance to get his head in front under Chris Dawson. After an early midfield sit, some tidy leaps sealed the success in quite a hot heat as he moved on when it mattered. Blazing Bull had contested a Catterick novice hunter chase last time, where he had finished a far from disgraced fourth. Runner-up Adieu Mari was given a very patient ride by Jacqueline Coward and gradually worked his way into contention. Looming up as a big threat, he wasn’t as fluent as the winner at the final fence, which probably cost him the victory. Compensation awaits. In third, Rich Hill held every chance for Nathan Moscrop, however he had no more to give in the final quarter mile. A fair effort nonetheless. Fourth-placed Liverpool was prominent most of the way, but couldn’t find a change of gear at the business end. He did all right. Fernandina was well supported in the ring and sent off favourite. Held up in rear, Jake Greenall gave him too much to do and didn’t ask him to close early enough. Never having got anywhere near the leaders, the stewards enquired into the running of the gelding. Having heard evidence from the jockey and trainer David Easterby, the findings were that Jake be fined £100 for riding an ill-judged race.
Eight horses were declared for the Ladies Open and Poppy Day completed a four timer in the hands of regular rider Jo Mason. Poppy Day was shaken up three from home, but asserted approaching the last in the manner of a very useful mare. She just keeps getting better and better and has become just about the most eagerly anticipated horse on the Yorkshire Area circuit with regular racegoers. Nawaadi, like Poppy Day a seven-year-old, is improving and probably produced a personal best between the flags. Whilst he couldn’t cope with Poppy Day’s turn of foot, Nawaadi was readily ahead of the others. Although he is now 14, Wilfie Wild (Lynne Ward) in third has shown here and at Dalton Park that he is no back number. He’s keeping his form nicely. Lutin Du Moulin in fourth might have found the ground soft enough for him. He just isn’t able to pick up smartly enough when the ground isn’t goodish. Allumee performed with credit on his seasonal reappearance and should go even closer on better ground. Former Grimthorpe Gold Cup winner Iron Express has reached the veteran stage and brought the curtain down on a fine pointing career.
Seven horses stood their ground for the Mens Open that looked a cakewalk on paper for the talented odds-on jolly My Old Piano. However, it turned out anything but as he had to pull out all the stops to collect. Jake Greenall drove him out in a battle royal with runner-up Fox Point, with Paul Frank in the saddle. My Old Piano will no doubt add to his tally easier than this, but dug deep to prevail with a first class attitude. In receipt of seven pounds from the favourite, Fox Point acquitted himself with aplomb. Having picked up the hunt members at Hutton Rudby, Fox Point can find a confined or open on the basis of this. In third, That’s Racing never really got into it and wasn’t knocked about too much by Steve Charlton. He’ll be more of a force in less testing conditions on a tighter track such as Easingwold. Baron Romeo was a remote fourth.
A total of 12 horses came under orders for Division One of the Maiden and One More Gypsy got off the mark with a bit of encouragement from Jake Greenall. Held up well off the pace, she made steady headway to reel in those ahead of her. One More Gypsy was a close second at Witton Castle in February, which suggested she was capable of taking a race of this type. What A Cliché (Ed Cameron) was a sitting duck and readily outpointed at the death, but was the only other finisher. He deserves a lot of credit for sticking to the task in a war of attrition. It Did Happen was to the fore until weakening late on and was a legless third when refusing at the final fence. Reef Dancer was still going OK when departing. Mick Flavin showed some promise.
There were 13 horses present for Division Two of the Maiden and Jake Greenall completed a treble on the card aboard The Poor Man. The seven-year-old was a useful spare ride and never in any serious trouble to record a three length verdict at the judge. His form figures didn’t really enthuse, but had been going well enough at Corbridge last time until coming down. Whilst she has reached the age of ten, runner-up Red Roxy ran on under Ann Wilson and does seem improved this year. She might have a small race in her. Flag Hill in third found very little off the bridle for John Dawson having travelled with purpose for much of the journey. Only three finished. Yes I Can was a popular choice after a good effort at Hutton Rudby, but was quite disappointing. Dougall may come on for the experience.