A sharp frost overnight left this fixture in doubt, but the course passed an 11.30am inspection, however the start time was put back an hour to 1.30pm. As it turned out, the ground had completely thawed, which left the going as officially Good, although it was just on the soft side of that. Having been unraceable all through the morning, it was worth the wait as there were runners in abundance. The course was bathed in glorious sunshine and the organisers will have been thrilled at the sizeable crowd as this fixture is often poorly attended due to inclement weather.
The Hunt Members was a joint contest between horses qualified with the Derwent and Staintondale and attracted five participants. The honours went the way of Harwood Dale and Guy Brewer, who made every yard. His fencing could have been a bit slicker, but Harwood Dale ran on far too strongly for his rivals in the final stages. A change of scenery to the Brewer team seems to have done the trick for this quirky sort. Lightly raced in recent years, Robber took second in the hands of Michael Morley, keeping on willingly without being any match for the winner. He isn’t getting any younger and his appearances are now few and far between, but Robber is still a fair performer. Calapocus was made favourite on the back of losing his maiden tag in fine style at Duncombe Park in February, but he could only manage third. He hasn’t always looked the most straightforward, however Steve Charlton’s mount was reported to have broken a blood vessel. Just the three finished.
The Confined was a very competitive affair and had 15 runners. There were several with chances rounding the home turn and a stirring climax ensued. A cool ride from Toby Greenall secured the prize for Nippy Des Mottes. Toby didn’t panic when the leaders got first run on Nippy Des Mottes and the horse flew the last and finished best of all on the run-in. Nippy Des Mottes might not have truly got home when a decent third at Brocklesby Park last month, but certainly was not stopping here. A flat track seems to be a necessity and he can keep his form at this level. Never far away from the pace were Brize Norton and Guy Brewer in second. Once he’d got past the long time leader approaching the final fence, Brize Norton might just have found the seven penalty too big a burden in the closing one hundred yards. Brize Norton had been a close second to a potentially useful type on his pointing debut at Duncombe Park and on this evidence won’t be long in going one better. In third, Oaklands Bobby might have poached a decisive advantage for Chris Dawson from the second last, but he was just run out of it at the death. His impressive triumph at Witton Castle last month reads extremely well after two of the vanquished have gone on to take restricteds. Oaklands Bobby isn’t blessed with immense stamina and he is likely to be campaigned at the sharper tracks. The admirable Abandon Ship was fourth, putting in his usual sound effort. The run should have done him good and he’ll be a popular choice next time. Behind these Johnny Venture wasn’t disgraced.
Nine horses set out for the Mens Open and Sonevafushi was first past the post. Leading as is his want, Sonevafushi displayed why he is such a fearsome opponent in these races. Jake Greenall was doing the steering and did have to shake the reins, which is a bit more animated than he often has to get on this fellow. It will be a huge surprise if Sonevafushi can’t add to his tally in the future. Runner-up Over To Joe (Miles Seston) had no more to give when Sonevafushi quickened in the home straight. That said, Over To Joe made a race of it and sets a reasonable standard as he can normally be relied upon to show his form. Prominent from the off, Doris’s Gift in third was ridden along by Andrew Glass with a circuit to travel. Whilst he didn’t have the pace to stick with the front two, Doris’s Gift was at least galloping when others had cried enough. Fourth-placed Monte Cristo did all right on his comeback without ever really threatening. Pangbourne looked very reluctant.
The Ladies Open saw a dozen horses face the starter and Eliza Doalott’s first appearance in this company was a resounding success. Freya Brewer was in the hot seat for the first time and she manoeuvred the mare around the outside to take over from the front-running Moment of Madness and ease away. Eliza Doalott did got in a bit close to a couple of fences, but she is likely to be pretty imperious at this level. She scored like an odds-on favourite should and would be a strong contender if contesting a hunter chase. Andre Chenier and Charlotte Cundall went in pursuit, but were held at bay in second. Andre Chenier has been one of the bright spots of the year as the lighter weight of ladies races has been a boost for him as he isn’t all that big. He has let a couple of stars know he was there in 2010 and Andre Chenier would thoroughly deserve to get his head in front soon. Third-placed Moment of Madness led for Alison Pocklington and didn’t give best to the principals until the penultimate obstacle. He was tricky to evaluate and had some reasonable form in chases under Rules for the Fitzgeralds, being rated around the 100 mark in that sphere. Oaklands Luis in fourth is a fair yardstick at this level and ran near to the expectations of most.
