A lovely, sunny winter’s day drew the crowds to Brocklesby Park and racegoers were treated to some fantastic racing on excellent Good To Soft ground. A total of 99 horses contested the eight races. It also marked 50 years of racing at Brocklesby Park, which is now rightly regarded as one of Britain’s top point-to-point courses by spectators and competitors alike.
All seven entries stood their ground for the Hunt Members and Mark Walford had Sam Cruise perfectly positioned throughout to land the spoils in facile fashion. It was in effect a maiden, but even so Sam Cruise was barely extended to pass the pace-setting Distant Memory (Steve Magee). Whilst it is difficult to evaluate the extent of Sam Cruise’s ability, more should be revealed when he contests a restricted. After a reasonable debut at Cottenham in December, this was a step in the right direction for Distant Memory in second. There was a yawning gap back to Norfolk Jive in third under Jacqueline Coward, just ahead of Valhuec. Norfolk Jive’s form under Rules left a lot to be desired and he isn’t finding it all that much easier between the flags. After more than two years off, there is at least some hope for Valhuec. The favourite Epic Sound hadn’t got competitive when he departed at the 11th. The unregistered thoroughbred Yogi put in some prodigious leaps before exiting after a circuit.
A field of 13 took part in the Confined, which went to Be Upstanding, in the hands of Miles Seston. The 13-year-old wasn’t far off the leaders early, moved into the firing line going out on the last lap and, although he had to be driven out on the run-in, it was a fairly comfortable five lengths at the post. The chestnut had been a decent third at Sheriff Hutton when the Yorkshire season opened in January. Runner-up Fair Doo, with Steve Magee in the plate, was nearest at the finish. Ever improving in 2007, Fair Doo has returned in good shape. He wasn’t really placed to challenge in this and it would be a huge surprise if he doesn’t win a race or few in 2008. In third, Madison De Vonnas (Freya Hartley) worked his way into contention and kept on. Patiently ridden, he did look a danger at one stage, but the winner held too many guns. Having had a few problems in the past, Madison De Vonnas appears a much happier horse this year and should come on some more for the run. Fourth-placed Creative Time managed to keep his rider on board and did OK, while Cheyne wasn’t disgraced. Flying Spur, Fin Bec and Just Jolly all came down in the home straight, with the first-named showing some promise. Just Jove had tack problems.
The 14 horses that came under orders for the Ladies Open had many capable performers among them. A positive ride from Jill Dawson secured victory for Sir Storm over Honest Endeavour and Angela Rucker. It developed into a duel between them at the death and a more fluent jump at the last sealed it for Sir Storm. He has returned every bit as good as he was in 2007 and he ought to be just as consistent on the basis of this display. Honest Endeavour wasn’t far from the pace either and simply seemed to go down on merit, however he lost nothing in defeat. He had been bought out of Malcolm Jefferson’s yard for £20,000 at Doncaster Sales in May 2007, having won three hurdles and three chases. Honest Endeavour will take all the beating when next out. The blinkered Rainbow Tree in third needs every ounce of Jacqueline Coward’s strength in the saddle to finish as close as he does. He had filled the same position at Thorpe Lodge last month. He should be up to collecting a lesser event of this type. Fourth went to Limerick Leader, who was in superb form last year. He can return to winning ways between now and June. Having left Keith Reveley after many years, Welcome To Unos made a more than adequate start in point-to-points. We’ll no doubt hear more from him later in the season. Rebel Army was making an initial foray in ladies opens and the booking of a leading rider in Jane Williams didn’t go unnoticed by several observers. However, he didn’t really race with any great zest and just completed in his own time. Texas Ranger’s departure at the open ditch on the last lap sparked a bit of a melee that also claimed Celioso, Letusbefraink and Wise Tale.
There were 11 runners for the Mens Open and Amicelli gained his revenge on his Thorpe Lodge conqueror in January, Buckby Lane. Oliver Greenall’s mount was always travelling sweetly and he came right away effortlessly in the closing stages to the tune of 20 lengths. This was impressive stuff and he will be hard to beat at this level in the future. A former Philip Hobbs inmate, he will also be feared if he contests hunter chases. Amicelli had finished very fast in that Thorpe Lodge open, but the leaders never left his sights today. In second, Buckby Lane had Tom Ellis back in the plate after Sam Waley-Cohen had won him at Thorpe Lodge. Once Amicelli had swept past, Buckby Lane had no answers on this occasion. Buckby Lane gave a fine account of himself again though. Denvale and Richard Hunnisett were in third. Denvale is a pretty consistent performer and a good yardstick. He couldn’t raise an effort at the business end, but it was another display that had merit. Tinarana Lord in fourth put in a sound reappearance in a hot race. Although beaten a fair way, he won’t meet opposition of this quality every week. Fane Counsel was leading them a merry dance on his comeback from an injury enforced absence of a couple of years when he broke down again after two miles.
