Photos by Jon Hodd
A big crowd was present at Skutterskelfe Park, Hutton Rudby for another excellent afternoon’s racing in the Yorkshire Area on a warm, sunny day. With rain in short supply of late, top of the ground horses were well catered for and I would describe the going as Good To Firm, Good in Places. The course was in fine shape and in my opinion could not have been better in the prevailing conditions.
Seven horses went to post for the Hunt Members and just like at Dalton Park last week, it was a gripping contest. There was a tight tussle on the finishing chute between Astral Prince and Pip Tutty and Queenies Girl under Paul Frank. The judge’s verdict went to the former by a head, although some observers disagreed. Astral Prince’s late thrust gained the day and the 11-year-old is well known as a spring horse. His favoured track is Easingwold and this course is often on the turn, which is right up his street. Expect to see more of him in the next couple of months. Queenies Girl stuck her neck out, but it just wasn’t enough in the eyes of the man that mattered. When Mordon and Easingwold come round, she’ll have a fair chance. In third, Moss Bawn led for much of the journey and only gave best late on. He tried his best for Ben Griffiths, but couldn’t quite match the two just ahead of him on the final climb. Only three finished. Baron Romeo was sent off favourite and held every chance when he attempted to run out and decanted James Birkbeck at the second last. Nothing Left, a maiden, jumped erratically and was not surprisingly eventually pulled up.
The Restricted saw six horses come under orders, three of which were quite closely matched on all known form, but it was all about one of the unfancied trio. As the race unfolded, Cnocan Aoibhinn soon found himself in splendid isolation at the head of affairs and thereafter never looked like getting caught at any stage. After they’d all taken the first fence together in little more than a canter, Cnocan Aoibhinn led by two or three lengths at the next, but then a quick look over her shoulder from Lucinda Sutcliffe and she took the wise decision to let him bowl along in front at his leisure, seemingly without overexerting himself. A distance clear by the fourth, Cnocan Aoibhinn maintained the massive advantage courtesy of some prodigious leaps until bulldozing his way through the second last, where his pilot did superbly to survive. Although some momentum was lost, he was still in command and fairly bounced off the quick surface to collect by an easy ten lengths. The racecard entry of “best on firmish” could never have been more apt as Cnocan Aoibhinn took his maiden at Dromahane on Good To Firm and easily his strongest races in the UK when campaigned in Wales and the southwest were on fast ground. Whether the pursuers expected Cnocan Aoibhinn would come back to them or simply left it too late to try to bridge the deficit, they were comprehensively outthought. There was an incredible cheer when the jubilant duo entered the winners enclosure, which the manner of the triumph fully deserved. The chasers were headed by three mares. In the mini race for second, Amalfi Storm and Tom Greenall pipped Poppy Day, with Jo Mason aboard, by a head. Amalfi Storm had encountered the talented Eliza Doalott at Duncombe Park in February after her January Friars Haugh maiden triumph. She can find a restricted. The ground might have been quick enough for Poppy Day as there has been some cut when she has exhibited the most ability in the past. Fourth-placed Elusive Swallow, as consistent a mare as you could find, was out-sprinted for the minor honours. This run is best forgotten and a more conventional race should see her in a more encouraging light.
The Ladies Open had ten competitors and Blandings Castle followed up his victory at Charm Park in a similar event by claiming the spoils. Ably assisted by Pip Tutty, Blandings Castle was to the fore from flagfall and held too many aces for his opponents. A double on the day for the local rider made it an afternoon to remember for her. Blandings Castle was pushed out to the line, but didn’t have to be asked any serious questions. It will be a brave man that opposes him when he attempts to complete a hat-trick. One Five Eight, with Becky Mason in the plate, ran on for second without having the speed to trouble the winner. Having been beaten 11 lengths into third by Blandings Castle at Charm Park, One Five Eight got to within three lengths here. He is coming back to hand and might pick up a little race. Primus Inter Pares took third for Rachel Clark and was prominent throughout. He didn’t have an extra gear for the uphill finish, but the less demanding test of Hutton Rudby helped him and this was a solid display. Fourth-placed Fairy Skin Maker loomed up at the penultimate obstacle, but his effort petered out in the concluding quarter of a mile, just as it had at Duncombe Park a month ago. Next came Misty Gem, who did all right and got steadily better last year as the season went on. Cop Howe was settled in mid division, but never struck me as all that happy. A bad mistake at the open ditch, six out, put paid to any chance that he still had and caused Freya Hartley to perform a brilliant sit to keep the partnership intact. On unsaddling, he was discovered to be unsound.
