One of the biggest crowds seen at Balcormo Mains for many years enjoyed some competitive racing in glorious sunshine at the Fife meeting on Easter Saturday.
As usual, Clerk of the Course, Jim Drysdale and his team provided near perfect jumping ground for the time of year following four days of intensive watering and their efforts deserved to attract more runners.
On a day dominated by horses trained in Northumberland, the only Scottish success was provided by the Nick Alexander-trained gelding, Racing Pulse, owned and ridden by younger brother, Jamie, in the £1500 Pentland Land Rover Mixed Open-the Northern Area Feature Race for the 2018/19 season.
Produced with a perfectly timed challenge, the 10 year old headed last year's winner, Nicki's Nipper (Amie Waugh) approaching the last and kept on well to score by two lengths, with stable companion, Killer Crow (Kit Alexander) a further twenty five lengths away in third place.
This former 144-rated hurdler, trained in the past by John Quinn, Rebecca Curtis, Richard Hobson, Willie Mullins and Turlough O'Connor, was bought privately five weeks ago from the latter and was following up a recent Tranwell Men's Open victory on his yard debut. Nick Alexander's tally of winners for the last twelve months is 30, comprising 25 under Rules and 5 between the flags. Nick Orpwood took his seasonal tally to 11 with a double on Doldrum Bay and Rolling Thunder, and, at the same time, extended his lead over Ross Wilson in the Albert Bartlett (Airdrie) Ltd Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship to 19 points.
After being left in front at the sixth following the departure of Afterclass, Doldrum Bay proceeded to make the remainder of the running in the Lindores Abbey Distillery Restricted Race and had more in hand than the official winning margin of one length over Moores Novelty (Kit Alexander) might suggest. This 8 year old Presenting gelding is a full brother to Weapons Amnesty, a Cheltenham Festival winner in 2009 and 2010, and was bought privately by Orpwood, who also trains him, from Paurick O'Connor at the beginning of January.
Making only his third start since changing hands at the 2017 Doncaster May Sales, the former Donald McCain-trained chaser, Rolling Thunder landed the 2m4f Rathbones PPORA Club Members Conditions Race in smooth fashion by a length from Rossini's Dancer (Mhairi Ogilvie) after dictating matters from six out.
The 9 year old is owned and trained by Victoria McKie, who said: "He goes well fresh, likes a flat track and appreciates a sound surface. It's good being able to run in these types of races without having to carry a penalty."
Nick Alexander's evergreen 14 year old gelding, Rossini's Dancer deserves a special mention after being retired following his second place finish on his 99th career start under all codes. He made his debut over six furlongs at Pontefract on 27th September 2007 and proved to be very versatile, winning on the Flat, over hurdles and fences and between the flags. His 12 victories included 2 at Balcormo Mains in 2015 and 2017, and he was also placed 28 times.
Frankies Fire made it three wins from her last four starts in the Turcan Connell NPPA Conditions Race. Well ridden by Charlotte Tailford, 21, this home-bred 6 year old Flying Legend mare had her four rivals in trouble after changing gear from five out and still had plenty left in the tank as she crossed the line eight lengths ahead of More Madness (Jamie Alexander), with Molten Brown (Charlotte Dun) a further two lengths away in third.
Only 2 horses faced the starter in the Bruce Farms Conditions Race and the odds-on favourite, Winged Crusader (Amie Waugh) was soon left in splendid isolation after Chicago Outfit unseated Megan Davies at the fourth fence. This was his 6th win of the season and owner Simon Waugh said: "He didn't have much more than a racecourse gallop and we'll keep him going as we might never get another chance to be the leading horse in the country."
Fashionistalady stands up to her racing remarkably well, having appeared at 10 of the 11 Northern Area meetings this season since the opener at Hexham on Sunday 2nd December, and deservedly opened her account in the concluding Rae Grieve Memorial Open Maiden Race. Ross Wilson's mount outstayed long time leader, Okey Dokey (Poppi Shepherd) from two out before asserting close home to score by a length.
This 7 year old Kadeed mare, owned by Liz Nixon and her partner, Bryan Stanners, is trained by Liz on their smallholding in the North Tyne valley near Wark, and was bought privately in Ireland from Bryan's brother, Edward who was happy to offload her after she had finished tailed off in 2 National Hunt Flat Races in 2017.
As usual, the main action was preceded by pony racing with a total of 17 ponies in action in the three contests. Ninfield Millionaire's Splendour completed a four-timer in the hands of 14 year old Elliot Stockwell in The Ship Inn, Elie 138cm Open Race, with Telynau Apollo (Lily McGhee) and Heidi (Heidi Henderson) filling the minor places.
The 10 runner Wigwam Holidays Montrave Estate 148cm Novice Riders contest went to Dino Royale (Frances Cromarty) from Raemoir Vermillion (Conner McCann) and Black Magic Special (Lana McDougall).
The long trip from Yorkshire paid off for Abrickinthewall, who completed a hat-trick under 15 year old Sarah Longthorn in the Perth Racecourse 148cm Open Race. Indian River (Shay Farmer) finished runner-up, with Chilworth Dancer (Elliot Stockwell) in third place.