Pendle Forest & Craven
An excellent job from everybody involved in preparing the course meant that the going was no firmer than Good and was probably even softer than that description, being quite sloppy on top. Being an obvious stayer’s track, Heslaker never seems to attract particularly large fields, however it always provides highly competitive action and there were several close and exciting finishes during the afternoon. Virtually as soon as proceedings got underway, the heavens opened and there was very little respite from the rain, which was torrential at times, throughout the meeting.
Three horses lined up for the Hunt Members and there was no shortage of drama. Four Eagles had gone on and looked in command when he decanted Sam Drake in the back straight on the third and last occasion. This left the race at the mercy of Victoria’s Boy and he was a country mile clear approaching the final fence. However, perhaps lonely out in front, he slowed and refused. A second try produced the same result and by then Anaczar had worked his weary way to the same point, where the latter safely negotiated the obstacle to win under Alistair McEntyre. Anaczar had already been tailed off on his first start in Britain after just one lap, but kept going well behind and was duly rewarded for his perseverance. Victoria’s Boy did clamber over the last at the third attempt to be second.
The Novice Riders race contained seven hopefuls and unsurprisingly went to One Five Eight and Joanna Mason, who on paper appeared a formidable partnership, and so it proved. One Five Eight had been making hay in ladies opens and the drop to this level was almost a formality for him. He extended his unbeaten run between the flags to five. The runner-up Just A Man got a long way behind before making rapid late headway for Lucy Carr. Just A Man never reached the leaders, but he has suggested recently that he can pick up a confined provided that he can manage to keep in touch in the first half of the race. Corston Jigthyme (Harry Challenor) in third was prominent from flagfall and wasn’t readily brushed aside as on his previous efforts in 2007. Run On Thyne was back in fourth. Torosay had made most until going out like a light with three to jump. Something may have been amiss unless the ground or course weren’t to his liking.
The Ladies Open looked a good race on paper where each of the five runners could be given a feasible chance. Potoffairies stays all day and, benefiting from power-packed driving from Jacqueline Coward, he pulled out all the stops in the closing stages. In his recent fourth in a Cheltenham hunter chase, he got outpaced before passing several opponents on the final circuit. With stamina his forte, this was right up his street. The winner’s sound attitude held runner-up Duchess Account and Emma Brader at bay by a head. Duchess Account had been an early casualty in a Hexham hunter chase only about 20 hours earlier so she might not have been have been at her peak following all the travelling. She could also still have been feeling the effects of completing a circuit loose in that race. Texas Ranger (Jo Foster) probably wouldn’t find this course played to his strengths so third was a creditable showing. In fourth, Snizort has had a heavy schedule of late as his preferred long distance races have been clustered together. He can return to form after a short break.
There were six runners for the Intermediate that was carried off by Young Claude, with Guy Brewer in the plate. With regular jockey Miles Seston required elsewhere, it was a welcome spare ride for Guy. Well to the fore from the off, Young Claude found extra when pressed and passed the judge four lengths in front. Prior to this year, Young Claude had been rather difficult to win with, but he has more than made up for lost time. He had been a respectable fifth in the Grimthorpe Gold Cup on ground that was plenty quick enough for him. He would be a live contender for the Yorkshire feature race next year if it came up soft. Although held in second, Rebel Lad (John Townson) hinted at a revival. It isn’t long since he had a lot of potential and he might soon be ready to at least partially fulfil it. A long course is a necessity for Mile High City (Wayne Burnell) in third as he doesn’t possess much of a change of gear. Charlies Memory, shouldering a ten pound penalty was back in fourth and never looked entirely happy. This type of surface has been his undoing in the past so he is worth another chance.
The Mens Open was a reasonable contest of its type featuring six participants. The honours went to Border Fusion and Richard Burton. Charting a wide course, especially down the home straight on the firm ground where others feared to tread, Border Fusion was produced running to the final fence and forged ahead. When his talent can be harnessed in the right way, Border Fusion is a match for most. The honest Queenies Girl was second for Paul Frank and is such a versatile performer. Any track and ground seem to come the same to her and she has so far won on four occasions between the flags and been placed on countless others. Third-placed Ask Bobby (Guy Brewer) wasn’t disgraced at a venue that wouldn’t be ideal. This should have primed him for a trip to Garthorpe or a crack at a hunter chase. Ricky B in fourth made most, but couldn’t raise the tempo at the business end. We won’t have heard the last of this nice sort though.
There was a field of ten for the Restricted and French Envoy claimed the spoils for Oliver Greenall narrowly from Harwood Dale and Mark Walford. Under his favoured conditions, French Envoy kept pulling out more from the top of the hill. He had actually beaten Young Claude when landing his maiden at Duncombe Park in February. French Envoy hadn’t been knocked about when pulled up twice since. Harwood Dale is a thorough stayer, as he showed when slogging through the mud at Charm Park in March, and kept on right to the line. Wolves Castle in third had the assistance of Richard Burton, but couldn’t quite quicken sufficiently to trouble the front two. A recent scorer at Whittington, fourth-placed Murat is keeping his form well and can be relied upon to run his race.
Ten horses also came under orders for the Open Maiden, which went the way of Gypsy George and Mark Walford. A close second to Murat at Whittington on his debut, the experience must have done Gypsy George the power of good. With his very capable pilot able to point him in the right direction, there will no doubt be much more to come from Gypsy George, even though he is a far from easy ride. Artic Omen chased hard in second under Guy Brewer to go down by a length and a half. After a number of promising efforts, he really does deserve to pick up a maiden. The pair were clear of The Viking and Alex Merriam in third. For Alex to come for just the one ride, it indicates that connections still rate The Viking highly and he will improve for his first outing in 2007. Rising Whip, with blinkers dispensed with, filled fourth spot. She is pretty consistent and it will be a surprise if she doesn’t eventually find a race. There was a quiet introduction to pointing for Mistress Kaytee and she will be a different proposition in the future.