MIDLANDS AREA CLUB
Sunday 29th January 2006
by Ian Marshall
A bumper turnout of 115 horses for nine races, the novice riders contest having had to be split on the day, on superb ground meant a veritable feast for racegoers. The threat of frost put the meeting in jeopardy, but any firmness had cleared before raceday and the organizers were fully rewarded for their efforts.
The Midland Area Club Members opened proceedings with 14 of the 16 entries holding their ground and the honours went to Tooley Park and Lenny Hicks. A winner at Higham on his seasonal reappearance in 2005, Tooley Park clearly goes well fresh. He continues to go from strength to strength and is very capable of taking his tally between the flags to five. Runner-up Russian Friend was ridden exceptionally patiently by Joe Docker, creeping closer on the final lap, before appearing to blow up, then running on again in the closing stages to get within two and a half lengths of the winner. He’s one to watch next time. Close behind in third were Silver Buzzard and Stuart Morris. Always chasing the leaders, Silver Buzzard got the three miles well. Providing there is no bounce factor, Silver Buzzard will be of interest when tackling ladies opens under Gemma Hutchinson. Near and Phar and Louise Allan could only run on at the one pace in fourth, but they will surely find easier races. Motcomb Jam was a shade disappointing as he looked forward enough, however Fine Times was in need of the race. Clear Dawn set a fast pace before dropping quickly away, while Native Hunter retains ability, even after suffering from health problems over the past couple of years. There may be something amiss with Hi Up Brenkley as he is much better than he has shown on his two outings in 2006.
In the 12-runner Mens Open, an alarming leap at the penultimate fence failed to prevent Saint Reverien and Adrian Wintle staving off the late surge of Another Raleagh and Liam Payter. Clive Hitchings’ campaigner racked up a hat-trick last season (and four wins in total) and there is every chance of him following suit this year. Another Raleagh prefers to be held up and was putting in his best work at the finish, even though he usually ran over shorter distances under Rules. He boasts some useful novice chase form from 2002 and 2003, including a two-length third to a certain Monkerhostin. Third-placed The Noble Roman (Tom Ellis) is in good order and was beaten only another length, probably putting in a career best display to do so. Bedtime Boys (Joe Docker) in fourth will be better off for the race, although he still emerged with credit. Northsprite will no doubt be seen to more effect with a tidier jumping performance and Family Business was bang in contention when losing all hope through sprawling on landing six from home. Spring Margot was made favourite, but ejected Tom Greenall at the second ditch, having made a hash of the same obstacle first time around.
Since her emergence, Claire Allen rarely strays far from the headlines, and she showed why in a Ladies Open that featured 11 combatants to further enhance her burgeoning reputation. Ignoring a breakneck gallop, she brought Watchyourback through with a perfectly timed challenge to lead at the last and run on strongly to score. After a year off, Watchyourback returned in solid shape and Dick Baimbridge can place him to add to this victory. Madge Carroll, with Jane Williams in the saddle, was second and will find easier opportunities. He raced close to the pace and a mistake at the final fence sealed his fate. Mydante (Sian Carter) in third was far from disgraced. Find Me Another (Amy Stennett) was the instigator of the fierce gallop and unsurprisingly found little at the business end. Dolphin Square looked very burly.
16 horses set out for the Restricted and Home By Midnight was victorious under Tom Ellis. Not yet out of the first three in five point-to-points, Home By Midnight showed a good attitude to defeat Sweet Citizen and Jane Williams. Home By Midnight is a game mare and was a sound runner-up to the possibly useful President Hill at Barbury Castle a fortnight ago. She looked extremely well in the paddock and is obviously a cut above the average. Like his stable companion in the previous race, Sweet Citizen was none too fluent at the last, costing him any chance of getting closer than the one and a half lengths at the line. A restricted is well within his capabilities. A warm jolly, Reasonably Sure was given a quiet waiting ride by Tom Greenall and seemed set to have a hand in the finish, but he appeared to inexplicably try to pull himself up after jumping the second last about four lengths down. Whilst his prowess is not in question, his worrying temperament means that Reasonably Sure is not one to take a short price about. The fastest finisher was The Camerengo (Rowan Cope) in fourth. Detached out the back of the field for most of the contest, he was flying at the death and put in an extremely eyecatching performance. It was a big step up on his first run for Caroline Bailey at Tweseldown, when the ground was admittedly desperate. A recruit from Ireland, he is definitely one to take from the race. Mile High City made much of the running and wasn’t beaten out of sight, while Ever So Humbel will improve for the outing.
