Midlands Area Club
The start at Thorpe Lodge was moved to the entrance to the back straight and it worked very well after last season’s meeting had been dogged by false starts. The ground was quite tacky and the trip took some getting.
The Midland Area Club Members attracted nine runners and contained several proven performers. Nautical Lad came out on top under Joe Docker despite conceding seven pounds to his rivals. Two or three years ago, Nautical Lad had a worthy tall reputation, but in 2006 he seemed to develop his own thoughts on the game having been successful on his reappearance. It could therefore be that nowadays he is best fresh, but still possesses undoubted ability and stayed on resolutely to gain the day. Runner-up True Friday and Richard Armson were run out of it by two lengths. The mare looked the likeliest winner at the second last, however she did hang a little to the right in the final furlong or so. True Friday should nevertheless be adding to her four point-to-point victories in the near future. Harapour was guided into third by Richard Hunnisett, never quite getting to the leaders. Sadler’s Lamp (Nick Kent) in fourth got outpaced before keeping on in the latter stages. Anatar was prominent for much of the journey, but got tired and might be better off for the run.
An incident-packed Mens Open had nine runners and a dramatic finish saw Control Man in the hands of Stuart Robinson pip Saint Reverien and Adrian Wintle. Formerly owned by David Johnson and trained by the Pipe team, Control Man was once a serious contender in staying handicap chases. Still only nine, he’d lost none of his fighting qualities to regain the advantage once headed by Saint Reverien. On the longer tracks in points, Control Man will take all the beating. Saint Reverien was held up, cruised through to join issue running to the last, but didn’t find all that much when asked to win his race. Not the most straightforward of rides, he’ll be found far easier opportunities than this to add to his nine wins between the flags. Major Shark and Chris Cundall were a distance back in third, ahead of the pace-setter Kjetil and Dickie Barrett. Bica was traveling strongly and looked a big threat when a loose horse took him and Sam Waley-Cohen through the wing at the final ditch. Montreal, Tourniquet and Whitley Grange Boy were all casualties before the race had begun in earnest.
A field of 11 lined up for the Ladies Open that had strength in depth. Claire Allen picked up where she left off in 2006 as she was seen to good effect on Quarter Masters. Rachel Clark seemed to have pinched an important lead on Claire’s Nomad going to the penultimate obstacle, but Quarter Masters hadn’t thrown in the towel and he found a second wind to collar Claire’s Nomad in the final 50 yards to claim the spoils. Having taken a Market Rasen hunter chase last May, Quarter Masters has returned in fine shape. Claire’s Nomad can be relied upon to run his race and should collect a ladies open before the season is out. Third was Mondial Jack (Rachel Reynolds), who kept boxing on, but didn’t have the change of gear to trouble the front two. In fourth was the great Sheriff’s Friend for Jenny Gordon. With 16 victories in points to his name, he will have simpler tasks than this in the south. The ex-Tom George-trained grey Rosetown will strip fitter next time.
There were sixteen runners for the Restricted and the well-backed Romper Stomper was urged ahead in the closing stages by the excellent Stuart Morris, ending up a neck to the good from The Randy Bishop and Adam Wadlow at the post. The Randy Bishop seemed to have stolen a crucial advantage after the third last, but he was reeled in by the winner. Louise Allan’s charge Romper Stomper caught the eye of several observers in the paddock, was produced to perfection by his rider and should continue to progress. The Randy Bishop is going in the right direction and his time will come. Third-placed Shafts Chance, with Kelda Wood on top, wasn’t able to quicken at the business end, although it wasn’t a bad display by any means. Bulmer Bank was fourth for Nick Docker and faded late on. He was rather in and out when he ran in Yorkshire, but does possess the raw talent to find a race of this nature. Big Star was always struggling, while the favourite True Legend departed at the third. On his British debut, The Common Thread will benefit considerably from the race.
The Intermediate brought together ten hopefuls. Ask Bobby, partnered by Guy Brewer, took the plaudits to complete a four-timer, following victories at Brocklesby Park and twice at Garthorpe. Always in the leading three or four, he kept finding extra in the final furlong when pressed. This imposing customer hasn’t had a lot of racing and remains on an upward curve. A series of prodigious leaps sealed this success as he gained a couple of lengths at several fences. Future plans are fluid, but the Hiscox Intermediate Final wouldn’t be flying too high if underfoot conditions were suitable. Flashy Boy and Hannah Kinsey chased hard in vain pursuit to go down by half a length, having been to the fore throughout. On his first start since joining the Kinsey camp, Irish export Flashy Boy left the impression that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with, especially while there is cut in the ground. Forty Shakes was a further five lengths back in third under Chris Dawson. He doesn’t have many miles on the clock and should hold his own at this level. Fourth-placed Tallow Bridge (Stuart Morris) is consistent and wasn’t knocked about in a lost cause. The outing will have done him the power of good. A gamble went awry on Real Cracker. Arnold Layne, a bumper winner with Richard Phillips, flattered to deceive, like some of the other runners from the Bailey stable.
Some fair sorts turned out for Division One of the Maiden, which had 11 runners, and the form ought to hold up pretty well. Claire Allen was at her best on Why Connie to make it a double for her on the day. Why Connie’s chance appeared to have gone, but sneaking up the inside he renewed his challenge and forged ahead close to the line. Runner-up French Envoy (Oliver Greenall) cruised to the front leveling up for home, but whether his rider was overly confident or the horse failed to go through with his effort, French Envoy didn’t find a great deal from the last fence. Albert House in third for Rachel Reynolds gave his best when push came to shove and put in a similar performance to his second placing at Cottenham on New Year’s Eve. Fourth went to Teeton Bollinger, who had Stuart Morris for assistance. He is a nice type and given time should pay his way. Moraira never got into it and Shapani found it equally hard to keep up.
Eleven horses set out for Division Two of the Maiden, which turned out to be the fastest of the three. An exciting climax saw Scattered Scarlet and Ashley Bealby get the better of a ding-dong battle with Alformasi and Joe Docker by a head. Scattered Scarlet has returned to action in good form and was building on a promising effort at Ampton a fortnight ago. He was tenacious to hold off Alformasi and can make his presence felt in restricteds. Alformasi stuck to his task and it will be a surprise if he doesn’t land a maiden in the near future. Furze Hill under Alex Merriam in third shaped with credit and has shown enough to be capable of picking up a maiden. Clonshire King (Patrick Millington) was a country mile behind in fourth. The horse was out on his feet and tailed off approaching the final fence, yet he was still forced to jump it. Quite how Clonshire King got to the other side intact is anyone’s guess. It does the sport we all love no favours at all if a rider continues when their mount is clearly not in a fit state to do so.
Twelve horses faced the starter for Division Three of the Maiden, which on paper looked the weakest of the three, and just three completed the course. It did provide an impressive winner though in Banchory Two, with Oliver Greenall in the plate, who finished a fresh horse, despite the fact that the ground was understandably chewed up by this point. Banchory Two jumped well to win by a distance. However, whether it was quite necessary for three cracks of the whip to be administered on the run-in is open to debate. Formerly an inmate of Paul Nicholls, Banchory Two was knocked down for £9500 at Doncaster Sales in May 2006. Vallum (Stuart Ross) got very tired in second, having been up with the pace from flagfall. Jago’s Girl was nursed round in third by Stuart Morris. Ballynonty went out like a light, but might not have been suited by the testing conditions, while Fusion of Tunes may have stamina limitations.