Justin Landy was the trainer to follow in Sunday's College Valley & North Northumberland fixture at Alnwick as his only two runners, Ardea and Knocklong, both obliged to maintain his 100% record this season.
Confidently ridden by Joe Wright, Ardea easily supplemented last month's Brocklesby Park Maiden success in the Subaru Restricted Race. The 8 year old was sent on five out and had his rivals in trouble after the next before cruising home eight lengths ahead of Corbridge scorer, Solid Strike in the best time of the day. Wright said: "It makes you wonder why he hadn't won before joining Justin's yard in October. The response was immediate when I gave him a squeeze after jumping four out and he still had plenty left in the tank at the finish."
Middleham-based Landy added: "He only cost us £500 despite having some decent placed form in his previous yard. He wears his heart on his sleeve every time he runs and is still improving."
Knocklong made it 3 from 3 at Alnwick this term in the UBS Wealth Management Ladies Open Race to initiate a double for Catherine Walton. Barely out of second gear, the 8 year old was in command throughout the final circuit and had a cosy three lengths to spare over Denbigh raider, Kilcross Boy (Rachael McDonald) at the line. As an added bonus, he also carried off a £500 prize as the winner of the J R Adams Transport Ratcheugh Races Champion Horse Award for the 2015/16 season.
Walton said: "I didn't have to ask him a serious question and he jumped really well apart from diving at the last."
After looking well beaten between the last two fences, Strategic Island finished like an express train to land the two and a half mile Collingwood Arms Open Maiden Race by half a length and complete Walton's double. Court Painter led from the outset under Kit Alexander and still had the call over Smooth Talk (Chris Dawson) at the last but they were both overhauled inside the last fifty yards.
Winning trainer, Jimmy Walton said of the 5 year old: "She's not very big and gave herself plenty to do after making a few mistakes. She's got a decent turn of foot and I might send her back over hurdles next time."
Whitwell-on-the-Hill raider, Mister Splodge, owned and trained by Sarah Brotherton, repeated last year's win in the Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members Race for Novice Riders. Forcing the pace from the off under Harry Reed, the 11 year old kept his three rivals at bay throughout and stayed on well to beat former Royal Ascot winner, Drill Sergeant by two lengths. Reed said: "He wasn't enjoying it much when we hit the softer patches but kept responding as I wound up the pace on the last circuit and his jumping won the day."
Former eventer, Crazy Diamond secured a fifth win from six runs at Alnwick in the Bond Dickinson North Northumberland Hunts Club Members Race. After being tucked in behind the leaders on the first circuit, Nick Orpwood's mount quickened the tempo when sent on a mile from home. Sharivarry and the favourite, Dun Faw Good were unable to peg back the 12 year old in the closing stages, with the latter still a length down at the line. Ian McKie, father of winning trainer, Jessica McKie said: "He is a great jumper and will be even better on a sounder surface. Ratcheugh is like a polo pitch compared to the hills he is used to our farm."
His 12 year old stable companion, The Falklander suffered his first defeat in four visits to Alnwick in the Saffrey Champness Men's Open Race, finishing three lengths 3rd to Wicklow Lad on his return from a 400-day absence. In a tactical affair, there was nothing much to choose between the five runners at the half-way stage before the race began in earnest. Wicklow Lad, who had led or disputed from the off, was headed five out by The Falklander with North Staffordshire raider, Kashline a close third. The latter set sail for home under Tommie O'Brien on the testing climb to three out but, after being three lengths clear over the last two fences, his stride shortened on the run-in and the 10 year old couldn't respond as Wicklow Lad (Kit Alexander) swept past to score by a length. This was a 10th career success, including 8 under Rules, for the evergreen 12 year old who made his racecourse debut almost 8 years ago to the day in a Gowran Park Maiden Hurdle.
Kinneston trainer, Nick Alexander, who is on course for one of his best seasons having already sent out 24 winners under Rules and 2 between the flags, indicated that Wicklow Lad might run next in a Carlisle Hunters' chase on Sunday 20th March provided the going remains soft.
Kit's victory along with two placed rides at Alnwick puts him one point ahead of Tom Hamilton in the Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship, while Catherine Walton is fifteen points clear of Rachael McDonald in the Ladies title race.