Photos by Jon Hodd
A glorious afternoon in North Yorkshire brought a huge crowd to Hornby Castle and they will have gone away happy following some scintillating action. Extensive watering had taken place and the organisers were suitably rewarded for the endeavours by good-sized fields. The ground was near perfect and I would describe the going as Good, Good To Soft in Places.
The Confined was only for horses that hadn’t won under Rules or in an open point-to-point and attracted seven runners. Keen Whip quickened up impressively from the third last and stole a march on his rivals that never looked like being overcome. Mark Walford’s mount put in a similar display when collecting a Brocklesby Park restricted in February. He had previously met trouble in running since and when the cards fall right, he really is very good. Runner-up Abandon Ship tried his best for Richard Smith, but couldn’t bridge the deficit once the winner had flown. Yet again, Abandon Ship goes close without quite getting his head in front. In third, Master Wolfe (Tom Greenall) was made favourite on the back of victories in a Brocklesby Park maiden and an Alnwick restricted. Held up last, he regularly jumped a bit out to the right and was generally less than fluent at his fences. Losing ground in this way, he was never able to get on terms. As usual, Jabo made a lot of the running, but this time he gave best once headed and ended up fourth.
The Hunt Members was for horses qualified with both the Bedale and West of Yore and was a fine advert for the class of race. Ten horses came under orders and there was a pillar to post victory for Texas Ranger under Alison Pocklington, as the 11-year-old rolled back the years. This was the horse’s 11th success in points, but his rider’s first under any code. This fellow’s trademark used to be blazing the trail and he was allowed to do just that here, opening up a big advantage in an uncontested lead. It was his initial start for new connections and he was certainly primed to do himself justice. By the time, Elusive Swallow went in vain pursuit, it was too late. She had closed to three lengths at the line due to Nathan Moscrops’s urgings, but the winner was beyond recall. Elusive Swallow would be a potent force in a more conventional race, but for the second time in a row, she was left too much to do. Déjà Vu kept on from the rear past beaten horses for a distant third. He was quietly fancied for this as he had a Mordon novice riders contest at his mercy last month when unshipping today’s pilot Sarah Russell. Although well back in fourth, Nina Chester had some more exalted opponents behind.
A dozen horses were present at flagfall for a decent Restricted and Jo Mason brought Poppy Day with a perfectly timed challenge to score. Held up, Poppy Day moved into contention on the final circuit and stayed on well in the home straight. She picked up a Brocklesby Park mares maiden in February and has been keeping her form well. There is no reason to suggest she won’t continue to give a good account of herself in a higher grade. Strangely friendless in the market, Once Before with Jo Foster in the saddle was to the fore throughout, travelled sweetly and came a good second. Very lightly raced, Once Before has suffered from both a virus and a poisoned foot since his outing at Sheriff Hutton in January. If he can stay healthy, he should find a restricted on this evidence. The Real Tom Eoin raced prominently for Mark Walford and was only tapped for toe following a mistake at the third last. He was still a creditable third. Having collected a short maiden at North Carlton in March, The Real Tom Eoin seemed to get the trip OK here at the longer distance. Hubble Bubble was a never nearer fourth. The time was quick and Amalfi Storm could do no better than fifth without seriously getting into the argument. On the easier ground, Champagne Only couldn’t build on the promise of his third at Whitwell-on-the-Hill a week ago.
The Ladies Open saw 12 horses go to post and had a strong look to it. However, there was something of a surprise in the eyes of the bookmakers when Anna Dawson brought Delfinia through to join issue at the penultimate obstacle and the mare fairly sprinted clear. Although some of Delfinia’s more esteemed rivals may not have performed to their full potential, this was impressive stuff and no fluke. It was a peach of a ride from the teenager to launch Delfinia’s run at the optimum time and was astoundingly her first victory between the flags. Delfinia had actually won a ladies open on her previous outing, but it was a much weaker affair at Alnwick. Wilfie Wild took second for Lynne Ward and, while he was readily swept aside by Delfinia, Wilfie Wild wasn’t disgraced. He may have a small event in him. A stout stayer, Interdit filled third with Pauline Robson on board. At 13, Interdit may not be the force of old and was outpaced down the home run, but can still hold his own. Fourth-placed Gabor was one-paced from three out and is difficult to win with. Sea Scout was a worthy jolly, especially as his only defeats had been against the classy Minouchka, but he didn’t seem entirely happy from an early stage. Maybe a couple of hard races had taken their toll and he is better than this. The hat-trick seeking Blandings Castle held an advantage of a length or two when Pip Tutty was dislodged at the third fence from the finish. He would surely have gone very close and it was the first race where Blandings Castle had failed to complete in 23 appearances under Rules and in points. Old Rolla came to grief at the ditch as they headed out on their final lap.
The eight runner Mens Open went to Unjust Law and Tom Greenall with the minimum of fuss. Unjust Law always had the long time leader in his sights and only had to be gently pushed out from the final fence. Unjust Law was completing a hat-trick after victories at Charm Park and Hutton Rudby. Like today, on neither occasion was he unduly extended. Briscoe Place (Nathan Moscrop) led for most of the way, but was fighting a losing battle once Unjust Law ranged upsides. Briscoe Place likes a sound surface, but was facing a tough task conceding seven pounds to the favourite. There are more races to be won with him. Third-placed Lutin Du Moulin under Ian Smith never really got into a challenging position and was in a different parish. He seems to prefer the lower weight of ladies opens. Tirol Livit was back in fourth.
The Maiden was split at declaration, but had little strength in depth in either heat. There was a field of ten for Division One and they finished strung out at long intervals. Miss Sunflower was a short-priced favourite as she held easily the best credentials at the off and she ran out a wide margin winner at her leisure in the hands of Tina Jackson. The time was 14 seconds quicker than the finale, not least due to Miss Sunflower’s relentless galloping. It must be open to question quite what she actually had to beat, but she could scarcely have done it any better. She had gone down by a length to Rich Hill at Dalton Park last month and although that one hasn’t yet been seen subsequently, he could turn out to be a cut above the average. In this race, while she was no match for Miss Sunflower, Snowy Descent was a clear second under Jo Foster. Snowy Descent had needed the experience on her Dalton Park debut and appears to have learnt plenty from it. She’ll have to step up again to claim a maiden, but there is the prospect of some more improvement in the future. Augustus Livius and Ann Wilson were a well beaten third, ahead of And Me in fourth. Following an encouraging effort at Hutton Rudby in March, Brother Mark disappointed at Mordon afterwards. He lost all chance when hampered on this occasion, but one or two serious blunders are unfortunately characterising his races.
Division Two of the Maiden featured nine runners and assured handling from Tom Greenall aboard Red Square Express secured the prize and gave the rider a double on the card. Red Square Express takes a fierce hold, but his jockey managed to anchor him at the back of the field. There was just enough left in the tank at the business end to triumph. A restricted will be a hard ask though. Runner-up Glad Star (Rachel Clark) was taken on between the final two fences, but did rally to the cause, however he couldn’t get back on terms. He deserves to bag a maiden for his consistency. There was a break to Meertrix in third, who kept on for his popular owner/rider Richard Walker. Earlier this month, Meertrix hadn’t found the quick ground at Whitwell-on-the-Hill to his liking, but generally can’t be dismissed out of hand. Fourth-placed Partly Cloudy did a little bit better than in the past. Overjoyed was pulled up lame before the last, whereas a quarter of a mile earlier she had held every chance. Nothing Left’s jumping remains a major concern.