Racing took place at Howe Hills Mordon on Sunday 22nd February. The South Durham Hunt Farmers Club hosted the meeting on what was a cold and wintry day, but there was an extremely high proportion of runners to entries. The ground was officially good but deteriorated to soft during the course of the day, however there was a good covering of grass on the whole of the track.
Racing started with the Camerons Brewery four, five, six & seven year olds maiden race over the shorter distance of 2m4f. 13 runners went to post but the dual to the line was between the Jack Teal piloted Mickey Miller and Chris Dawson's To Begin, ridden by his brother John. It was Mickey Miller that managed to assert over the final fence and won by two lengths. "I thought we would have a good chance if we got round," reported his rider Jack Teal. "It's not the he jumps badly but he lost his confidence a bit as I was asking a lot of him at Alnwick and he was nearly brought down at Sheriff Hutton, however he jumped spot on today," Jack added. HMP Blue recorded his best pointing run to date back in third under Ross Chapman, although he was 25 lengths further adrift and Portrait Star finished in fourth for Robert Hogg. Buglers Dream took a fall at the last when looking held for third and jockey Jacqueline Coward was stood down for the rest of the day after injuring her bad shoulder.
The second race was a three mile maiden, sponsored by Merrington Grange & East Greystone Farm Cottages, Michael and Sue Hodgson and John and Sheila Stephenson. Oscar Flyer who has been off the track since April 2013, landed the spoils for Sam Welton in one of the closest finishes of the day. He beat Heckley Herbert and Catherine Walton by half a length and Chantry Melody who managed to complete for the first time in his pointing career was three lengths further back in third under Andrew Bartlett.
Nortonthorpe Industrial Park sponsored the restricted race which produced another great battle, this time between Chris Dawson aboard Simon Robinson's Kilmacallogue Bay and TC Spitfire ridden by Max Johnson. In repeat of the first race, these two pulled clear of the rest of the field and TC Spitfire won comfortably by two lengths. "He's the fittest we've had him, but I did still wonder if he might need the run. He did it very well in the end and I didn't have to ask him too much," said the winning rider. Wizadora was a fast finishing third under Joanna Mason, deputising for her injured cousin Jacqueline Coward and Rush House finished fourth for Jack Teal.
The Collins Seafoods Club Members race was confined to Gentlemen riders, where those not defined as novice jockeys carried a 5lb penalty. This was no problem for the winner, Sportingfriendship who was partnered by Harry Bannister and was another two length winner. Special Portrait was back in second under Robert Hogg and Monbeg was third by 10 lengths for John Dawson.
The Hellens Club Race for Lady Riders went the way of Dead Ringa partnered by Emma Todd. The pair took up the running on the final circuit and won by an easy eight lengths. Winning trainer, Liz Clark said, "I knew he was very well as I couldn't catch him from the field! He worked well before Sheriff Hutton but ran badly so I was really pleased with how he went. His jumping has improved and we'll probably go to the Hurworth next as he likes a good break between racing to keep him fresh." Scots Gaelic stayed on strongly for second under novice rider Fionn McSharry who keeps improving with every ride in this, her first season. Blackthirteen was six lengths further back in third for Jess Gillam and Ampleforth finished fourth. Oaklands Bobby made much of the running but finished back in fifth and the thirteen year old will more than likely come on for the run.
The day finished with the Albert Hill Commercials Club Members Conditions Race for horses which have not won any race since 25th November 2012. Forge Valley made the most of the conditions and was given an assertive ride by Tom Greenwood to win by the biggest margin of the day, 10 lengths. Apache Blue and Chris O'Mahony finished in second with Son of Flicka 20 lengths further back in third for Max Johnson. Son of Flicka will prefer better ground and should be one to watch when he gets this.