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Review of 2017 Northern Area season by Peter Burgon

For once, the 2017 Northern Area season was barely affected by the weather, with waterlogging leading to the abandonment of only one of the 16 scheduled fixtures - the College Valley & North Northumberland on March 5.

The 15 Northern Area cards attracted a total of 1319 entries and 692 runners, with an average of 6.92 per race. The Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick proved very popular with owners and trainers from all over the country and its three early season meetings saw a total of 191 runners face the starter for a record-breaking average of 10.05 per race.

2015 winner, Nick Orpwood, 29, regained the Albert Bartlett (Airdrie) Ltd Men's Jockeys Championship. He partnered eleven winners, the highlights being doubles at the Duke of Buccleuch's and Berwickshire meetings. Although he drew a blank at the last five fixtures, he still finished 14 points ahead of 2014 champion Tom Hamilton, with last year's champion, Kit Alexander a further 2 points away in third.

Kelly Bryson, 31, carried off the YoungsRPS Ladies Championship, seven years after completing a hat-trick of title wins. She partnered four winners and also had placed rides at five other meetings to finish 6 points ahead of Joanna Walton, with Amie Waugh a further point away in third. Bryson, who opened her account on Junior Des Ormeaux at Whittington in March 2005 and went on to reach a career tally of 71 winners, including 7 under Rules, announced her retirement from the saddle at the end of the season.

The first winners of her career on The Ketchup Kid and Clonea Power at Mosshouses on May 7 helped Laura Fenwick clinch the NPPA Novice Riders Championship with seventeen points. She finished 9 points ahead of first-season jockey, Crawford Robertson, with another debutante, Lucy Brown a further 3 points away in third.

Niel Manning's 10 year old gelding, Cave Hunter was a worthy winner of the £500 prize awarded to the Area's Champion Horse and sponsored by George F White. Never of the first two in fifteen starts between the flags since being bought at Doncaster Sales in 2013, he secured a fourth win of the campaign in the Border Men's Open.

The Jedforest (85pts) were runaway winners of the Buccleuch Arms, St Boswells Hunt Awards, with the Berwickshire (57pts) and Fife (49pts) filling the minor placings.

Kitty Fisher, a 7 year old Scorpion mare who was bought privately in Ireland as a foal for only 1000 euros, landed the Area Novice Horse and Area Leading Mare Championships. Owned by North Tyne farmer, Michael Walton, she scored at Friars Haugh and Mosshouses and finished in the frame on her other four starts. In addition, Walton's charge received a trophy worth £250 for winning the Northern Area's PPORA Young Horse Award.

The Northern Area Awards Dinner will be held at Kelso Racecourse on Saturday 9th September.

Hunt racing enthusiasts can now enjoy a six month break before it all starts again at Alnwick in December.

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