Photos by Ian Johnson
The North Staffs meeting between the flags at a sun drenched Sandon on Easter Saturday produced a really good days racing. The large crowd were treated to cracking days sport. Once again the clerk of the course Mark Allman came in for a lot of praise from owners trainers and riders for providing good ground on the day, he deserves a lot of credit for getting the track spot on every year.
Kelsall trainer and rider Stuart Ross took the training and riding honours with a treble, two of the runners were owned by John Donald who despite having 25 horses in training was completing his first double as an owner. The first leg came aboard Another Late Night in the Open Maiden, the winner however needed the line as Pollensa Bay from the Steve Brookshaw yard under Jonathan Jarrett was finishing like an express train and only went down by a diminishing half a length at the line with Trocadeno a further 4 lengths back in third. Donald was elated when I spoke to him afterwards. He said, "This was the first horse that I ever bought in 2005, he wasn't cheap as he cost 30,000gns and was bought for me by Eric McNamara, who buys most of my horses. I had him in training under rules with Richard Phillips where he was just moderate, so I sent him to Stuart (Ross) twelve months ago and I couldn't me more pleased after his first win.”
Donald and Ross completed the double in the Men's Open with Tommy Two Shoes, who accounted for the notable scalp of the Gary Hanmer trained and Richard Burton ridden Border Fusion by a length readily. The runner up has won the Bangor Final twice and the first two past the judge look odds on to meet in this years renewal. Donald was very bullish about his chances of beating Border Fusion again when they meet in the Bangor Final next month. Speaking after the race, he said, "Compared to my other winner this one was bought very cheaply, in fact you could say he was a gift. He is a very progressive horse who just gets better and better. I would think that we will go off favourite for the Bangor Final after this performance. I was gutted when we missed the cut by one in the Liverpool Foxhunters, so the Bangor Final would be a good consolation, I feel they all have us to beat at Bangor."
Ross had to wait until the last race on the card, the Restricted to complete only his second hat trick of his career. This came with Nosey Gunner, who followed up his Alpraham victory with another win by beating Mistress Kaytee a shade cosily by 6 lengths. The Gary Hanmer trained runner up with Richard Burton in the plate was the subject of a tilt at the ring, as the mare was backed down from 7-1 to 7-4 favourite at the off. The winner is owned by Peter and Irene Danby.
Richard Burton did not leave the Staffordshire course empty handed after winning the two mile five furlong Maiden aboard Quintero in the well known colours of William and Angela Rucker, whose colours were carried to victory by Burtie on Cappa Bleu in the Christies Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival. The son of Video Rock won going away by 6 lengths from the Gordie Edwards trained Gunner Be Bee with Longwood Lad a further 12 lengths back in third. The winner is trained at Naunton, Nr Cheltenham by Fergal O'Brien, who was represented at the course by his wife Jelly, who said that they were only hopeful going into the race, but added that he would have learned from the race and it would have done his confidence a lot of good today.
Carly Goodall had a horiffic fall on the Heidi Brooksahaw trained Red O'Donnell at the fourth last fence. It was a miracle that she wasn't killed, she was taken by air ambulance to the North Staffs University hospital at Stoke on Trent, where she was operated on for damage to the roof of her mouth, apparently when she hit the ground she skidded on her face, she is also very badly bruised but nothing broken thankfully. The air ambulance was brilliant they were at the course within ten minutes of her fall.
Sherrifhales trainer Caroline Robinson has her horses in good form at present and her charge Reflected Glory with her daughter Immy in the plate never came off the bridle to win the Ladies Open by 7 lengths from Sue Sharratt on Scotmail Too. The well backed jolly Mad Victor from the Sue Taylor yard was pulled up by Clare Allen, who was quick to jump off the horse.
The unluckiest horse was the Sheila Crow trained Little Big Horse with her grandaughter Alice Walker in the plate. The combination looked to have had the novices riders race won when they ran out at the second last with a lead of a couple of lengths and going well, I can only assume it was a tack problem. This handed the race to I Am Said under Emma Alvis who took full advantage to win by 8 lengths from King Bee under Gemma Garton with Mrs O'Malley a further 6 lengths away in third. The winner is owned and trained by Clive Bennett at Ledbury, who said afterwards that this was the fourth new course that he had been to this season and added that he had won at each of them.
Rugeley trainer and rider Sue Sharratt regards the Staffordshire course as her manor, she once rode four winners at a meeting here. This time around she could manage only one after Cluthe Boy won the opening Members race by 4 lengths from Malmo Boy with Anna Adams in the plate. Sharratt also co owns the Anshan gelding with the Apache Partnership. Speaking after the race, she said, "I bought him last August, he used to be trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott where he had been running over hurdles. He is a much better horse on firm ground, he didn't like the cut in the ground today, but he went through it to be fair to him. He is only a young horse and he will improve from the race."