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North Staffordshire at Sandon
Saturday 3rd April 2021

by Rory Alkin

The meeting took place on a glorious sunny but cool day. The course had been watered overnight to produce good ground, and thirty-seven runners went to post for the seven races.

The main highlights were a double for trainer Joe O'Shea and his rider Henry Crow, courtesy of Irish Anthem in the Members and Willewonga in the Maiden. There were also first point-to-point wins for Toby Wynne in the Conditions Race (Level 3) on Crazy Jack and Jack Martin on Snowy Clouds in the concluding Bumper.

In the Members, the thirteen-year-old Irish Anthem was held up and easily picked off the leader Sambremont before leaving the back straight and had eight lengths to spare at the line. In the Maiden, Willewonga took it up at the third last and fought off the late challenge of Ed Glassonbury on Forest Chimes, to win by a neck. The five-year-old is owned by the stable's Head Lass Hannah Roach and was bought privately from Will Kinsey about eighteen months ago.

In the two-mile five furlongs Conditions Race, O'Shea and Crow had long odds-on favourite Behind Times to complete a treble, but the horse was never travelling well and could only finish fourth. Toby Wynne took it up on the veteran Crazy Jack at the eight and fought off a good challenge from the Maiden Go on Chez to win by half-a-length. The winner whose last win was in the Stratford Handicap Hunter Chase in June 2018, is owned and trained by Ann Hewitt, who was represented here by Gillon Crow. The eighteen-year-old jockey who is Oliver Greenall's amateur rider was having his first point winner in his third season, but he won two hunter chases on Just A Par last year and he looks to have a promising future.

The meeting's first ever flat race for younger horses had nine runners and it provided an exciting finish with the judge unable to separate Jack Martin on Snowy Clouds and Ben Bromley on Another Brown Bear, with a resulting dead heat. This was a first winner for 22-year-old Martin from Dundalk in Ireland, who works for Philip Hobbs and was persuaded by his cousin champion jockey Brian Hughes to come to the UK.

The five-year-old Snowy Clouds is owned and trained by Brian Harding and his partner Kelly Gale at Blencow in Cumbria, continuing Harding's 100% strike-rate in points, having trained Senor Lombardy to win at Alnwick before Christmas. The trainer had broken the horse and he acquired him for £7,500 at Trevor Hemmings' dispersal sale at Doncaster. The joint winner Another Brown Bear who was acquired by David Minton for George Barlow at the 2019 Spring Store Sales for £55,000 is trained by Phil Rowley. Both geldings look exciting prospects to follow.

Lorna Brooke enjoyed her first ride on the Ludlow hunter chase winner Garde Ville in the Mixed Open beating solitary rival Sir Antony Brown by an easy seven lengths. In the Intermediate, the Luke Price trained French Piece had a facile win beating Donjoun by ten lengths with the only other rival Master Hide back in third. The winner who won a Maiden and restricted in 2019 and missed last season, was a third success over the weekend for owner Jason Warner, having enjoyed a double the previous day at Higham courtesy of Thumb Stone Blues and Ahead of the Game.

The older horse PPORA Conditions Race saw Sausalito Sunrise take it up a mile out and win comfortably by four lengths from Optimised. The winner had not run since finishing down the field behind It Came To Pass in the 2020 Cheltenham Foxhunters. The veteran was ridden by John Smith-Maxwell for his mother Katherine and is trained by his sister Alexandra Dunn, who was saddling runners at Newton Abbot.

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