Although many parts of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders were affected by rain and wintry showers on Sunday, there were no weather problems at Alnwick for the College Valley & North Northumberland fixture which took place on perfect jumping ground.
It attracted 40 runners from all parts of the UK as well as three of this season's leading novice riders, George Chatterton, William Humphrey and Luca Morgan, who were all chasing the double points on offer in all six races for the PPORA Members' Awards at this PPORA-supported meeting.
Trainers visiting Alnwick for the first time included Somerset-based Johnny Farrelly (round trip of 740 miles), Newmarket-based Sarah Humphrey (round trip of 570 miles), Inverurie-based Jackie Stephen (round trip of 470 miles) and Lincolnshire-based Chris Bealby (round trip of 400 miles).
Almost nine years after making his debut in a Tattersalls Farm Maiden contest, Distime (George Chatterton) showed that he still retains plenty of enthusiasm for the game at the age of 13 with a sixth career win, including four under Rules, in the Womble Bond Dickinson PPORA Club Members Conditions Race for Novice Riders. Somerset raider, Gingili (Luca Morgan) was produced with a well-timed challenge to lead two out and seemed to have the prize in the bag when two lengths clear approaching the last but got in deep and lost momentum with a slow jump. In contrast, Distime flew the last and hit the front half-way up the run-in before going on to score by two and a half lengths with Sealous Scout (Joe Williamson) running a blinder in third on his first start since October 2015.
This was George's 4th winner in his debut season. Distime carries the colours of his grandfather, Mike Chatterton and is trained by Chris Bealby.
Frankies Fire supplemented last month's Corbridge Maiden success in the JSR Farming Group Restricted Race to initiate a double for Nick Orpwood. After heading Rushour Ryan (Sarah Fenwick) two out, Jimmy Walton's home-bred six-year-old mare forged clear on the flat to win by seven lengths.
Orpwood said: ''I got a breather into her down the far side and the leader came back to us going up the hill after four out.''
Winged Crusader (Amie Waugh) clinched the Imperial Racing-sponsored Alnwick Races Champion Horse Award (£500 first prize) when completing a four-timer, including an Alnwick hat-trick, in the Lloyds Bank Ladies Open Race. Maintaining a relentless gallop from the off, the eleven-year-old cruised home eight lengths ahead of Roderick Random (Charlotte Dun) in the best time of the day. Currently in the form of his life, Amie's mount has plenty of hunter chase options in the second half of the season.
Another experienced campaigner, Scarlet Fire, who completed a five-timer in 2014 under his owner/trainer, Joey Richards, got back to winning ways in the UBS Men's Open Race. Ridden for the first time by Lyall Hodgins, 17, the twelve-year-old was always prominent and battled back well to secure a neck verdict over Local Show (William Humphrey) after being briefly headed on the run-in.
Although Lyall has ridden under Rules this season, this was his debut between the flags and he is the new leader in the Northern Area Novice Riders Championship.
Nick Orpwood completed his double on Victoria McKie's home-bred gelding, Specialarrangement in the Saffrey Champness Elisabeth Joicey Memorial Open Maiden Race. The five-year-old warmed to his task as the contest unfolded and, despite running a bit green, hit the front approaching the last to claim a three lengths success over Emory (William Humphrey).
Trained at Lanton near Wooler and qualified with the host hunt, this was a very popular win in the well known green and yellow colours of the McKie family, who enjoyed plenty of success at Alnwick a few years ago with Crazy Diamond and The Falklander.
The concluding 2 mile JRL Group Point-to-Point Flat Race saw the Gary Rutherford-trained debutant, King Erik trounce his seven rivals under Sheriff Hutton-based jockey, Emma Todd. The five-year-old engaged overdrive at the top of the home straight to leave the opposition toiling and, despite being eased right down in the closing stages, still had fourteen lengths to spare over Tip Stream (Nick Orpwood) with Newmarket raider, Rumble B (William Humphrey) a further five lengths away in third.
Former jumps jockey turned trainer, Jedburgh-based Rutherford said: ''I bought him privately as a three-year-old and broke him in. He has worked well at home recently and been schooled over fences as well as enjoying a racecourse gallop at Newcastle in January. A trip to the Doncaster May Sales is now on the cards.''
Last season's Alnwick Flat Race winner, Lochinver, also trained by Rutherford and ridden by Emma, followed the same path and was sold for £40,000.
As usual, Clerk of the Course, Tom Oates and his team had the Ratcheugh Farm course in great condition for all the meetings this season despite some challenging weather conditions at times. The 3 surviving fixtures (Ratcheugh Racing Club,West Percy and College Valley) attracted a total of 156 runners across 18 races with a healthy average of 8.7 per race.