The recent dry weather came to an abrupt end in the past day or so and incessant rain left the ground as officially Soft, Heavy in Places and the car park as a quagmire, with tractor drivers in constant demand to free stranded motorists. The miserable weather kept the crowd down, but those that did attend saw some exciting racing and no shortage of runners.
The Hunt Members featured seven runners and, given a wonderful waiting ride by Paul Frank, Fox Point led approaching the final fence and just had to be pushed out for victory. It might not have been the strongest of races, but Fox Point did it very nicely indeed. Under Rules, Fox Point had winning form in Ireland before scoring for Patrick Haslam in Britain, but that was back in 2006. He has obviously had his problems as this was only his third pointing start since. High Moor made most of the running, however he was picked off after tiring. Passing the post second, he was unfortunately disqualified as jockey Ian Smith failed to weigh in. Baron Romeo (James Birkbeck) never got into it and was well beaten in a promoted second. At the scene of his maiden triumph, Nomadic Ice (Philip Greaves) was a long way back in a promoted third. My Wee Woman came down at the 7th and none of the others got round.
A dozen horses faced the starter for the Restricted and Sea Senor made it two out of two between the flags under Jake Greenall. Once he had pulled himself to the front, Sea Senor ensured they went a good clip and strung the field right out. He jumped right and looked in trouble after the penultimate obstacle, but drew away again on the run-in. When Sea Senor took his maiden at Charm Park a fortnight ago, little did we know that four of those behind would have already won since. Sea Senor may well go in again. In second, Lewesdon Duchess edged ahead for Chris Dawson running to the last, but perhaps unsurprisingly on a track where races took over seven minutes, she appeared to not quite get home. She is game as they come and this would be about Lewesdon Duchess’s best effort to date. Two Powers made progress from the rear for Stuart Ross and ended up third. He never reached the leaders, but is a striking individual who can be expected to do better. Fifth Column was a distant fourth. Rich Hill chased the leader for most of the journey until getting tired in the home straight.
Ten horses came under orders for the Ladies Open, which was a useful event of its type. Andre Chenier has been a revelation for the lower weight of ladies opens and he dispelled any doubts over his stamina to triumph. Jockey Charlotte Cundall has a couple of decent horses in 2010 on which to showcase her talents and she was seen to good effect once more, delivering Andre Chenier to perfection and a comfortable success. This fellow had chased home the smart Eliza Doalott at Charm Park, which is creditable form indeed. Pip Tutty’s return to the saddle after a skiing injury was rewarded with a second place aboard Blandings Castle. He was one of the shining lights in Yorkshire in 2009 and was back in the groove here. There are more races to be won with Blandings Castle as he was clear second best. Nawaadi and Jacqueline Coward came third. Whilst he couldn’t make any impression on the principals from the mid division, this was fair stuff nonetheless. In fourth, the favourite Lutin Du Moulin was held up in rear and got bogged down in the mud. This run is best forgotten and he is a different proposition on a less testing surface. Supreme Huntress led them a merry dance until tiring late on. He isn’t a lost cause.
Just seven horses lined up for the Mens Open and recent Market Rasen hunter chase winner Pristine Condition was odds on to follow up. However, Jake Greenall’s partner had to settle for second as the honours went to Oaklands Luis and John Dawson. It was the first time horse and jockey had teamed up and they certainly gelled to turn over the hot favourite. On his day, Oaklands Luis, is a match for most and everything dropped into place today as a tidy leap at the last kept his rival at bay. Although he sports headgear, Pristine Condition has been a model of consistency ad is still only eight. Forty Shakes, as ever piloted by Chris Dawson, has been a grand servant to connections down the years and he kept on for third. He can be relied upon to try to his up-most. Quinta De Lobo, versatile as to ground, didn’t do too badly in fourth. Over To Joe found the going against him and was never travelling.
The Confined was an ultra competitive 17-runner affair and after a couple of near misses Brize Norton got his head in front. Guy Brewer had Brize Norton scraping paint up the inside, survived an error heading out on the final lap and finished strongly. Brize Norton was given the office as late as possible as he had seemed to look around a bit when grabbing a short-lived lead at Charm Park. He had a seven pound penalty to shoulder and it will be interesting to see how he gets on when competing in opens. Runner-up Oaklands Bobby, with Chris Dawson in the plate, was just outgunned at the death. He has kept his form remarkably well and is a tough nut to crack. It was his first attempt on such a soft surface and he should be winning soon. Ginger Biscuit was quietly fancied by some and he was guided into third by Paul Frank. Like his stablemate Fox Point earlier, this one has had his share of setbacks, but had several capable performers behind this time. There was a fine effort in fourth under a welter burden of thirteen stone from No Complaint, who ran on past beaten horses. The front-running Nectar De Guye couldn’t quite last out, while Benwell was never sighted.
Division One of the Maiden brought together 11 hopefuls and the good looking nine-year-old Old Vic gelding Thatsthereasonwhy, moving powerfully, continued his upward curve in 2010. John Dawson did the steering as Thatsthereasonwhy cruised through to chase the leaders in the home stretch and was punched out to score. He is back to the standard he was at in his younger days in Ireland and, with his troubles now behind him, shouldn’t be discounted when tackling a restricted. One More Gypsy kept on up the hill to be second, with Jake Greenall in the saddle. She has shown enough at Hutton Rudby and Witton Castle to suggest that a maiden is within her grasp. Toplander had made a promising debut at Duncombe Park last month and he reached a similar level here in bagging a respectable third under Chris Dawson. He’ll be improving some more yet. Red Roxy did OK in fourth. Arrive Alive, an Irish import, led for a long time and can make an impact in the future. Wressel took a crashing fall at the open ditch.
There was a field of 15 for Division Two of the Maiden and there was a lot to like about the way that Augustus Livius and Ann Wilson scooted clear up the finishing chute. Augustus Livius has been knocking on the door and was by no means winning out of turn. He isn’t the biggest, but is all heart. Runner-up Yes I Can was outspeeded when things got serious having jumped soundly, but ran on for a place. Yes I Can hadn’t been devoid of ability in a couple of Irish points a year ago. He can build on this. Sutton was astutely handled into third by Max Johnson. Sutton was prominent throughout and wasn’t given a desperately hard time when the winner had flown in the closing stages. This will have been a welcome confidence booster after Sutton’s inexperience saw him tip up at North Carlton in February when challenging. He can pick up a maiden. College Land Boy could only run on at the one pace in fourth. A potentially nasty incident at the ditch saw the race end for Seraphim Night, Little Nipper and What A Cliché. The well bred Oaklands Somthin will come on plenty for this initial visit to a racecourse. Following a close second in a slowly run affair at Witton Castle in February, Hunt Ball has now twice disappointed in testing conditions. Conclusions shouldn’t be drawn that he may have been flattered by that until after he has been seen again on a better surface.