York & Ainsty
Photos by Jon Hodd
Following the extended dry spell, watering took place to ensure that the ground was not excessively fast. The hard work was rewarded with plenty of runners and many regular racegoers felt that it was the best ever meeting held at this tight track. I would describe the going as Good, Good To Firm in Places. The huge crowd was entertained by some competitive action with several tight finishes on the punishing climb to the line.
The Hunt Members opened the card and half a dozen horses went to post. Gabor under Steve Magee repeated his success of 12 months ago in this race and made it three wins from his last three runs on this course. Gabor shrugged aside Tirol Livit coming down the hill and was always doing enough from then on to record a winning margin of ten lengths. It will be interesting to see if he can make it a four-timer here at the May fixture. Tirol Livit didn’t perform badly for Rachel Clark and showed some aptitude without threatening to do sufficient to triumph. Rare Presence (Sally Ireland), a former winner of the Kiplingcotes Derby, got well outpaced on the run to four out, but did at least keep on behind for a distant third. In fourth, River Trapper is rather moderate nowadays. Octavio got exceptionally tired on the run-in and was eased to miss out on a place.
The Younger Horse Maiden was split at declaration. Ten horses took part in Division One and the honours went to Intense Suspense and Tom Greenall. Travelling powerfully from flagfall, Intense Suspense took command at the top of the hill and sauntered clear as his prohibitive odds suggested he would. This won’t have been the most competitive of races, but Intense Suspense could only beat easily the opponents he was presented with. He was going great guns at Charm Park in March until capsizing. Intense Suspense would be an obvious candidate for a standard restricted. John Dawson guided Lewesdon Duchess into second. She did a lot of the donkey work up front, but was picked off as they turned for home. Lewesdon Duchess lacked a change of gear when it mattered, however it was a creditable display nonetheless. Her endeavours of late mean she fully deserves to collect a maiden, but she isn’t the stoutest of stayers and a return to this venue in May could be the answer. The Real Rocker got left behind from just after halfway, but did keep on through extremely weary rivals for third with Chris Dawson on board. Lady Delilah in fourth is giving a few glimmers of potential.
Nine runners lined up for Division Two of the Younger Horse Maiden and there was a gritty performance from Bossall Billy, with Guy Brewer in the saddle. The early pace setter, Bossall Billy’s rider reined him back to be delivered after the third last and the blinkered gelding was nothing if not resolute as he claimed the spoils. If anything, he simply appeared to want the victory more than those around him. Runner-up Nothing Left jumped a bit better for John Dawson than he has in the past. This was the best yet from him and is something to build on for the time ahead. In his first proper attempt at pointing, Fire In Cairo filled third under Michael Morley. Fire In Cairo travelled with purpose, but couldn’t quite go through with his challenge at the death. The five-year-old was just outfought up the incline, but he gave plenty of encouragement for future maidens. Fourth-placed Red Etosha was an eye-catcher on his seasonal reappearance. Moving well for much of the journey, he wasn’t knocked about in the home straight and would have bright prospects if seen again this year. Robin De La Folie came in for sustained support in the ring, but this keen sort was beaten with a circuit still to go. Max & Mix should come on for the experience.
Blandings Castle and Pip Tutty have proved a near perfect partnership and they made no mistake to score with a bit in hand in the Ladies Open that featured nine runners. There or thereabouts for the whole race, Pip looked to always have things under control and Blandings Castle just had to be pushed out to lift the prize. It was a cosy success and Blandings Castle is a credit to connections. He has now grabbed three of these events in 2009. Runner-up Delfinia kept on well for Claire Metcalfe and did nicely to get as close as a length to Blandings Castle. Having been so impressive at Hornby Castle earlier in the month, she then encountered the classy pair of Rayshan and Minouchka at Corbridge last week. There are more races to be won with her. Jimmys Duky, a fair performer, was in third under Lucy Bell. He had been highly tried in a couple of spins since picking up a ladies open at Duncombe Park in February. This was all right. Back in fourth was Del Trotter on his favourite course. He could only muster the one pace at the business end. Cnocan Aoibhinn enjoyed himself at the head of affairs before weakening from five out.
