Soft ground greeted visitors to Mordon and the course was in excellent condition considering the pounding it had taken at the March fixture here. Chilly weather was unwelcome, but the crowd held up quite well.
The Hunt Members featured a cast of five and in a slowly run event Alisons Treasure prevailed under Andrew Glass. Alisons Treasure has been inconsistent since coming to pointing, but did this well enough. He had been far from disgraced in a hunter chase earlier in the month and on his seasonal debut had chased home the progressive Chorizo at a respectable distance at Witton Castle. Runner-up Castle Gunner (Rachel Clark) was left behind from the top of the hill. This race probably affords him his best chance of winning. Oaklands Bobby (Chris Dawson) in third might need a bit more time. The Real Rocker showed a bit more than previously in fourth. The favourite Cherryland hardly jumped a fence with any fluency and was the first beaten.
Division One of the 2m4f Maiden brought together a dozen hopefuls and there was a taking performance from the four-year-old Qollioure in the hands of Kelly Bryson. Confidently ridden, Qollioure gradually crept into the race and a brilliant display of jumping sealed the victory for this imposing customer by 15 lengths from Mystically. Qollioure was moving with purpose when brought down five out at Whitwell-on-the-Hill a fortnight ago. Should he take in a restricted receiving the allowances, Qollioure will be a big danger to all. Whatever the approach, he has a very bright future. Held up in rear to get the trip by Oliver Greenall, Mystically made up a lot of ground on the final circuit before weakening on the downhill run. Conceding a stone to the winner, this was no mean effort and he is worth another chance at this distance. With maidens in mind, The Real Tom Eoin in third is the one to take from the race. Guy Brewer’s mount helped set the pace and kept on when headed without being knocked about. The Real Tom Eoin had been eased quickly as soon as he was beaten at both Charm Park and Whitwell and connections now intend to put him away until next year. This fellow still has a good deal of growing into himself to complete over the summer and is likely to give a fine account in 2009. Sportula finished fourth and didn’t do too badly in her first point.
With Treehouse withdrawn, Division Two of the 2m4f Maiden had just eight runners. The honours went to Chummy’s Double and Mark Walford. Travelling powerfully, Chummy’s Double made the best of her way home when asked to go about her business. Having given the highly vaunted debutant Flaco a fright at Whitwell, she was a worthy favourite and did the job in some style today. Runner-up Crow Spinney was a newcomer representing the Easterby yard and threatened until late on. Oliver Greenall did the steering and the experience no doubt won’t have been lost on her. Expect her to get off the mark before the end of the season. Third-placed Pop Play Again is a slow learner, but is getting there for Chris Dawson. What Happened displayed some ability in fourth and is likely to improve with time.
Six horses lined up for the Ladies Open and Narciso completed a hat-trick under Jacqueline Coward. Narciso really doesn’t know how to run a bad race and he soon had matters under control when given the office. Fantastically consistent, Narciso had careered away with the club race at Whitwell and will be a tough nut to crack when next appearing. Welcome To Unos in second didn’t get quite as close to Narciso as he had at the last fixture here. Serena Brotherton’s charge has held his form admirably, collecting a Charm Park mixed open in front of a ladies open at Bangor. He was apparently particularly suited by those flattish tracks. In third, Tina Jackson attempted to make all on Oaklands Luis and he was only done for toe in the latter stages. He hadn’t quite been able to pick up a restricted so his attention was turned to hunter chases in March, when he picked up a novice at Catterick before a gallant defeat at the hands of a professionally-trained rival under a penalty over an inadequate trip at Newcastle. For me, this was a personal best in points and Oaklands Luis should continue to acquit himself well. Texas Ranger kept on for fourth. Although not the force of old, this was OK.
Nine horses faced the starter for the Mens Open, which saw a popular winner in Bobby Buttons, with Nigel Tutty in the saddle. Battling on, he was nothing if not resolute, and gritty determination got him there. The 11-year-old gave his pilot ample compensation for putting him on the sidelines in March. Bobby Buttons is one of those horses that might not be the quickest, but never ever stops trying and the biggest cheer in Yorkshire in 2005 was reserved for when he lost his maiden tag at the 15th attempt at Charm Park after numerous placings. Runner-up Andre Chenier, a game scorer at this venue in March, obviously likes it here and ran on stoutly from the end of the back straight. He might just inch Chris Cundall nearer his century in May. Brown’s Beck again ran his heart out for Steve Charlton to be third. A mistake at the third last didn’t help, but should he manage to actually get his preferred top of the ground this season, he will take all the beating, even in a little hunter chase. In fourth, Forty Shakes probably needs better going and might be a different proposition on that. Benwell, buoyed by his Sedgefield hunter chase triumph, looked a big danger when he came to grief four from home. This was a good effort for his first open.