The Novice Riders race was split into two divisions of ten. The first division went to Nokimover and Alex Vaughan-Jones, already successful at Higham this season. Nokimover is a force to be reckoned with in these types of race, having previously shown fair form in ladies opens. Workaway in second has obvious stamina limitations, but Henry Kinchin is now able to anchor this hard-puller at the back. A short course is his best hope of a win. Whitley Grange Boy filled third, on whom Oliver Pimlott was having his first ride. The youngster acquitted himself nicely and the experience will have been invaluable. Fourth-placed Finbar’s Revenge (Maxine Filby) is headstrong and needs to learn to settle to exhibit his true ability. Killerine looked a difficult ride.
The second division saw Abbey Days triumph with Sian Carter in the plate. Abbey Days indicated that his 33-1 shock at Barbury Castle was no fluke. The winning rider gained her first success that day, but wasted no time in adding to it. The partnership get on well together and races of this sort are likely to be on the cards. Glacial River and Clare Rowson had no answer to the winner’s burst, but put in a decent effort in second. A steady display by Only Once and Richard Evans secured third. State Medlar and Simon Moreton made some late headway to grab fourth in a race he won last year. Whilst State Medlar certainly isn’t getting any younger, he remains a force at this level. Sadly, Dinsey Finnegan collapsed in the unsaddling enclosure after the race.
15 horses faced the starter for Division One of the Maiden and Irish Prince tore off in front. He began to weaken after a lap though, when Linlithgow Lad took over and Scott Pettell guided the latter home as four tired horses fought out the finish. Linlithgow Lad grabbed the initiative and stayed on dourly to make a winning debut. There ought to bags of potential for the future for this slick fencer. Runner-up Maestro Please (Jason Newbold) had little form of account over hurdles, but appears to have stamina in abundance for his new life in points. There was a whisper for third-placed Our Man In Bangkok beforehand and he showed himself to be a lively outsider. Richard Wakeham couldn’t quite galvanize him into fast enough action at the climax, but he can find a maiden when there’s cut in the ground. Also available at long prices was French Bey in fourth, Nick Pearce cajoling the mare to take part in the closing stages. Although it probably wasn’t a great race, this failed ex-hurdler showed a modicum of ability to suggest she will be of consequence in this field. Monalease was never competitive, however Thisisyourlife went into the wings of the 11th fence, but failed to come out the other side. Unfortunately, he was found to have broken a shoulder.
There was a maximum field of 16 for the Second Division that went to Sadler’s Lamp and Nick Kent. Formerly with Oliver Sherwood over hurdles, Sadler’s Lamp has decent prospects in this sphere. In second, Preston Magic had the assistance of Stuart Morris on top and looks to have strengthened up over the summer. Shiela’s Legacy claimed third for Michael Keel on his first outing in Britain. Pretty Lady Rose stuck on genuinely in fourth under Mark Wall. She was up with the pace for much of the journey and couldn’t quicken, but there was sufficient to like about this. Irishtown Leader is an appalling jumper and lost ground at virtually every fence. Thatlldoya departed at the 6th, when the headstrong Bonnyjo ran out while leading. In an open betting heat, Howard Howard vied for favouritism and was close enough if good enough when getting the 13th all wrong.
There was a sedate gallop for the 11 runners that came under orders for the Division Three finale. Taking nothing away from a scintillating display by the five-year-old mare Ruggtah, it will be remembered for the performance of Lambhill Stakes in third. Stuart Morris did the steering on the recruit from Rules and they were an impressive 11 lengths ahead at the post. Ruggtah can take further advantage of her allowances during the rest of the season. Second went the way of Fair Promise (Richard Armson) and this consistent sort surely has a maiden in him. An injudicious ride from Oliver Greenall left Lambhill Stakes far too much to do. Behind in the early stages, very little attempt was made to take closer order or a challenging position. In the home straight, there seemed to be minimal effort to even try for second, especially as the pairing ended up only half a length behind Fair Promise at the line. Whilst Lambhill Stakes is a quirky customer and exhibited an awkward head carriage, it didn’t look good and punters were left fuming. Moraira (Simon Walker) in fourth gave hope after missing 2005.
One disappointing note was four false starts from nine races. I find it difficult to put too much blame on the riders as my experience is that one false start every four or five meetings is the average.