In a training career spanning more than 40 years, Victor Thompson has not enjoyed many better days than the one he had at Alnwick on Saturday where Senor Alco, Cobh National, Sharivarry and Stoney gave him a four-timer at the rearranged West Percy fixture.
Senor Alco kicked off his red letter day and initiated a treble for jockey, Catherine Walton in the Hazelrigg Racing NPPA Club Members Race. Master Butcher led from the tenth until headed two out by Senor Alco and Walton's mount quickly settled the issue, drawing clear to score by five lengths. Special Portrait was a further four lengths away in 3rd, on his first start since having a wind operation last April.
This was a third course win for the 9 year old and Thompson said: "A change of tactics made all the difference and Catherine held him up perfectly as I had told her to do."
The odds-on favourite, Afterclass tried hard to make all the running in the two and a half mile Northumberland Arms & Running Fox Cafe Open Maiden Race but proved to be a sitting duck for his three rivals. His lead was gradually eroded on the final circuit before disappearing altogether when Walton sent Cobh National upsides two out. The latter found another gear when it mattered on the run-in to win by a length, with the improving Lady's Favourite a similar distance away in 3rd. This lightly raced 7 year old Millenary gelding was bought by Thompson for £4500 at Doncaster Sales last May and Walton said of him: "He was a little bit novicey over his fences but quickened up nicely when asked to do so."
On ground much softer than he would prefer, Sharivarry recorded his first win in Open company in the Newton Hall Wedding Venue Ladies Open Race to complete Walton's treble and put her at the head of the National Lady Jockeys Championship table. After tracking Radio Nowhere from three out, the 9 year old found the decisive thrust to hit the front inside the last hundred yards and secure a two lengths verdict. Walton said: "After giving him a patient ride, I was always confident of winning coming down the home straight as I knew he has a good turn of foot."
After drawing a blank in 17 outings in his native Ireland, Stoney struck gold on his first start for Thompson's Newton-by-the-Sea yard in the Sintons LLP Open Maiden Race to complete the four-timer. Confidently ridden by Kit Alexander, he tracked the leaders on the final circuit before joining issue four out. Sent on from Whatsthestoryman at the next, the 8 year old was in total command after two out and had five lengths in hand at the line. He was bought for £10,000 at Doncaster Sales in September, less than a month after falling on his last start over fences. Alexander commented: "He travelled well and did everything very easily. He is a nice prospect and will improve again for the run."
With Pyjama Game's owner/trainer, Rose Dobbin away on a skiing holiday holiday in France, her Grand National winning husband, Tony was on hand to see the 9 year old land the Carrs Billington West Percy and Percy Hunts Members Race under a peach of a ride from Tommy Dowson. In front throughout the final mile, the gelding held off a late rally from Ballyvesey and Monogram to score a shade cosily by half a length. West Auckland-born Dowson, 19 the following day, has been attached to Dobbin's Chatton yard for 18 months and this was his 4th career winner, including one under Rules for Robert Johnson. He said of Pyjama Game: "He was pricking his ears and loving it out in front and had plenty left in the tank at the finish."
First season trainer, Jessica McKie maintained her 100% record (four winners from four runners) when The Falklander followed up his December victory at the track in the Northern Structures Men's Open Race. Content to track Dica for much of the final circuit, Nick Orpwood eventually eased his mount into a narrow lead three out before pulling right away in the closing stages to score by fifteen lengths. "That was hard work in the very tacky ground," said Orpwood. Jessica's father, Ian added: "He loves hunting with the College Valley between races and will be out next Saturday. He may well return here for the Percy Men's Open on February 15."
Six of the seven winners on the card were trained within twenty miles of the course, the exception being Lauderdale raider, Whisperdale in the JH Greenwood & Company Restricted Race. Positively ridden by Tom Hamilton, who would have missed the ride had Douglas Julian been able to run at Wetherby, he led or disputed from the fifth until taking command down the home straight to beat Prince Of Ivagh by four lengths. This was a first training success for Jack Clark, who lives next to the Mosshouses point-to-point course. He described himself as box driver, work-rider, owner and trainer and confirmed that his charge had done six days hunting with the Lauderdale. The 7 year old was bought privately in August 2013 from Maxine Stirk and Clark said of him: "He is much happier when he's out in front, forcing the pace and has come on a lot for his run at Friars Haugh six days ago."
The next meeting at Alnwick is the Percy on Sunday February 15, which includes the season's Area Feature Race, the Men's Open, with a first prize of £350.