A damp afternoon at Friars Haugh, Kelso on Saturday couldn't diminish the quality of racing on offer at the Berwickshire fixture and it paid to follow previous course winners such as Eco Warrior, Damiens Dilemma, Cave Hunter and Costly Dream.
Eco Warrior carried the colours of Carolyn Maclay to a fifth success at the track in the opening Crabtree and Crabtree Berwickshire Conditions Race. Patiently ridden by his trainer, Nick Orpwood, the nine-year-old closed in on the leaders over the riverside fences on the final circuit before being produced with a well-timed challenge on the inner to take a fractional advantage three out. The partnership forged clear from the next to beat Great Gusto (Will Ramsay) by ten lengths, with the consistent Pyjama Game a further two lengths away in third.
Caroyln said, "For once everything has gone smoothly with his training this season and after two runs in less than a fortnight he'll now have a short break," and Nick added, "You wouldn't think he'd been in a race as he was still full of running at the finish. He might run next in another Conditions Race at Mosshouses on April 28."
Moores Novelty was always travelling well under Kit Alexander in the Brown Shipley Open Maiden Race and, after taking it up two out from Fashionistalady, sealed a two lengths victory with another great jump at the last.
The seven-year-old's Kinneston trainer, Nick Alexander said, "He did finish runner-up in an Irish maiden two years ago and we subsequently bought him privately out of Damian Murphy's yard. After running over hurdles for us last year, he was suited here by better ground and the lower grade."
Two of the Northern Area's top lady jockeys, Charlotte Dun and Amie Waugh served up a treat for spectators on Damiens Dilemma and Winged Crusader respectively in the Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Open Race and there was never more than a length between them in the three and a quarter mile contest. The pace was unrelenting and, after jumping the last in unison, the judge was unable to separate them at the line, with Sedgefield raider, Scots Gaelic (Leah Cooper) a further ten lengths away in third.
This was a fourth course win for Robert Miller-Bakewell's Damiens Dilemma and Charlotte said of the eleven-year-old, "The blinkers sharpened him up and he jumped like a buck," while this fifth win in a row for Winged Crusader leaves him joint top of the standings for the leading horse in the country.
Cave Hunter (Bill Shanahan) was allowed to dictate a modest pace throughout the final mile of the Watson Seeds Men's Open Race and appeared to be going better than his nearest challenger, Pena Dorada (Connor Wood), who was two lengths down when falling three out. Left in splendid isolation, Bill's mount cruised home fifteen lengths ahead of Carlos Gardel (John Dawson).
This was Cave Hunter's fourth win from eight outings at Friars Haugh in the last five years. Regular pilot, Tom Hamilton, son of the gelding's Hawick trainer, Wendy Hamilton, was again booked to ride in Ireland at the weekend and recorded a notable success on Blackhillsofdakota in a Listed Bumper at Limerick on Sunday.
Ladyvie (Lucy Provan) provided Inverurie-based owner/trainer, Jackie Stephen with her first winner since January 2018 in the Psigma NPPA Conditions Race. Always prominent, the twelve-year-old mare jumped superbly and quickened away from the last to beat Formidableopponent (Bill Shanahan) by a couple of lengths with Whats Left (Stephanie Anderson) a further ten lengths away in third.
This was Lucy's second career winner, almost twenty two months after her initial success on Ladyvie at Bratton Down, while Jackie's last point-to-point winner came at Overton in February 2012 with Reland (Steven Fox).
Following a couple of below-par efforts, Costly Dream (Ross Wilson) returned to winning ways in the Meadowhead Restricted Race. Carrying the colours of Sanquhar-based owner/trainer, John Marshall, the seven-year-old looked beaten turning for home before engaging overdrive to overhaul Buzzkillbob (Joe Wright) approaching the last and win a shade cosily in the end by two lengths.
Ross said, "He seems much happier on left handed tracks. I thought he wouldn't catch the leader from four out but he found plenty when it mattered."