Skutterskelfe Park escaped the worst of the weather and the meeting went ahead on a bitterly cold Easter Saturday. Ground on the soft side of good rode superbly and there were some taking performances from quality individuals.
The Hunt Members featured six participants and Pip Tutty brought Mandalay Bay with a perfectly timed challenge to collar Queenies Girl and Paul Frank at the last and draw away to score. Held up off the pace, Mandalay Bay made relentless progress on the final circuit and once he hit the front the result was never in doubt. Queenies Girl appeared to have slipped the pack, but she wasn’t able to quicken again when Mandalay Bay went by. Was A Drive and James Birkbeck kept on past beaten horses for third. Castle Dargan went well for a long way before tiring into fourth.
Ten horses came under orders for the Restricted, which was run in the joint quickest time of the day. Ginger Biscuit, with Paul Frank in the plate, stuck to his task well and powered on up the hill to score. To the fore from flagfall, he held too many aces for his opponents at the business end. Not the easiest to train, a nice sort, Ginger Biscuit has plenty more improvement in him if he can stay in one piece. Elusive Swallow, whose three runs last term at the age of five including a triumph in a Duncombe Park maiden showed her to have some potential, again shaped encouragingly under Nathan Moscrop. The Broad horses don’t usually lack for fitness, but she is quite a taking little mare. She did get tired on the climb to the line after being swept aside by Ginger Biscuit, but dug in to hold onto second. Elusive Swallow has shown enough to be capable of landing a restricted. Shapani did OK in third for Chris Dawson. Although quite one-paced, this was more his level compared with his previous outing in a Catterick hunter chase. Fourth-placed Iron Trooper was making his seasonal reappearance and is more a spring animal on top of the ground. The favourite Quinta De Lobo got no further than the 10th.
The Ladies Open had just six runners, however the amazing performance of the five-year-old Sea Scout to complete a hat-trick was worth the entrance fee alone. Patiently ridden, he took closer order heading out into the country on the last occasion. Ranging alongside the pace-setting Fiori on the run to the last, as soon as Claire Metcalfe pushed the button, Sea Scout put the race to bed in a matter of strides. Fully living up to his big reputation, he was never asked any sort of question by his jockey and was value for any amount more than the six length margin of victory. Having picked up an Overton maiden on debut to become the Northern Area’s first four-year-old scorer last year and followed up in the restricted at the corresponding fixture in 2008, this was an altogether bigger step up in class for Sea Scout, which he passed with flying colours. You couldn’t fail to be impressed with this fellow and the extent of his talents has yet to be explored in any depth. As a two-year-old, he was in training with Mark Johnston, although he didn’t make it to the racecourse. It must be tempting for connections to consider turning Sea Scout’s attention to bumpers or hurdles as he appears to possess the speed for that sphere. What is certain is that, if he can stay healthy, we will hear a lot more of Sea Scout. Misty Gem stayed on for second. With Sophie Staveley looking more assured in the saddle by the race, there is more to come from Misty Gem. She was in the process of running a sound race when departing six from home at Charm Park earlier this month. Whilst she had no chance with the winner here and might have been flattered to end up ahead of Fiori, it was still a promising showing. Fiori was third in the hands of Jacqueline Coward and led at a steady pace. In hindsight, a slightly stronger gallop might have been more appropriate, but he was running on empty in the closing stages. Fiori might not be the horse he once was, but even so, and taking nothing at all away from the winner, the feeling is that he must have been below par today. For a maiden, there was a fair effort from Jimmys Duky in fourth.
The tempo didn’t lift in the four-runner Mens Open until the final lap, which rather played into the hands of Scenic Storm and Nathan Moscrop. Confidently handled, he strode clear in the concluding quarter of a mile. Scenic Storm had battled well to get the better of Well Presented and Pikachu Blue in a close finish at Charm Park a fortnight ago and clearly remains in good heart. Runner-up Shanteen Lass wasn’t persevered with by Chris Dawson when held on the run-in. She claimed the restricted at this fixture in 2007 so likes it around here. Although she hasn’t cut much ice in several hunter chases, in point-to-points she sets a decent standard, as displayed in her February victory in a Witton Castle intermediate. Recent Edition (John Dawson) seemed to get outpaced passing halfway, but did keep trying and stayed on for third, albeit without threatening the winner or runner-up. It looks like a stiffer stamina test would suit and, should he take his chance in the Grimthorpe Gold Cup, it would be interesting to see how he would get on. Montreal had nothing left when headed and was back in fourth.
There were nine runners for the Confined, but it revolved around one horse and there was an effortless performance from Messager, giving rider Nathan Moscrop a double on the card. Hutton Rudby is a happy hunting ground for Nathan as he gained his first victory at this meeting last year. When his jockey let out half an inch of rein, Messager left his rivals for dead and passed the post 15 lengths to the good and still firmly on the bridle. Messager hasn’t actually raced under Rules in Britain or Ireland, but he could well make the grade as his three out of three record in points has been achieved in largely facile fashion. At Duncombe Park, he saw off the promising Pristine Condition with something in hand and that one has since taken a maiden, as have three of those behind. He then moved onto Corbridge, where he turned a restricted into a procession. Under a three pound penalty, another confined would appear to be almost a formality. Although a veteran at 14, Tacolino went well in second for Charlie Johnston. Tacolino never reached the leaders, but couldn’t have been expected to finish any closer. This makes a trio of solid efforts in points and he may sneak a small event. Rushing Again and Lucinda Sutcliffe were third. Rushing Again hasn’t really been competitive yet this year, but has faced some difficult assignments against the likes of Duchess Account, Shanteen Lass and now Messager. Rushing Again did keep on as best he could to touch off fourth-placed Celioso. Celioso had scored readily at Dalton Park last week and wasn’t disgraced in this better heat, rallying late on when it seemed he had faded from a prominent position. Abandon Ship attempted to remain with Messager from the penultimate obstacle, but was out on his feet on the run-in. He can do better and is no forlorn hope in future.
A field of 14 went to post for the Maiden, but it was a far weaker affair on paper than the numbers would suggest, with finishers at a premium, and they came in at long intervals. That shouldn’t detract though from a supreme display of jumping from My Wee Woman, ably assisted by Lucy Bell. Welcomed back to the winner’s enclosure by warm local support, when she was asked to go and win her race, the response was immediate and the further she went the further the gap to the remainder widened and the winning distance of 15 lengths was growing all the time. My Wee Woman had been a respectable third on her pointing debut in a mares maiden at Friars Haugh in February, a result that looks all the better now, considering that the second that day Seaview Lass has since collected a Corbridge maiden and the winner Silver Monument has followed up by a distance back at Friars Haugh. Although the standard of opposition left much to be desired here, she will deserve respect in a restricted. That notorious dodgepot Nectar De Guye took second under Mark Bennison. Some fancy tack never before seen between the flags by several seasoned observers did at least allow him to emulate his decent second at Duncombe Park. Since then however, Nectar De Guye has thrown in the towel at an early stage at Dalton Park and refused to go away from the stands when admittedly highly tried in a Catterick hunter chase. Castle Gunner (Rachel Clark) was a woefully one-paced third. He is not a horse to dislike, but it will be a decidedly poor maiden if he is to win. Villa Mara was well adrift in fourth, simply plodding on when others were legless. Alisons Treasure made one very bad mistake, causing his rider to lose his irons, and he was on the back foot thereafter.