A sparse crowd made their way to Howe Hills on a dank, drizzly and misty day, but those in attendance were treated to some notable performers on superb ground. The highlight was Oliver Greenall riding a double on horses owned by his father Lord Daresbury. There was also the rare sighting of four runners in points from Ferdy Murphy’s stable and the man himself was on hand to oversee matters.
Proceedings began with seven runners in the Confined, which went the way of Shackleton and Oliver Greenall. Trained by David Easterby, Shackleton supplemented his victory in a Brocklesby Park confined, while sandwiched between these two efforts was a close second to the useful Mr Mahdlo in a mens open at Dalton Park. There was much to like about his display today and it would be no surprise to see Shackleton pick up a mens open of his own before the end of the season. Urban Hymn wasn’t given a particularly hard time by Tom Dreaper when the runner-up position was guaranteed. He was saddled with a seven pound penalty, which was a hindrance to his chances, and he’ll pay his way if remaining in this sphere. Scotmail Lad in third finds three miles an absolute limit to his stamina and Clive Mulhall may look to hunter chases at shorter trips. Sweeping Storm (Chris Dawson) in fourth will come on a bundle for the run. Glendamah will not usually meet such high class rivals at this level. Lee’s Rosie was reluctant to go to post and only decided to race after the other runners had taken three fences. To say the least, she is one to have severe reservations about.
With 14 in the Restricted, it had a pretty competitive look at about it, but there was an easy winner in Sams Way. A patient ride from Philip Kinsella meant Sams Way made steady headway to lead after three out and he readily pulled clear for a comfortable success. Having landed a maiden at Whitwell in 2004 having been previously unlucky at Charm Park, he’s the type to go on to better things. Queenies Girl excelled herself in second for Paul Frank, as it didn’t appear to be an overly strong four-runner maiden that she won at Hutton Rudby last week. Northern raider Highland Brig, with Ran Morgan on board, was third and put in another sound performance. Carew (Lee Bates) in fourth often takes time to warm up and runs on a bit too late. Magic Route wasn’t disgraced after not being far off the pace throughout and Rising Talisker didn’t get on too badly in her first restricted.
Eight went to post for the Mens Open. At the age of 14, Birkdale rolled back the years under the excellent Tom Dreaper to dig deep on the run-in and hold off Buddy Girie and Philip Cornforth by three lengths. Birkdale had not unexpectedly gone downhill under Rules, but recalled events of his heyday to take glory on his first start between the flags. The Murphy team were jubilant at the result and the popular grey might have found his current grade. It was another steady display from Buddy Girie. Diamond Monroe and Oliver Greenall took third after some indifferent jumps. Max’s Micro and Lee Bates plugged on for fourth. Mademist Sam spoiled his chance by jumping out to the right and is better going the other way around.
Division One of the Maiden attracted 11 runners and honours went to Zesta Fiesta and Oliver Greenall. They had just a neck to spare though over Shirostran and Nigel Smith. Zesta Fiesta was representing the Susan Grant yard and did help himself by settling somewhat better than last time at Charm Park, although he isn’t the most fluent of jumpers. A mistake in the home straight probably cost Shirostran the race and a maiden is well within his sights, although he too pulls very hard. Black Rainbow (Tina Jackson) in third is another who should soon gain reward for consistency. Rare Presence (Guy Brewer) in fourth finds it difficult to quicken at the business end. Bally Leader has the potential to improve, while Ballyowen looked the part in the paddock, but was well beaten a long way from home.
Of the five in the Ladies Open, three had won similar events last time out, but Ledgendry Line and Serena Brotherton held all the aces to score. For a 12-year-old, Ledgendry Line has comparatively few miles on the clock and was the winner of a decent heat at Dalton Park earlier in the month. He should be followed until finding his match. Ikdam Melody is a strong performer and was second for Jo Foster, albeit that he was swept aside without too much trouble. He’d been successful at Hutton Rudby a week ago and will have his day again. Third-placed Meander (Jane Hollands) set a good clip, but could only run on at the one pace once headed. Friars Haugh was the venue for his triumph a fortnight previously. Fayalie (Charlotte Brown) was a well beaten fourth.
The Intermediate saw nine horses declared and the impressive Wilfie Wild justified odds-on favouritism, piloted by Lynne Ward. Hitting the front at the top of the hill, the matter was soon put beyond doubt. Wilfie Wild has improved out of all recognition this campaign and the progressive Vics Fane is the only horse to lower his colours in 2005. Lynne Ward had gone three years without riding a winner, but two have now arrived in two weeks. Orleans finished second under Simon Robinson and is in good heart, especially after taking a Hutton Rudby restricted last week. All For Jake and Richard Clark were third and Marjorie Fife’s string always deserve respect. Fourth went to the game chestnut Step Lively (Wayne Burnell). John Rich would more than likely have been fifth or sixth, but for running out at the second last. Durham Dandy has been below par this year.
There were eight horses involved in Division Two of the Maiden, with just three finishing. Forty Shakes (Chris Dawson) claimed the race for trainer Maria Myco, gaining ample compensation for slipping on landing at the second last at Charm Park in early March. He’ll have decent hopes for a restricted. The same trainer/rider combination had recently won a Catterick hunter chase with Sir Alf. Kings Bloom and Trevor Glass were a fine second. Kings Bloom went into many notebooks on his Witton Castle point to point debut in February. He still has something to learn in the jumping department, but even so the fencing was much better today. A maiden is definitely in the cards. A fierce pace was made by Noggler (Steve Charlton) and he did well to stick on for third. Born Special paid for trying to keep up with the strong gallop. Jimmy Blues is excitable and hard to weigh up.