Photos by Jon Hodd
Extensive watering had again taken place at Easingwold and an enormous amount of work had gone into the preparation of the course following the meeting a fortnight ago. Genuinely Good ground was on offer and a deluge midway through the afternoon eased conditions even further. The crowd stood up reasonably well considering how cold it was for May and the forecast for a brisk wind and some rain.
The opening Hunt Members lost much of its interest when Cnocan Aoibhinn wasn’t declared, presumably due to the going not being firm enough. As a result, there was no pace on, which played right into the hands of the odds-on favourite Fairy Skin Maker. Jo Foster’s mount was conceding five pounds to his three opponents, but he justified the short price by a rapidly diminishing half a length. Fairy Skin Maker has serious difficulties staying three miles in point-to-points, even on this sharp track, and was tying up on the incline to the line. A winning hurdler at shorter, he was getting off the mark in this sphere. Runner-up Allborn Lad (Kate Sutcliffe) has his limitations and wasn’t expected to run Fairy Skin Maker so close. Attempting to win this race for the third year in a row for the Sutcliffe family, Allborn Lad has found things happening a little too fast in confineds. The maiden Pingpong in third was easily outpaced from five out. Born Special was pulled up lame starting the last lap.
Seven horses took part in the Younger Horse Maiden and it looked a good opportunity for Lewesdon Duchess to open her account. Partnered by John Dawson, she hacked up in facile fashion. She always had the long time leader in her sights and eased ahead from three out to win as she pleased. Lewesdon Duchess wasn’t winning out of turn, as on her previous three starts she had been runner-up to Craiglands, Forge Valley and Intense Suspense respectively, the first-named of which has since won hunter chases at Sedgefield and Cheltenham. An easy three miles appears to be as far as she wants to go. In second, Wolf Warning opened up a clear advantage at the head of affairs for Henry Brooke, but he was readily picked off by the favourite. That said, he was in another parish to the remainder and ensured that they went a decent clip, which found many of them out. Third came Dark Night and Jo Foster. Dark Night couldn’t live with the principals on the final circuit. Now Then Basil completed in fourth. Belmont Bay was third and held when he sadly took a fatal fall at the fourth last. The debutant Pipsacre was left a distant third at that point and was soon pulled up by Tom Greenall. Held up, she gradually lost touch having made some headway mid-race. She will no doubt derive plenty of benefit from the experience.
The Novice Riders race attracted nine participants and there was no hanging around. Astutely ridden by Sarah Russell, Déjà Vu defied odds of as big as 50-1 to score decisively and give his rider her initial success. Sent on in the final three-quarters of a mile, Déjà Vu soon had his rivals in trouble and showed no signs of stopping. Although he had been pulled up on his last two outings, it wasn’t a total shock as Déjà Vu had had a similar contest at Mordon in March at his mercy until unseating his rider at the penultimate obstacle. Astral Prince was second, with Gemma Tutty in the plate. Astral Prince has run well round here before and he was keeping on when others had cried enough. He got tapped for toe when things got serious, but didn’t give up by any means. In third, Le Passing couldn’t quicken as well as the winner when that one went clear and could only keep on at the one pace for Toby Greenall. He didn’t really improve much on a midfield sit on a course that ought to have suited. Fourth-placed Phairy Storm dropped away having helped set the pace. The hat-trick seeking Boher Storm never reached the leaders.
The Mixed Open attracted eight runners and there was a thrilling climax that resulted in the judge’s verdict of a dead heat between Unjust Law and Tom Greenall and the fast finishing Gabor under Steve Magee. When Unjust Law went for home, he looked to have poached a crucial advantage, but Gabor reeled him in to join the favourite on the nod. Unjust Law was completing a four-timer and the other three victories had been done almost with his head in his chest. There is every chance of him making it five on the trot. Gabor was only fourth turning for home, but he got a great head of steam up on the descent and powered on as they met the rising ground. A standing dish at Easingwold, this was his fourth triumph from four visits and it will be a brave man that bets against him attaining the half dozen in 2010. Queenies Girl lost little in defeat in third, but was outpointed in the concluding quarter of a mile. Paul Frank’s charge has been in tremendous heart and was on a hat-trick. She ran her usual sound race at this venue. Rarely out of the first three, back in fourth, Brown’s Beck could find no more from the top of the hill, having been prominent throughout. There will have been plenty enough cut in the going for his liking. Plutocrat was still bang there when he got rid of Jo Foster at the ditch. He came back in the horse ambulance.