There were six runners for the Mens Open and the odds-on shot Unjust Law hacked up under Tom Greenall. He didn’t let the long time leader get too far ahead and was always moving powerfully. Tom let out a bit of rein approaching the final fence and Unjust Law sauntered clear to the tune of eight lengths. He had won a confined with ease at Charm Park a fortnight ago and in fairness this was no stronger than that race. Runner-up Harwood Dale set a fairly sedate pace in the hands of Mark Walford and the time was apparently slower than one of the maidens. As Unjust Law hadn’t come anywhere near having his finishing kick run out of him, Harwood Dale was a sitting duck to the jolly. Shanteen Lass came third under John Dawson. A good second in a novice hunter chase at Catterick earlier this month, she was never sighted on this occasion. She is far better than this. Ben From Ketton completed in fourth.
The Confined brought together ten hopefuls and Alisons Treasure, with Andrew Glass in the saddle, kept on resolutely to score. Alisons Treasure made steady headway from his normal early position at the back of the field and once he had hit the front coming to the last, he wasn’t for passing. Alisons Treasure had been bang in contention when departing six out at Dalton Park last week. He should make a bold bid to defy a three pound penalty in this grade on the sharper tracks, but also held his own in a short hunter chase at Cartmel in 2008. Abandon Ship came a respectable second for Richard Smith. Abandon Ship has been there or thereabouts regularly, but lacked serious finishing pace. He seemed to see this out OK and just went down to the better horse on the day. In third, Lutin Du Moulin (Ian Smith) could find no more from the final fence, but still ran his usual sound race. Having been a good second to Narciso at Witton Castle and highly consistent last year, he deserves to win at least a confined, but whether he will or not remains to be seen. Le Passing the market leader couldn’t raise his game from the penultimate obstacle and came fourth. He had taken the mens open at Charm Park nicely and he and Unjust Law were aimed at the reverse races today. The 12-pound penalty that Le Passing shouldered here may have proved too hefty a burden. Stormy Sunrise wasn’t far away from gallop, but could only run on at the one pace from three out. It was still not a bad run though. Keen Whip had one of those moments and had to be pulled up at the 2nd fence.
Division One of the Maiden had 13 participants and Pingpong was heavily supported in the ring to get off the mark. However, he could only manage third past the post and Mark Walford then failed to weigh in, meaning he was disqualified. The finishing order saw a one two for trainer David Easterby with Chibuku coming out on top from stable companion Apollo Saturn Five, with both pretty easy to back in the betting. Tom Greenall was completing a double on the card and Chibuku probably had more in the locker than the three and a half lengths he was ahead at the judge. Powering on up the hill, this was a good effort. He had been in touch at Dalton Park on his debut when colliding with a bale on the turn into the back stretch on the last lap. Mark Mason rode the runner-up and when he made a move lining up for home, it looked as though he might pinch the contest. Chibuku was able to cover his rival though and displayed a decent turn of foot when unleashed at the final fence. A spin in a mens open at Duncombe Park had put Apollo Saturn Five straight for this assignment and he should lose his maiden tag soon. Running his best race yet in third was Brother Mark, partnered by Nathan Moscrop. Content to sit in midfield, Brother Mark was getting into the argument when he blundered at the second last. That effectively cooked his goose, but he was keeping on gamely in the closing stages for a place. Brother Mark looks the part and might simply be a slow learner as this was his first real sign of ability. He will be worthy of close scrutiny in the future. After these, Coolbay House showed a bit more than previously with the tight track being of assistance, while Opus Star wasn’t disgraced close behind him. This could easily be a heat that produces a few winners.
A dozen horses faced the starter for Division Two of the Maiden, which was quicker than the first division, although possibly it might turn out to be the weaker of the two. Top spot was clinched by Oaklands Bobby and Colm McCormack. Oaklands Bobby hasn’t always seemed the stoutest of stayers, his best past performance being over 2m4f, but he found plenty for pressure, keeping on in gutsy fashion this time and accounting for the odds-on shot Snake Rave. Snake Rave was hard ridden by Tom Greenall from the second last, but once Oaklands Bobby had poached a couple of lengths advantage, Snake Rave couldn’t get back on terms. This was the second occasion he had found one too good as he had bumped into the potentially useful Fli Mi Son at Charm Park when also a short price. They bet 11-1 bar Snake Rave and Calapocus, with the latter turning a somersault at the 9th, but he and jockey Mark Walford appeared none the worse for the spill. There was a ten length break from the leading pair to third-placed Overjoyed (Steve Charlton), who finished like a train. She hadn’t shown an awful lot previously, but gave some cause for optimism. Lewesdon Duchess didn’t find a great deal at the business end in fourth. She is a likeable sort, but takes a fair tug and is struggling to get home. After the fourth last, Meertrix was driven clear and slipped the field, but his rider may have gone too early and Meertrix was grabbed by the principals on the lengthy run between the final two fences. He isn’t an entirely forlorn hope.