It was a case of doubles all round for jockeys, Tom Hamilton and Nick Orpwood in Saturday's Duke of Buccleuch's fixture at Friars Haugh, Kelso which saw a total of 60 runners contest the seven race card.
Kalastar set the ball rolling for Hamilton with a third course win in the Connolly's Red Mills Precision Nutrition Intermediate Race. However, it was not all plain sailing for the 6 year old who had looked beaten three out before finding another gear to overhaul Boy In Bangkok and Mister D approaching the last and score by a length. Hamilton said: "He is still a big baby but picked up immediately when I gave him a reminder on the home turn and after hitting the front was just idling a bit. I think he will be even better when tackling stiffer racecourse fences for the first time."
The Gotfor Man confirmed that he is still on an upward curve when following up a recent Corbridge Maiden win in the fifteen runner Turcan Connell NPPA Club Members Race to complete Hamilton's double. Delivered with a perfectly timed challenge, he took it up at the last from Annie Aces and Another Dark Rum but had to pull out all the stops on the run-in to hold off a renewed challenge from the former by a short head.
More than eight years after making his racecourse debut in a Newcastle Bumper, Banoge is still going strong and initiated Orpwood's double in the A. Hume Duke of Buccleuch's Members Race. The 13 year old had a prolonged duel with Damiens Dilemma from the off before stealing a decisive two lengths advantage two out. Damiens Dilemma rallied bravely under Sam Coltherd and was closing with every stride but failed by a short head to peg him back. Lauder-based owner/trainer, Carolyn (Snippet) Innes said of her charge: "He has enjoyed plenty of hunting with me this season. This is probably his last run for a while as he will be heading south with my daughter, Laura who is getting married next month."
Orpwood's double was completed by Friars Haugh specialist, Splendid Blue in the Bonhams Men's Open Race, who is now four from four at the track. The mare warmed to her task as the contest unfolded and, after being sent clear approaching two out, stayed on well to beat Nickwillis by three lengths. Based at Angerton near Morpeth, the 9 year old's owner/trainer, Joanna Boswell commented: "She picked up a minor injury when out in the field last summer and so the original plan to start her season at the Jedforest had to be delayed. She returns here in a fortnight for the Berwickshire Open but definitely needs to brush up her jumping before then."
It was a privilege to be at Friars Haugh to see 13 year old Ockey De Neulliac gallop his seven rivals into submission with another superb exhibition of fast, fluent jumping in the Brewin Dolphin Ladies Open Race. He never looked like being caught, eventually cruising home ten lengths ahead of Tasheba, and gave Catherine Walton another armchair ride. Walton, currently on 9 winners, is only one away from equalling her best tally between the flags with more than half of the season remaining. Her weekend got even better when she scored on winning pointer, Central Flame over hurdles at Carlisle the following day.
No horse in the country can match Ockey de Neulliac's amazing record over the last fourteen months which stands at ten wins and a second from twelve starts. Neil Mechie said of his stable star: "I gave him a couple of weeks off after his last win here in January where he bled but he's been back in work for a month and was going well at home. His jumping seems to get better and better each time he runs and his next target is the Aintree Foxhunters on April 9."
The Dawson family from County Durham are great supporters of point-to-point racing in both the Northern and Yorkshire Areas and deservedly opened their 2015 account when Lady's Favourite, a 7 year old home-bred Dapper mare, obliged in the Scotty Brand Jockey Club Mares Maiden Race. Always prominent under John Dawson, she took up the running two out and stayed on strongly to beat Nelly La Rue by three lengths. Dawson said: "She jumped well, had plenty left at the finish and there's more improvement to come."
Paddy's Wish fulfilled the promise shown when third at Corbridge earlier in the month by getting off the mark in the concluding CKD Galbraith Open Maiden Race. Well ridden by Harry Reed, he made virtually all the running from the tenth and kept finding extra when the chips were down to repel a late thrust from the favourite, Whatsthestoryman by a head.
Winning trainer, Jane Hunter said of the 7 year old: "He had a poor completion record in his first two seasons but was troubled then by sore shins. That issue has been resolved and I'm pleased that we decided to persevere with him."