After a quiet start to the season, Kit Alexander was back in business with a short-priced double on Sunday's Duke of Buccleuch's card at Friars Haugh, Kelso, taking his career tally between the flags to 40.
Killer Crow set the ball rolling for Kit when ending a losing run stretching back to December 2015 in the Brewin Dolphin Men's Open Race. The ten-year-old dictated a slow pace from the outset and overcame mistakes four out and three out before staying on strongly down the home straight to beat Purcell's Bridge (William Shananan) by fifteen lengths. Buzzkillbob (Joe Wright), who won an Irish Maiden in 2016, was a further length away in third on his first start for Lucy Horner and is worth following when dropped in grade.
The gelding's in-form Kinneston trainer, Nick Alexander said: "He lost his way completely under Rules in Ireland when trained by Gordon Elliott and he suggested it was worth taking a punt on him at the annual Gigginstown Dispersal at Doncaster Sales. Following disappointing runs at Ayr and Cheltenham in the autumn we decided to change the way we train him. Since then he hasn't had a serious gallop at home, only light canters but it has done the trick."
Kit doubled up in the Turcan Connell NPPA Riders' Conditions Race on Wayupinthesky, who also landed the corresponding contest in March 2017. However, it was not all plain sailing for the twelve-year-old who came from four lengths off the pace two out to join Pyjama Game (Lucy Brown) at the last before snatching a short-head verdict in a driving finish. The veteran ex-chaser, Relax (Will Ramsay) only weakened approaching the last to finish a gallant third, ten lengths behind the winner.
Alison Hamilton, wife of the gelding's owner/trainer, Gavin, said: "He's an old fox who keeps plenty up his sleeve and that will do his confidence a power of good. Although he has lost a few gears, he is still enjoying his racing and needs to be produced late on the scene otherwise he can just down tools."
It was a case of patience paying off for Susan Wilson's home-bred Steel's Cotton, who got off the mark on her 23rd career outing in the Jockey Club/Scotty Brand Mares Open Maiden Race. Given a positive ride by Emma Todd, the ten-year-old made virtually every yard of the running and was out on her own approaching two out. Eased right down on the run-in, she still finished a distance in front of Fashionistalady (Ross Wilson) with Midnightmistress (Joanna Walton) a further length away in third.
Susan recalled that the winner's grandmother, Weather Along won her maiden in Ireland in March 1992, while her dam, Last Spruce landed a Fife Maiden in 2005 under Andrew Richardson.
This was a well deserved and poignant winner for local trainer, Jane Clark-her first since the death of her father, David Thomson last year.
After scoring on Snow Castle at Hutton Rudby on Saturday, John Dawson rounded off a great weekend by partnering Hardrock Davis to victory in the Connolly's Red Mills Intermediate Race. Jumping and travelling well at the head of affairs from the off, his mount was in command a long way from home and gradually forged clear from two out to secure a fifteen lengths verdict over Takethepunishment (Nick Orpwood). The latter was making an eye-catching return to action after being off the track since May 2017.
Dawson said: "He was quick and economical at his fences," while owner, Kenny Lynn added, "He won his Maiden over a shorter trip here in January but has stepped up in class and proved his stamina over six furlongs further without any problems. His next target is the Buccleuch Cup Maiden Hunters' Chase at Kelso on April 8."
Nick Orpwood extended his lead over Ross Wilson in the Northern Area Jockeys Championship to 19 points with another win on Friars Haugh specialist, Eco Warrior in the Rossie House Duke of Buccleuch's Conditions Race. Confidently ridden, his mount was always doing just enough from three out to keep Royal Avatar (Anna Galbraith) at bay and only had to be pushed out with hands and heels to score by two lengths.
This versatile gelding, successful on the Flat in 2014 under James Doyle and Frankie Dettori, is likely to return here for the Berwickshire meeting on Saturday 30th March in search of a fifth course win.
Nick Alexander's evergreen 14 year old gelding, Rossini's Dancer, who is nearing 100 career starts under all codes, was always up with the pace in the Saffrey Champness Ladies Open Race and looked like giving Mhairi Ogilvie a memorable first winner until Sorcier was delivered with a perfectly timed challenge by Lucy Brown to regain the initiative inside the last fifty yards. Stephanie Anderson also got a great tune out of Whats Left, who finished a further two lengths away in third.
After taking out double entries, there were 40 individual horses entered and 33 of these faced the starter, a remarkable runners to entries ratio of 82.5%.