Although the time was slower than the novice riders and mixed open, several of the nine runners finished tired in the Confined. There was another long-priced winner with Tirol Livit following up his second to Gabor in the York & Ainsty hunt members by going one better. Jockey John Dawson was making it a double on the card. Tirol Livit has been campaigned almost exclusively on tight tracks and it is assumed that he is not thought to see out the trip particularly stoutly. There were no such worries today, although it could be argued that some of the others weren’t at their best. On probably his favourite point-to-point course, Del Trotter filled second in the hands of Laura Eddery. He was putting in some good work at the death, but wasn’t able to reach the victor. It was a fine effort though for a 14-year-old. Third-placed Lane Marshal (Richard Smith) weakened on the run-in after helping force the pace. He sets a fair standard, although this didn’t quite reach the heights of when he was mugged near the lollipop by Queenies Girl over course and distance last month. Thankfully, he avoided the dreaded bounce factor on his second run back from a two year layoff. Over To Joe in fourth ran a bit flat after a few tough races this season. He was a winner on this turf in April, and the second then, Stroom Bank, failed to fire on this occasion, having no response when push came to shove. Blinkered for the first time, Master Wolfe worked his way into contention and jumped much better on the whole, however two late blunders knocked the stuffing out of him after looking dangerous.
Seven horses came under orders for the Restricted, but it developed into a one horse race. That horse was Intense Suspense, who collected by a distance to rack up a double on the day for jockey Tom Greenall. Whilst this wasn’t the greatest restricted run in Yorkshire in 2009, it certainly wasn’t the worst. The way in which the six-year-old pulverised the opposition was very impressive because he had things wrapped up in a matter of strides as soon as he hit the front. Intense Suspense had disposed of Lewesdon Duchess with the minimum of fuss in a maiden at the previous fixture here and had been leading until departing five out in an altogether stronger affair at Charm Park in March. Runner-up Napalm under Toby Greenall stood no chance once Intense Suspense picked up the gauntlet, but did hold off the rest. He had claimed a weakish maiden at this course in April and probably stepped up on that. Jo Foster guided Once Before into third. As favourable an impression as Intense Suspense gave, Once Before got badly outpaced and this was a long way behind his latest close second to Keeverfield at Whittington. In fourth, Fifth Column made much of the early running before losing his position heading away from the enclosures for the final time.
The sole double figure field was ten for the Maiden. At the 17th time of asking, Knoxhill Archie came up with the goods. Chris Dawson did the steering and put himself in the box seat in the Yorkshire Gentleman Riders Championship going into the season’s climax in this part of the world at Mordon next week. Knoxhill Archie seemed to have matters under control for most of the last lap. He had only been narrowly beaten on his previous outing here, but his general modest profile probably puts this race into context. It is no coincidence that the younger horse maiden was 12 seconds quicker. Red Roxy hadn’t been totally dispensed with when she hit the deck in the home straight. Left to run into a fifteen length second were Devils And Dust and Pip Tutty. This was somewhat more than he had been showing since embarking on a pointing career. Meertrix was readily swept aside, but did keep on for Richard Walker for third. There are much worse performers than this fellow around. Dreamaker in fourth found it all happening a bit too quickly and is better than this. Gnillish was pulled up lame just after the completion of a circuit, while Red Mountain came down on the flat. Tabloid disappeared in the area out of view from the commentary position, but as he was running loose soon afterwards, presumably unseated Tom Greenall at the 7th.