Pendle Forest & Craven
Photos by Jon Hodd
A cool, blustery wind thankfully didn’t deter spectators and, although there were the usual smallish fields that characterise this venue, the large crowd had no shortage of exciting action to enjoy. Watering had taken place to ensure safe jumping ground and rain in the preceding 12 hours eased conditions further. There were a few muddy areas, but a lot of credit must go to the team preparing the course after the recent dry spell. I would describe the going as Good To Soft, Soft in Places. It was noticeable from my viewpoint how smoothly the races were started with the jockeys knowing exactly what was required and the starter adopting a slick approach to getting proceedings underway.
The Hunt Members has a limited pool of possible participants and ended up a match. Once Four Eagles had decided to put in an extra stride at the first fence in the back straight giving Sam Drake no chance of remaining on top, Copper Bay was left solo and Jo Foster gave him a school round at his leisure to collect. Formerly with Alan King under Rules, Copper Bay had started his pointing life with a fair third at Flagg on Easter Tuesday. This didn’t tell us much about him and it will be interesting to see how this quirky sort gets on if appearing again before the season is over.
There were seven hopefuls for the Novice Riders and Texas Ranger was a warm order to supplement his victory in the Hornby Castle hunt race on Easter Saturday. As soon as owner/trainer/rider Alison Pocklington set him alight, just like in that performance, the result was not in doubt. Clear in a few strides, he is never happier than when in an uncontested lead. Once in a rhythm at the head of affairs, Texas Ranger is tough to beat and he can find another opportunity away from the top grade in a hat-trick attempt. Conceding seven pounds all round, One Five Eight and Becky Mason didn’t do too badly in second. One Five Eight had little hope of keeping up with the runaway leader for the most part and was closing down the hill without ever looking like catching up. Ta Ta For Now was well behind for the majority of the race, but kept on throughout the final circuit for a never nearer third. Caroline Blakiston’s mount should come on for this seasonal bow. Perseverance from David O’Brien got Star Angler home in a not too distant fourth. Holy Joe was a moderate second, but out on his feet, when he was sensibly pulled up by Toby Greenall before the penultimate obstacle.
The Ladies Open saw six horses came under orders and there was a protracted duel in the home straight between Flashy Boy and Hannah Burton and the odds-on favourite On Y Va under Jo Foster. Flashy Boy just proved the stronger in the last quarter mile to gain the day. Having crossed the line, Hannah was dislodged into a particularly wet patch, but they had already pulled out enough whilst still intact. Although he rarely gets his head in front, Flashy Boy is a model of consistency and can be guaranteed to run his race. This first class attitude was crucial in the rush to the judge and he rallied to the cause after having plenty of use made of him. On Y Va got to the lead as the contest unfolded, but he couldn’t gain a decisive advantage and had no answer when the winner battled back with a sound finishing effort. He should continue to give a good account of himself when the emphasis is on stamina. Henry’s Pride couldn’t raise his game for Becky Mason at the business end and was a one-paced third. Cadoulitique plugged on in fourth.
The seven-runner Restricted Final was open to any horse that had been in the first six in any restricted run within the Yorkshire Area in 2009. Even though My Old Piano was a short price, there was a generous £1000 prize fund from Sovereign Health and it was pretty competitive. The jolly gave backers few worries and Tom Greenall sent him on approaching the last and My Old Piano only had to be pushed out to score. He was racking up a four timer and is unbeaten in five completed point-to-points. On his previous outing, he had got the better of Over To Joe at Charm Park on Easter Monday and that one has gone on to take an 18-runner Easingwold confined. If coming out again before the season is out, he will be hard to overcome. Its Teescomponents filled second in the hands of Colm McCormack. She came down the hill in the lead, but was readily picked off by My Old Piano. However, she is a mare on the up and lost little in defeat to a smart rival. Yet to be out of the first two in four tries between the flags, she has a rosy future at this level and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2010. There was a solid display in third from Areyacoddinmee under Richard Smith. This fellow’s form didn’t really measure up to some of the others in the line-up, but he made a lot of the running and, although not having a change of gear to match the principals, put in a performance of merit. Poppy Day didn’t really give her running in fourth as she was left behind a bit too easily. She is better than this. A blunder at the fence in the home stretch put paid to any chance that Father Owen had.
