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duncombe park
Saturday 18th February 2006

by Ian Marshall
photos by Arthur Thompson

Duncombe Park was bathed in glorious sunshine for the second meeting of the Yorkshire season and the day was characterized by a number of close finishes. The lengthy uphill run-in means more races are won and lost there than any other track in the area. The course had absorbed the midweek rain well, leaving the going only a little softer than good. It was a good afternoon for last year’s Yorkshire champion riders with a hat-trick for Serena Brotherton and a double for Ben Woodhouse, indicating that they aren’t prepared to relinquish their titles without a fight.

Seven runners for the Hunt Members and a duel after the final fence between Emperor’s Son and Iron Express, which the former got the better of by a neck. Serena Brotherton was very patient on the winner and didn’t play her hand until the last 200 yards. Emperor’s Son remains a solid performer on his day. Jacqueline Coward looked to have poached the race on Iron Express at the bottom of the hill and Iron Express battled bravely, but couldn’t quite hang on. On this evidence, he is going to hold his own in points. It is worth bearing in mind that he did win over four miles under Rules when with George Moore. Fifteen lengths back in third were Steviebill and Oliver Greenall. Steviebill has switched stables to David Easterby since he was a good second in a restricted at Alnwick in January. Cmewin (Mark Walford) kept boxing on for fourth.

Emperors Son (Serena Brotherton) holds off Iron Express (Jacqueline Coward)

The Confined attracted 15 horses, with the 2004 victor Mr Pendleberry proving the stronger under a forceful ride from Nicky Tinkler. He was there or thereabouts without getting his head in front last year and had made an encouraging seasonal debut at Witton Castle a fortnight ago. With a lot of tenacity, Mr Pendleberry defied the challenge of Sams Way and Clive Mulhall up the hill. Sams Way made his way right through field after being held up early doors, but could never quite get on terms on the run-in. He has shown more than enough here and at Witton Castle, where he was a fine second to Ellie Bee, to collect a confined or intermediate. Donnybrook (Ben Woodhouse) in third emerges with credit as he was conceding seven pounds to the first and second. Queenies Girl was fourth for Paul Frank and came on leaps and bounds on her second outing of 2006. Sweeping Storm was staying on in fifth. Whitley Grange Boy has exhibited sufficient ability this year to suggest he might be able to sneak a novice riders’ race under Oliver Pimlott. Preston Brook hasn’t had a great deal of racing and needed his return. Kiora Bay had begun to backpedal after setting the pace, before he clouted the second last, while Flat Stanley might not have acted on the track as this was too bad to be true.

Runner-up Sams Way (Clive Mulhall)

The field in the Confined
L-to-R: Mr Pendleberry (Nicky Tinkler), Kiora Bay (David Thomas), Cimarrone  Cove (Jacqueline Coward)
& Flat Stanley (Jo Foster)

Participants numbered 13 in the Restricted and produced the tightest conclusion of the day. Just A Man, with Ben Woodhouse in the plate, and Kindle A Flame, ridden by Guy Brewer, were locked in combat for the final furlong and flashed past the lollipop together. The verdict went to Just A Man, although several observers felt that it should have gone the other way, but it is the judge’s decision that matters. Just A Man has understandably been called some names in the past as he is notorious for finding nil off the bridle, but he put his best hoof forward this afternoon. It was the third time in succession that Kindle A Flame has been runner-up and it is hard to envisage him not going one better soon. The official distance was given as a neck, but was surely actually closer than that. There were ten lengths to Come Ashore and Jo Foster in third. Come Ashore was at the head of affairs from the outset and only gave best from the home turn. He was prone to the odd howler in Ireland, but as long as his jumping deficiencies do not resurface, a restricted is within his capabilities. Sound Advise (William Kinsey) plugged on for fourth. The well-backed Mighty Man folded tamely, whilst Master Kris went out like a light shortly after halfway. Pop Play Again is learning and is still qualified for maidens.