There was a field of 11 for the Restricted, a quartet of which had arrived from the Irish pointing scene for this season. It was one of those, Lem Putt that sprung something of a surprise to carry off the spoils under Ian Smith. Lem Putt had too many guns for his opponents and put them right in their place. The seven-year-old was thought to be a possible short runner, but showed no evidence of that here. It was a taking initial attempt in Britain for Lem Putt and it will be interesting to see how he gets on when next seen. On only his second outing, the five-year-old Beau Dandy chased Lem Putt home, ably assisted by John Dawson. Beau Dandy was clear of the rest and had gone into many notebooks after collecting the first heat of the new Yorkshire Area season at Witton Castle a month ago. Beau Dandy is already looking a distinctly above average performer and can only get even better with more time and experience. Fli Mi Son was guided into third by Mark Walford, who wasn’t unduly hard on the gelding when his chance had gone. Fli Mi Son is still learning and should pick up a restricted before the end of 2010. Southern Classic did OK in fourth. Chancery Lad is being allowed to come to himself and will be worth watching when ready. Dark Moon got rid of Toby Greenall whilst holding every chance at the third last. The debutant Rack’ela is one for the future in maidens.
There were 18 runners for Division One of the Maiden, which was split on the day. It was the faster of the two and went to the impressive debutant, Tracy Corrigan-Clark’s Natureofthebeast by a very comfortable three lengths. In both divisions of the maiden, the fence in the home straight was omitted due to the low sun. The winning margin would have been more if Natureofthebeast had not been carried exceptionally wide on the final bend by a loose horse. However, that was the only slight worry and once Miles Seston had got his partner back on an even keel to bypass the last, the result was not in doubt. This fellow has some engine and potential and could make perfect use of his allowance for five-year-olds in a restricted. Chapel House (Richard Smith) was second and doesn’t come across as the easiest of rides. Chapel House was keeping on though when the race was over. He has shown more than enough to suggest a maiden is within his grasp, but might need everything to go his way for him to do so. Springfield Dante and Simon Walker stuck on into third. Springfield Dante was tapped for toe with half a mile to go, but found a second wind to grab a place. Springfield Dante’s form figures hardly inspired confidence, being five pulled ups from five outings, two in points and three over hurdles at least two years ago, but he must have displayed something at home as there was sustained market support. Fourth came Oaklands Robbie, who had been first past the post at Duncombe Park, but was disqualified due to losing a weight cloth, forcing his rider to weigh in light. Double Past faded late on having been at the sharp end from flagfall. Diamond Alice was to the fore throughout, but simply seemed to run out of puff. She warranted respect after an honourable second at Friars Haugh in February. In A Good Way was below par compared with his recent Brocklesby Park effort, while One More Gypsy was an early casualty.
A total of 17 horses came under orders for Division Two of the Maiden, but only 16 got away because Dontgiveamonkeys refused to race. Once Sea Senor had pulled himself to the front, there was no looking back. He overcame one mistake that Tom Greenall adeptly survived to move clear on the lengthy run-in with the minimum of fuss. Sea Senor has switched to between the flags, where he could make hay, after not quite reaching the grade under Rules. He’ll be hard to beat in a restricted. Monkerty Tunkerty, with Chris Dawson in the plate, chased in vain to be second. It was the fourth occasion out of four starts that Monkerty Tunkerty has filled this position and yet again he has probably bumped into a real tartar. He shouldn’t be long in winning. Adieu Mari was a fairly nonchalant third for Jacqueline Coward and has a no frills approach. There or thereabouts most of the way, he was barely noticed as he stayed on stoutly once the victor had flown. One to keep in mind for the rest of the season. Thatsthereasonwhy finished fourth. He remained in closer touch than usual and did remarkably well considering how badly hampered he was six from home. Give Me Time weakened when things got serious and could be interesting in a 2m4f maiden. Lewesdon Tom should come on for time and experience. An incident at the 11th saw Travel Supreme fall and bring down the David Easterby trained Fernandina, who had yet to play his hand.
The maidens provided a controversial conclusion to the afternoon. Following 58 entries and with a safety factor of 18, it would be usual protocol for there to be a split at entry into two divisions of 29. Whether sponsorship was at a premium and therefore prize money became an issue, or for some other mystifying reason, it was kept at one division at the entry stage. This causes difficulties for owners and trainers that are multi-entered in that arranging jockeys can be tricky. If more than 36 horses were declared on the day, three divisions would be needed and a split at scale. However, if a race is split on the day, jockeys are only permitted to ride in two divides of it. After declaration time, it was thought that 38 horses had been declared. The ensuing developments have been variously described, but when words such as chaotic, farcical and shambolic have to be used, there is a serious problem. With the later start and no attempt to quicken up the time between races, the decision was taken that there was not enough light so only two divisions could be run. One horse was graciously withdrawn and another was taken out after no suitable rider could be found. However, there was then the realisation that 37 horses were still declared so a ballot was required. Pipsacre was balloted out and subsequently, amid considerable confusion, Brother Mark was then withdrawn from division two leaving 17 horses to go to post for that one. All of these shenanigans caused consternation among connections, not least due to the inordinate length of time needed to resolve the situation. Charm Park is a fair test on a flat track that suits most types of horse so people unsurprisingly like to run their horses if “safe” ground is on offer. It is very rare for things to spiral out of control to quite the extent they did on this occasion.