As so many of these heats have been in 2008, the nine-runner Restricted was a quality event of its type and the time was the same as the mens open and quicker than the ladies open. Lord Gee landed the prize, with Oliver Greenall in the plate. There was a terrific scrap between Lord Gee and Silk Parasol that appeared to be going to the wire when the mare took a tired fall at the last. If she had stayed on her feet, there was no way of telling which one of them would have won. Lord Gee had fought through a blizzard to collect his maiden at Whitwell in a tight climax. He has applied himself with distinction in both contests as he simply hasn’t given up on either occasion. Such doggedness and stomach for a fight is every bit as important as the talent he possesses. Keen Whip filled second spot, the sole other challenger to finish. Steve Charlton had noticed a weight cloth had come off from one of those in front of him and he was then gifted another place by the fall of Silk Parasol. Keen Whip will mature some more over the summer and may make a bigger impact in 2009 if decent ground is encountered more regularly. Quinta De Lobo was second past the post, but Richard Smith had to weigh in light and the horse was inevitably disqualified. This wasn’t quite as encouraging a display as his two recent seconds in this grade. Go Moss Go was pulled up before any cards had been played, while Southern Classic couldn’t make any impression on the leaders. Silk Parasol was pushing Lord Gee all the way when she came down and there really was nothing between them. Provided her confidence hasn’t been dented, a restricted should be hers for the taking.
Seven horses came under orders for the Confined and Monte Cristo finished in splendid isolation 25 lengths ahead for Charlie Johnston. After a prolonged duel with Network Oscar from four out, Monte Cristo just seemed to be getting the worse of the argument and was a length or so down when that one hit the deck at the final fence. Monte Cristo jumped out to the right a few times at the head of affairs and rallied when it looked as though he would be swamped. He displayed a sound attitude to be harassing Network Oscar throughout the last half mile and Monte Cristo was rewarded for his endeavours. A very difficult ride, Recent Edition needed plenty of stoking along from John Dawson to take second. Off the bridle after just half a mile, it was only his jockey’s persistence that got him that near. Go Nomadic was guided into third by Sarah Russell and, whilst he was still beaten a long way, the partnership are gradually getting a little more competitive. Fourth-placed Major Shark rarely runs two races the same and was labouring with a circuit to go. Bidding for a four-timer on the back of winning a Whitwell intermediate with consummate ease, Network Oscar went off at cramped odds and would surely have prevailed if he had stood up. That said, he was making hard work of it.
A field of 16 was assembled for the Open Maiden, which went, not out of turn, to Jimmys Duky and Lucy Bell. Following Alisons Treasure earlier in the card, he is the sixth horse to come out of Messager’s Duncombe Park maiden and win one of their own. Jimmys Duky had stopped to a walk on the run-in in bottomless conditions at Dalston in March with a race at his mercy, but there was no such drama here as he galloped on relentlessly to the line. Over Easter, a ladies open at Hutton Rudby had been a big ask for Jimmys Duky, but he hadn’t been disgraced. Although not one of the Easterby stable stars, Special Order claimed second for Oliver Greenall. Special Order came from right out the back to go in pursuit of Jimmys Duky, but couldn’t quite get there. He ought to find a small race. Father Owen, a nice-looking chestnut with Guy Brewer on board, gave hope for the future in third. Given time to recover from his first visit to a racecourse in February at Market Rasen, Father Owen didn’t have a hard time and it will be a surprise if a maiden doesn’t come his way, possibly next year. High Moor had benefited from his run at Hornby Castle last week and kept on for fourth. He has a bit of potential between the flags. Master Bramley, whose debut second at Market Rasen reads well, might have found the conditions against him and will do better. Lewesdon Prince is something of a long term prospect that is still rather green and backward.