A warm, sunny afternoon meant the crowds flocked to Howe Hills and they were entertained by 93 horses contesting a bumper nine-race card. A magnificent effort from John Wade, his team and the Cleveland Hunt produced going that was genuinely Good, no mean feat in the current dry spell. They were rightly rewarded for their endeavours with some excellent racing.
The Hunt Members had seven runners and a short-priced jolly in Benwell. Favourite backers had few alarms as the Sunter family’s gelding travelled supremely well under John Dawson and toyed with the opposition before hacking up with any amount in hand. Iron Trooper put in much of the donkeywork up front in the hands of Paul Collins. Whilst he was no match for the winner once Benwell had swept past, he did well to hang on for second just ahead of Miss Sunflower and Tina Jackson. Miss Sunflower is still quite green, although she had come on plenty for her debut at Whitwell. There is more improvement in her. Eisenhower was back in fourth. Bejing Breeze has become disappointing as he isn’t inclined to utilise whatever ability he has.
The Younger Horse Maiden over 2m4f was split on the day and nine horses went to post for Division One. Alpine Warrior hit the front turning for home and cruised clear under Michael Smith for a most impressive success by 15 lengths. Several paddock watchers had noticed how fit this fellow was and he certainly made good use of it to make the best of his way home. He took a bit of a liberty at the last with the contest in the bag, but emerged unscathed. Alpine Warrior had been the only horse to keep tabs on the hard-pulling pacesetter The Real Alydaly and the pair were a long way ahead of their rivals by the second fence. Once The Real Alydaly had given way at the head of affairs, jockey Jo Foster accepted the inevitable and wasn’t hard on him. He should find one of these shorter races before long. Runner-up The Real Alydaly was still a distance clear of the pursuers, who were headed by Pertinax and John Dawson. Pertinax will possibly enjoy the return to three miles, over which he was a fair second here at the last meeting. She Likes To Boogy in fourth did at least get round for the first time on her fifth start. Mustard Millie had a confidence booster after falling at Dalton Park when holding every chance. Chinese Ambassador was pulled up with a slipping saddle at the end of the first lap. Swaledale never got into it and hung badly. He had shaped with such promise on his debut at Duncombe Park and might be seen in a better light back on a right-handed track.
There were also nine runners for Division Two of the Younger Horse Maiden over 2m4f, which went to Dix Huit Cyborg and Steve Charlton. He bounded away coming down the hill for a clear-cut triumph. Dix Huit Cyborg had been struggling to truly get the trip over three miles and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him try a hunter chase over today’s distance at some stage. Runner-up Indian Blizzard (Chris Dawson) was a bit tapped for toe in the closing stages. He was placed behind the useful Eliza Doalott at Whitwell earlier in the month and should have more to offer in the future. A distant third was Who Let The Foxout under Lee Bates. She’s going the right way as well. Charlie Castallan was tailed off in fourth. Differentgear was never sighted, while Perks For Favours dropped out tamely having been prominent to well past halfway. The favourite Floragalore jumped poorly and was always in the rear.
The Ladies Open involved a number of solid performers among the 12 competitors, but on the day Duchess Account took the plaudits in scintillating fashion. Always to the fore, Emma Brader ensured the mare didn’t let Texas Ranger build up any sort of clear advantage. As soon as she went to the front three out, the race was over as a contest in a matter of strides. Renowned as a stayer, Duchess Account displayed terrific speed to post an exceptionally quick time of 6.04. Duchess Account goes from strength to strength and is amazingly still improving at the age of ten. This was her tenth success between the flags and she boasts a near 50% strike rate in her races. She also had October Mist, Texas Ranger, Max’s Micro and Nocatee behind at the previous fixture at this venue. Hadeqa kept on well to be six lengths down at the line for Charlotte Brown. Hadeqa has often run well fresh, but he must take all the beating at his beloved Easingwold in the two forthcoming meetings there. October Mist in third had the services of Pauline Robson for company and ran his best race yet between the flags. Although now into the veteran stage, he might be able to sneak a small race. Fourth-placed Texas Ranger shows his best when allowed to dominate, as he exhibited in disposing of the consistent Flashy Boy at Whittington over Easter. He’ll have his day again. Madison De Vonnas was never better than mid-division, but he was entitled to be thereabouts judged on his achievements at Whitwell. There may have been something amiss and he is worth another chance on a tight circuit.