Ben Woodhouse was at his most vigorous on Mr Mahdlo as they disposed of eight opponents in the Mens Open. It was looking bleak for their supporters when Ben was hard at work well before halfway as the favourite dropped towards the rear. However, persistence paid dividends in the end as Mr Mahdlo finally asserted in the last 100 yards to claim a contest he also won two years ago. Mr Mahdlo will again win his fair share of races in 2006. Having been prominent throughout, Robber got second under Michael Morley. Robber was pretty smart at his level under Rules whilst in the care of Peter Bowen and can pay his way in point-to-points. He was an out-and-out stayer and, although it is six weeks away, Robber could be a candidate for the Grimthorpe at Whitwell-on-the-Hill. Third-placed Junior Fontaine (Oliver Greenall) could never land a blow, but was within five lengths at the line. Was A Drive showed a bit more in fourth for Paul Hodgson. Journey won’t have been suited by the course and was also at a fitness disadvantage, while Victoria’s Boy rarely comes good in February. Castleford will be happier in a confined in his native north-west with the benefit of this run behind him.

It was certainly quality rather than quantity as seven horses lined up for the Ladies Open. Mister Bromley and Serena Brotherton gained their revenge on Wilfie Wild and Lynne Ward following a defeat by their adversaries at Witton Castle. Mister Bromley had been carrying some condition that day and turned the tables here. He will be aiming to match his five victories from 2005 this year. Once he set sail for home, Mister Bromley courageously fought off his rival. Wilfie Wild was another reminder that it is never easy to pass a determined leader on the final climb. He’ll be winning again before long. Tina Jackson guided Bobby Buttons into third. They weren’t beaten all that far on this reappearance and, if he can take to the bigger fences, a hunter chase can come his way. Duchess Account in fourth was as usual putting in her best work at the death for Emma Brader. The partnership managed three successes together last campaign and, even though this was their first ladies open, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2006 now that they have a run under their belts. San Francisco was desperately in need of the race and will be a different proposition next time. Should these five meet again later in the season, it will be a thriller.

The concluding two events were reduced to 14 fences as two obstacles on each circuit were sensibly omitted due to the low sun.

A capacity field of 18 was present for Division One of the Maiden and the honours went to Master Jackson and Serena Brotherton. He had been thought to be best suited by a short course, but Master Jackson never looked like stopping in the last quarter mile. Gunner Royal was assisted into second by Jacqueline Coward. Gunner Royal was the market leader and should be able to pick up a maiden. Master Jackson and Gunner Royal were fifth and sixth respectively behind the best novice horse seen so far this season, Green Admiral, at Witton Castle. The ultra-consistent Mighty Rising was third in the hands of Charlotte Cundall. At the age of 11, there was is no one that would begrudge Mighty Rising getting his head in front, but whether he can do so isn’t easy to evaluate. Kappillan (Mark Walford) ended up fourth after it had seemed he would be pulled up with the best part of a mile to go. Irene Kate was never competitive and The Viking departed before the race had begun in earnest.

Master Jackson completes a treble for Serena Brotherton

Division Two of the Maiden had 15 declarations. Alfie Twofourtwo came out on top under Mark Walford and deserved this. Owned by Ferdy Murphy, Alfie Twofourtwo hadn’t always appeared to be in love with the game, but his previous effort when runner-up in Green Admiral’s Witton Castle maiden is rock solid form. There was a blanket finish between four horses today, with these four miles clear, and he stuck to his task well. Ask Bobby continued Guy Brewer’s rich vein of second places, beaten half a length. It will be a surprise if Ask Bobby isn’t up to landing a maiden. He seemed as though he was going to get outpaced as the tempo increased, but came back with vigour in the shadow of the post. Guy’s abysmal luck shows no sign of ending. No doubt, one winner will lead to a welcome flood of them. There was another half a length to The Poser and Chris Dawson in third. The Poser had been fourth in that Witton Castle heat won by Green Admiral and also has a maiden in his sights. A close fourth was Alpha Lima (Simon Walker). This was a big step up on his first outing between the flags at Thorpe Lodge in January. Willynilly never got into it, but Kippour is less than straightforward.

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