One of the warmest days at Hexham Racecourse since the Haydon Point-to-Point moved there in 1995 helped to attract a good crowd for the penutimate Northumbrian fixture of the 2017/18 Northern Area season. It proved to be another worthwhile trip from Ireland for Hawick-born jockey, Tom Hamilton, who virtually secured the Area Men's Jockeys Championship for a second time with a double on Slanemore Hill and Extreme Appeal.
Slanemore Hill still had a couple of lengths to make up on the favourite and long time leader, Miss Carney approaching the last in the Gary Hall Building Ltd Open Maiden Race but Hamilton conjured up a renewed effort from the 6 year old who stayed on strongly to gain the upper hand fifty yards from the line and score by one and a half lengths with the unfancied Call Zac a further half length away in third after producing a career best effort on his reappearance under Emma Todd.
The winner, owned and trained by former jumps jockey, Tony Ross, who retired from the saddle in 2008, was bought unraced for 9000 euros at the Tattersalls Ireland Sale in August 2016. Ross is best known for his association with Function Dream, who won five races in a row in the 2000/01 campaign, including Wetherby's Castleford Chase, the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot and Sandown Park's Game Spirit Chase.
Ross, who now runs a successful livery yard in Malton and is very good at educating and breaking in young horses, said of his Court Cave gelding: "He was backward and immature when he arrived and so I've been very patient with him. He's still a big, raw horse with very few miles on the clock, will make a good three mile chaser and is off to Goffs Doncaster Sales next month."
Extreme Appeal made the long journey from Kelly Morgan's Withcote yard near Oakham pay dividends in the 2m4f Codlaw Renewable Energy Ltd Intermediate Race. Under a well judged ride from Hamilton, the 6 year old was produced to hit the front after two out and turned the closing stages into a procession when coming home twenty lengths ahead of odds-on favourite, Roderick Random.
Morgan, who runs Preston Lodge Stud for her boss, Johnny Weatherby, said of her charge: "He won twice at Cottenham at the end of 2016 but struck into himself on the gallops just before his hat-trick bid there in February 2017 and was sidelined for almost a year. When I looked through the Race Planner there were no other races for him until May and it's only a three and a half hour drive to Hexham. Chipmunk, my only previous runner in the North, won at Alnwick in December 2016."
Jedburgh Grammar School pupil, Lucy Brown, 17, enjoyed a memorable first riding success on Sorcier in the Carrs Billington Fuels (Hexham) Restricted Race. Her mount was sent clear before heading out on the final circuit and never looked like being caught, eventually coasting home a distance in front of Worcester Pearmain.
The gelding's Bonchester Bridge-based owner/trainer, Philippa Shirley-Beavan was full of praise for Brown, who lives nearby, and said: "She's been coming in to ride out before or after school most days and does everything with him."
Brown added: "He took off as soon as he hit the front and still finished full of running in the holding ground. I've only got a week left at school and plan to take a year out next year before going to University. My great-grandfather was the late Ken Oliver, who used to train at Denholm, and I've wanted to be a point-to-point jockey since I was very young."
After facing some very tough assignments in hunters' chases since the turn of the year, Winged Crusader got back in a winning groove in the Chesterwood Bastle Holiday Cottage six-year-olds and over Conditions Race to provide jockey, Amie Waugh with her 25th career success between the flags. There was never more than three lengths between Waugh's mount and 2015 course winner, Up To Al (Abby Robertson) from the outset until the former gradually drew clear from two out to score by six lengths.
Waugh said: "He didn't like the ground but that was a good confidence restorer and I'll probably keep him Pointing for the time being."
Only one of the nine entries for the Fisher German Men's Open Race was declared, resulting in a walk-over for John Dawson's mount, Dance Of Time. Dawson took his seasonal tally to 20 with another winner at Witton Castle on Sunday. Dance Of Time could head further north on Friday for a Perth Hunters' Chase as he chases an eighth win a row. His end of season target is the prestigious John Corbet Cup at Stratford on Friday 8th June providing there's still plenty of cut in the ground.
After giving Teesside University student, Jessica Bedi a first winner at Hornby Castle the previous week, proven stayer Iron Chancellor struck gold again in the Graham Reader Motor Engineer Ladies Open Race. Always close up, the 13 year old picked up well before two out and survived a bad blunder when four lengths up at the last to beat Oscar Stanley by five lengths with Lucky Cody (Alex Duncan) running a blinder in third after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Will Ramsay, 49, enjoyed another win on the ultra consistent Pyjama Game in the Lycetts NPPA Conditions Race. The veteran Another Dark Rum is proving to be an ideal schoolmaster for Patrick Wadge and the partnership led throughout the final circuit until being collared two out. Whats Left then took up the running but couldn't respond when Ramsay's mount jumped into the lead at the last before pulling four lengths clear on the run-in.
Ramsay remains as enthusiastic as ever and, as usual, his head-cam footage should make good viewing on You-Tube. He is running a beginners' jockeys course at Buchtrig near Coldstream on Monday 28th May with assistance from Tim Reed and Ryan Mania and is also keen to get a new novice rider on the Pointing ladder next season by offering to lease Great Gusto and Pyjama Game to a suitable candidate.
The main action was preceded by two well contested pony races, sponsored by Shaw & Co. Solicitors. Fife raider, Ninfield Millionaire's Splendour (Elliot Stockwell) completed a 2018 hat-trick in the 138cm race over five furlongs, with Ravara Super Ted (Shay Farmer) in second place and Oakville Thomas (Frances Cromarty) in third. Judge Fox (Archie Frank) followed up a recent Tynedale victory in the 148cm contest over six and a half furlongs with a ten lengths success over Hawkesfield Flyer (Joshua Thompson).
The three remaining Northern Area fixtures are the Fife (April 28), Lauderdale (May 6) and Border (May 20).