The Mens Open saw a quintet in opposition and had the closest climax of the afternoon. Pristine Condition, with Tom Greenall in the saddle, stayed on sufficiently well to claim the spoils. Not unleashed until absolutely necessary, Pristine Condition had a bit in reserve to give Tom a double on the card. Last time had seen a bloodless triumph at Flagg, but he had to work much harder on this occasion. Pristine Condition was also completing a four timer and has been well placed by trainer David Easterby to make full use of his assets. Ask Bobby, with Guy Brewer on board, stuck to his task resolutely, but was narrowly foiled. Having to set his own pace didn’t play to his strengths and he seems to prefer larger fields where he can get some cover. Ask Bobby had taken until February and a minor affair at Duncombe Park to get over his gallant and agonisingly close defeat in the 2008 Grimthorpe. Now back to his best again, he is a useful mens open horse. The official winning distance was half a length, but from my vantage point on the line it was a head or a neck at most. Both of the leading pair wore headgear, but neither seemed to shirk the issue. Willywont He kept on for third for Miles Seston without quite doing enough to join the tussle with those ahead of him. Steppes Of Gold was back in fourth, ahead of Tinarana Lord.
The Confined may have only seen a quartet take part, but a trio could be given a decent chance. Even so, Impact Zone seeking a four timer was a short-priced favourite, but he wasn’t able to land the odds. The honours went to Noble Persian under a canny ride from Guy Brewer. Making the running by about six lengths, the chasers halved the deficit heading out on the final circuit. Noble Persian was kicked on again to the tune of ten lengths though going to the open ditch, five from the finish, and thereafter the pursuers were always struggling to get on terms. The only concern was a mistake at the last that his rider did well to survive. Noble Persian missed the whole of 2008 with injury and was a healthy seven from eight prior to his layoff. He has returned in fine fettle and has thrice been second before today. Impact Zone in second was waited with by Tom Greenall, but he couldn’t pick up from the top of the hill. In such good form, a more conventional race would be expected to suit better. Third came Keen Whip and Mark Walford. The concession of three pounds to the other two won’t have helped Keen Whip and he ran another nice race. He can add to his April Hornby Castle success. Rare Presence was the other horse involved.
A field of 11 was present for the Maiden and there was a right royal scrap down the home run between Well Worthy and Jo Foster and Special Portrait, partnered by Tom Greenall. Well Worthy, wearing cheek-pieces, looked like getting swallowed up by Special Portrait when they turned for the judge, but he kept finding extra for pressure to get on top at the lollipop. This made it a double on the afternoon for Jo and her first since returning to the saddle after the birth of her child. Well Worthy stays all day and even contested the Grimthorpe at Whitwell-on-the-Hill in April. He simply seemed to want it more than the runner-up and gained reward for his tenacity. Special Portrait had run on from the rear to be third over 2m4f at Mordon a fortnight ago, however this is a very different test to that and maybe somewhere in between will see the youngster prevail now that he has some valuable experience under his belt. Held up, he couldn’t get past Well Worthy when that one stuck out his neck. There was plenty of money in the ring for Special Portrait, but the cash merely lined the bookies’ pockets when he was unable to carry through the momentum. In third, Calapocus (Mark Walford) was entitled to considerable respect on his past record, but didn’t appear to have any excuses when things got serious and couldn’t muster a change of pace. Fourth-placed Big John Macarty had no more to give when it mattered and had been a fair fourth at Whittington previously. Principal Lad wasn’t disgraced behind these, but Devils And Dust is already beginning to look exposed. Miss Rosella lost touch after a bad mistake at the 13th.