Ten horses were present for the Mens Open and Queenies Girl came from the clouds to get her head in front in the shadow of the post under Paul Frank. At 13, her retirement is imminent, and if this has been her closing race, there was no better way to go out as it was her seventh triumph in points and epitomised her positive attributes. She is a formidable opponent around Mordon and Easingwold and had won at the former course only a week ago. Her fast finishing spurt brought back memories of another likeable mare, Duchess Account. In second, Lane Marshal (Richard Smith) was collared in the dying strides on his first outing since April 2007. Top of the ground and headgear are essential for this one and it was a superb display following a long layoff. Lane Marshal was actually completing a hat-trick after carrying off a maiden and restricted at Cottenham in successive months two years ago under Nick Pearce. On a sharp track, he will be worth watching again. Miles Seston’s urgings got L’Oudon into third, but the chestnut couldn’t match the front two from the last. L’Oudon had taken a similar event at Mordon in March. Only seventh jumping three out, Lutin Du Moulin ended up fourth. He seems happier with the lighter weight of ladies opens. Benwell was fourth and held when he fell at the penultimate obstacle. Le Passing still had a chance when he slipped up on the flat shortly after the third last.
The Restricted had nine horses coming under orders and a fast pace saw the six minute barrier broken. They were soon stretched out across North Yorkshire as Miss Sunflower and River Line went at it hammer and tong from the off, and when the latter had given way by five out, Tina Jackson’s charge kept galloping on strongly to record another success. She is rapidly improving, no doubt at least partly due to the recent fitting of cheek-pieces. Miss Sunflower was a short price to follow up her trouncing of the opposition in a Hornby Castle maiden on Easter Saturday. The only horse to give her anything to think about in the final three-quarters of a mile was Chummy’s Double. Chris Dawson got a fine tune out of the mare and she posed a threat to Miss Sunflower when they levelled up for the judge. However, an apparent tack problem meant she went distinctly awry on the run-in and the winning distance of 12 lengths didn’t reflect how much promise she had shown. Riot Act stayed on past beaten horses from a long way back for Lucy Mason to take third. Driven along for the concluding lap, Coogee Beach was fourth. Held up, Amalfi Storm flattened out from the second last and was legless as they met the rising ground. Endless Night refused to race.
The Confined was a strong event of its type and a big field of 18 faced the starter. The time was a second quicker than the restricted. Over to Joe was to the fore throughout and Miles Seston poached a small advantage on the downhill run from the third fence from the finish. The nine-year-old never relinquished this lead and held on by a length on the stamina-sapping climb to the lollipop. Over To Joe had bumped into some useful sorts when thrice placed previously in 2009. A renewed effort in the final furlong secured second for Stroom Bank and Chris Dawson, the horse exhibiting a sound attitude to not go down without a fight. Stroom Bank has some fair form to his name and he might be able to pick up a similar heat. Over To Joe and Stroom Bank had been second and third respectively behind My Old Piano at Charm Park on Easter Monday. Brown’s Beck wasn’t far away from the gallop and couldn’t quite raise his game to a high enough level in the closing stages. He still emerges with credit and may get his head in front before the season has climaxed. Adopting a midfield sit, Master Wolfe’s jumping again let him down, but his pace between the obstacles allowed him to get as close as fourth. With a more fluent round of fencing, he has another race or two in him. Baron Romeo wasn’t disgraced, while the always prominent Jabo faded when push to come to shove and Astral Prince gradually lost his decent early position. The consistent Abandon Ship slipped up on the bend passing their point of departure for the first time.
The Maiden attracted just seven runners and a trio held every chance at the final fence. Napalm, with Toby Greenall doing the steering, made much of the running and had sufficient in the locker to hold off the pursuers in the closing stages. The gelding dug deep to carry off the prize. Napalm hadn’t covered himself in glory earlier in the season, but had hinted at something slightly more solid at Mordon last time. Runner-up Knoxhill Archie, with Chris Dawson in the plate, battled on in vain but Napalm pulled out more when it mattered. This was his best effort for a while, but it probably wasn’t a great race though. The hard-pulling Tabloid was held up for much of the way by Tom Greenall and given quite a bit to do, but really should have got closer than third if he had been good enough on the day. Red Roxy was back in fourth. Captain Commanche and Watermill are becoming increasingly disappointing.