The Northern Area season ended on a high with 52 runners, including 25 from Yorkshire and 2 from Cheshire, in Sunday's Border fixture at Hexham Racecourse and it was a case of doubles all round for jockeys, Chris Dawson and Tom Hamilton as well as trainer, Joe O'Shea and owner, Richard Hewitt.
Dicky Shore set the ball rolling for Dawson in the Ward Hadaway Open Maiden Race. After tracking the favourite, Stagecoach Jasper from six out, Dawson's mount took it up at the last and stayed on well to score by two lengths. This was a first Hexham winner for Catton near Thirsk owner/breeeder, Mary Dodgson, who said of her 7 year old gelding: ''He has had a few niggling problems and been slow to come to hand.'' He gained valuable racecourse experience last year in three Bumpers and a Novice Hurdle before being sent between the flags this term and was making only his third appearance of 2015 at Hexham.
Dawson completed his double on recent acquisition, Up To Al, who was backed down from 10/1 to 2/1 in the two and a half mile Carrs Billington (Wooler) Open Maiden Race. The 7 year old had finished unplaced five times and failed to finish thrice in his eight outings for Andrew Nicholls earlier this season. This may not have been the strongest contest but he was always going well and swept past the two leaders approaching two out before sprinting clear to beat Hands On Scarlet by seven lengths. Dawson, 31 on Wednesday, said: ''I've only had him a few weeks but managed to get his back problems sorted out and a first-time tongue tie made a big difference today as he had been struggling to get home in his races previously. He quickened up really well when I gave him a squeeze on the home turn.''
Joe O'Shea made the 340 mile round trip from Kelsall near Chester worthwhile when his only runners at the meeting, the Richard Hewitt-owned duo, Cottage Oak and Executive Benefit both obliged in the hands of Tom Hamilton. After heading Lucky Cody four out in the Northumberland Sporting Clays Men's Open Race, Cottage Oak prevented his rival from getting back on terms and had three lengths in hand at the line, with the consistent Kilmacallogue Bay a further ten lengths away in third. O'Shea doesn't believe in keeping his horses wrapped up in cotton wool and this was the 12 year old gelding's eleventh start in the last six months. Hamilton, who had finished runner-up on his only rides at Stratford and York on Friday and Saturday respectively, said: ''He was idling when he hit the front and just does enough.''
In one of the most exciting finishes of the season, Executive Benefit just edged out Splendid Blue by a head in the TBA Mares Club Members Race. However, after leading from three out, Hamilton's mount looked in trouble when headed half way up the run-in before digging deep to regain the initiative again near the line. Like her stable companion, Executive Benefit has been kept busy this season since scoring first time out at Barbury Castle on December 7 and this was her sixth win from ten starts. Hamilton added: ''She was in second gear most of the way and did well to battle back after losing momentum with a mistake at the last.''
Former Irish pointer, Damiens Dilemma has gone from strength to strength since joining Selkirk handler, Lesley Coltherd in January and his fourth win of the campaign in the Oakbank Holiday NPPA Club Members Race clinched the Northern Area Novice Horse Championship. Sent straight to the front by Harriett Bryce, the 7 year old maintained a relentless gallop and repelled all challengers before beating the favourite, Milano Magic by three lengths in the best time of the day.
There was a popular local success for Bellingham jockey, Charles Carr on Jim Gledson's gelding, Clonea Power in the Par Petroleum Restricted Race. Always prominent, the 8 year old took command after two out, leaving his Yorkshire rivals treading water as he forged clear to win by twelve lengths. Carr, 35, who built Gledson's farmhouse and now looks after his horses, only started race-riding three years ago and had his only other winner on Clonea Power at Dalston in 2013. He said: ''I got a breather into him coming down the hill after four out and he finished full of running. He is a very honest individual but must have decent ground and stays forever.''
After a trio of near misses at Dalston, Corbridge and Mosshouses, Rolecarr deservedly ended his season on a winning note in the Bill Aitchison Ladies Open Race. Always close up, he was sent on after three out by Charlotte Dun and kept Oscar Stanley at bay down the home straight to score by two lengths. The 12 year old's trainer, Jane Dun said: ''He has enjoyed a four week break since Mosshouses as Charlotte was busy with her end of year Accountancy and Economics exams at Heriot Watt University.'' Charlotte added: ''He's a star. I just sit and let him do what he wants and he was loving it today.''
For the record, the 17 Northern Area fixtures attracted 1393 entries and 795 runners with an average of 6.91 per race. Although the number of runners was the lowest since 1990. the ratio of runners to entries (57.07%) was the second highest in the Area since 1990.