Eight horses lined up for the Mens Open that saw Mr Hawkeye, with Chris Dawson in the plate, take the honours to complete a hat-trick. He had scored at the March fixture here, before easing to a win in his first open at Hornby Castle and this was another bloodless victory. It will be interesting to see how he fares in a hunter chase as he hasn’t been unduly extended so far this season. There is a lot of potential in this fellow. Richard Wakeham guided Noggler into a respectable second. Noggler has had problems with his jumping, but the stronger handling of his pilot seemed to move him up a notch. On this evidence, there will be an open in him soon. Sajomi Rona, with Ian Smith doing the steering, grabbed third. He has performed creditably on his three appearances in 2007, spring being his time of the year. Keep an eye on him in a hunter chase over less than three miles. Lanaken in fourth again fenced with more fluency and is another that might now be worth a look on sharp track.
A good-looking field of 14, that featured seven horses that had won already this season, was present for the Restricted. However, none of those seven could live with Novel Idea, who turned the event into a procession to win by 15 lengths. Jockey Robert Smith was understandably jubilant as he crossed the line in splendid isolation. The Smith family made it a day to remember and the journey back to Scotland will have seemed a lot shorter after both of their charges carried off top prize. The money had apparently gone west on Novel Idea on more than one occasion earlier this year, but the horse more than made up for it in no uncertain terms this time. It is impossible for Novel Idea to have been more impressive than here. Abandon Ship took second under Richard Smith. Whilst he was obviously well beaten by the winner, this was no mean effort. There is further improvement in Abandon Ship. Just pipped into third was Elusive Swallow, who had the benefit of Chris Dawson in the saddle. She was a warm order in the market and held the strongest credentials coming into the race. This nice sort will be even better next year. Victor One in fourth maintained his reasonable form. He was behind Dannymolone at Whitwell on his previous outing and that one was second in a Market Rasen hunter chase today. Keen Whip was pulled up in the home straight having run well for a long way, but Zero To Hero again went out like a light worryingly quickly. The latter had broken a blood vessel last time and the same problem may have resurfaced. Caribbean Lad was reported to be suffering from a breathing problem, while Carbon Footprint, making his racecourse debut, will no doubt derive benefit from the experience.
The Confined drew together 11 hopefuls. Partnered by Chris Dawson, Sir Alf was moving with purpose throughout and he asserted running to the final fence to collect with something in hand. It seems like only yesterday that Sir Alf was picking up a Catterick hunter chase and back on home turf there was no stopping him follow up his success in a mens open last month. Quite lightly raced, Sir Alf remains a formidable adversary. Runner-up Just A Man gets on well with Lucy Carr and was running on at the death. Just A Man is slowly getting back to somewhere near the top of his game. It is hard to envisage the consistent Colonial Gunner (Nigel Tutty) in third not getting his head in front before long. Sweeping Storm in fourth keeps finding a few too good. Narciso, under a double penalty, was beaten when falling at the penultimate obstacle, while Sams Way was always out the back on his reappearance. With stamina a major concern, life isn’t easy for the brilliant Kadarann in points. Maybe Easingwold or a lesser distance hunter chase could be worthy of a try.
Division One of the 3m Maiden attracted 11 runners, with Shapani giving rider Chris Dawson a treble on the card. Shapani has actually gradually got closer with each attempt this year. It was also a double for owner/trainer Maria Myco. Shapani isn’t blessed with a great deal of pace, but he does keep boxing on when others have cried enough. The fragile Stanley Park was second, but Michael Morley failed to weigh in and he was disqualified. He wasn’t able to quicken like the victor, but has shown enough to find a little race. Third past the post were Summer Stock and Steve Charlton. Summer Stock isn’t a lost cause, but it would have to be a weak heat to let him in. Sales Flow was fourth to finish and managed to keep Oliver Greenall on board on her third start in point-to-points. She wasn’t disgraced and this was something to build on. Beacon Leader made several bad mistakes, while Celtic Vic blundered once too often.
Mandalay Bay claimed the spoils in Division Two of the 3m Maiden that had 12 participants. Pippa Tutty galvanised Mandalay Bay for a late surge and he collared Killnascully King (Oliver Greenall) on the run-in. Mandalay Bay had also gone well for a lady rider at Hutton Rudby and he had found just the smart Eliza Doalott too good on his previous outing at Whitwell. Pippa was gaining her second victory from just a handful of rides and she is already following closely in the footsteps of her father Nigel, who is one of the most experienced jockeys in the Yorkshire Area. Killnascully King lost vital impetus at the last, which probably cost him the verdict. Although placed twice prior to this afternoon in Britain, this was easily his most prominent showing since coming over from Ireland. Third-placed Artic Omen keeps knocking on the door. He is only just coming up short. Guy Brewer’s mount should find a suitable opportunity in the near future. In fourth, Fleet Admiral didn’t progress from his runner-up berth here in March. He’s better than this. Angrams Gingerbeer held every chance when departing four from home and Zaffiera gave some hope for the rest of the season. Fast Approaching was given a quiet introduction and will be a different kettle of fish in time. Old Barns took a strong hold as the hare and paid the price later.