The Restricted was right on the safety factor of 20 and was packed with quality, as well as quantity. Fiercely competitive, the honours went to Harwood Dale and Mark Walford, giving the jockey a double on the day. Now trained by Tracey Corrigan-Clark, this fellow hasn’t always looked completely in love with the game, however he likes Brocklesby Park as he showed when winning a maiden here in 2006, from which he was eventually disqualified due to having a banned substance in his system. He held off Harry Oscar (Richard Burton) in second. Racing prominently from the off, Harry Oscar had a quiet reappearance at Barbury Castle a month ago, but reinforced the belief that he has an engine here. There was another creditable display from Texas Belle (Richard Armson) in third. Keeping her form exceptionally well, her time must come soon. Fourth came Rathmoley. He’ll find much easier opportunities and Bill Warner’s runners usually improve for the run too. The immaculately presented Keen Whip got tired and will do better, while Keenans Reserve was looking held when he hit the deck. George The Grey was a short price after his Thorpe Lodge saunter, but he was still in rear when pulled up before the third last. Quite what he achieved when triumphing in his maiden is open to debate given that the third and fourth that day weren’t fully wound up, but the gut feeling is that it wasn’t his true running here.
The 11-strong TBA/MFHA PPORA Mares Maiden developed into a tussle between Amalfi Storm and Oliver Greenall and Burn Brook, with Richard Armson in the saddle. It was the latter that gained the day in gritty fashion by a length and a half. Taking over at the head of affairs when the tearaway Lilly De Rome had given way, Burn Brook made the best of her way home, determinedly holding off the runner-up when pressed over the final two fences. Burn Brook can go on to better things on this evidence. Amalfi Storm was sent off favourite and she only came up just short. Coming from behind, she couldn’t quite get on terms. Compensation surely awaits. Although these are generally not the strongest of races, the pair were miles clear so the form should stand up. Third was Who Let The Foxout under Patrick Millington. Who Let The Foxout had shown a glimmer of ability in 2007 when trained by Emma Reed and she should do better. Although beaten a long way in fourth, Rising Whip was a good deal more amiable than of late. Lilly De Rome representing the powerful Crow team took a keen hold in rear early on, shot through to lead approaching the 8th, then unsurprisingly ran out of gas. It isn’t easy to know what to make of this. Spinney Well crashed out at the 7th when holding a narrow advantage.
Eight horses were present for the Maiden Division One, but only three finished. Walter’s Laddie was guided to glory by Stuart Morris and the gelding still had some left in the locker from the final fence. His form last year was solid and he wasn’t winning out of turn. Walter’s Laddie will come on for the outing as well. Ski Dazzle and Miles Seston were second. It was a sound effort from Ski Dazzle and he can keep going the right way after a fairly inauspicious career under Rules. The Tinkerater, under Steve Magee, was nearest at the line to be third. He got hampered by the fall of Bow School at a crucial stage so did well to end up as close as he did. Having made most, Murphy’s Nails would have been vying for third in the closing stages if he hadn’t taken a tired fall in the home straight. Bow School fell four out just as he was getting into contention, hampering The Tinkerater quite badly in the process. The fences again got in the way of Saddlers’ Harmony.
Division Two of the Maiden featured 15 runners and saw North Island land a few hefty bets for his owner, bookmaker Bryan Dunn. Oliver Greenall did the steering to keep this fellow up to his work on the run-in and in doing so completed a double on the card. North Island was allowed to warm to his task and, previously handled by Howard Johnson, made a winning debut between the flags. He should make his presence felt in restricteds. Runner-up Summer Equinox was able to bowl along up front and clearly has some ability. Mark Walford managed to keep him out of trouble, having been carried out at Witton Castle last week, and this was a prudent move with several of those behind coming to grief. He has the potential to pick up at least a maiden. Third-placed The Factor, partnered by Joe Docker, could only keep on at the one pace in the final quarter mile. He had been last in a Worcester bumper on his sole other run. He wasn’t knocked about today and this was a typical start in points for a maiden from the Campbell camp. Beau Sam in fourth made a highly encouraging first visit to a racecourse. Sydney Twothousand’s comeback from injury will have done him the power of good. River Line appeared to be fairly tanking along when he ejected Oliver Williams at what is normally six out. It was too far from home to hazard a guess at where he might have finished, but this was quite promising nonetheless. The headstrong Glenoe took a crashing fall at the open ditch and headed off, seemingly intent on crossing the Humber Bridge, however he didn’t quite make it and was finally caught a couple of miles down the road. Farranfore, with Richard Burton aboard, was well out the back when coming down at the 10th to cap a disappointing day for the former point-to-point champion jockey. The same fence caused the downfall of Jimmy’s Duky, who was in mid-division.