The prospect of bad weather kept many away from Howe Hills, but those that were present were treated to some superb racing. Initially, the ground could be described as Good, however with persistent heavy rain starting just before the second race, it soon became Good To Soft, and by the final heat the going was much deeper and could be classed as Soft. Oliver Greenall gained another success in his quest for the National Title and Yorkshire Ladies Champion Jacqueline Coward secured a double. There was also a first winner for the promising Sam Drake, while Guy Brewer rode a treble, all on horses trained by Mary Sowersby. Oddly, Guy had never before triumphed at this venue, the scene where he cruelly had the 2006 Yorkshire Mens Title snatched from him.
There were 11 horses present for the Confined to kick off, which resulted in Sam Drake getting on the scoresheet aboard Knightsbridge King. Once the pace setting Nocatee had given way, Knightsbridge King, handily positioned throughout, powered ahead between the last two fences and maintained a five length advantage to the line. He had been placed at a respectable distance behind Duchess Account at Duncombe Park and was in the process of running a decent race in a Whittington confined last week when he departed two from home. A dual hurdles winner at a low level, Knightsbridge King has the ability to hold his own in this grade now the likable chestnut has made his mark in points. Crashtown Leader and Simon Robinson were the only contenders to have Knightsbridge King in their sights in the closing stages and ended up second. Crashtown Leader is quite lightly raced and wasn’t beaten a mile in the Whittington intermediate. He’s not without hope in a similar contest. Tacolino under Charlie Johnston was well adrift in third and never reached the leaders. This might have come a bit quick after Hutton Rudby a week ago. Wise Tale in fourth again looked a difficult ride, but did keep on without threatening to bustle up the principals. Abandon Ship’s erratic jumping is proving his downfall as he doesn’t lack talent. At this stage in proceedings, the ground was apparently too lively for the favourite Young Claude.
The nine-runner Restricted wasn’t a bad event of its type and the honours went to Buy Onling and Jacqueline Coward. He quickened up nicely over the concluding couple of fences and was probably value for a bit more than the two length winning margin. Having collected a Market Rasen maiden in February and only found the improving Network Oscar too good at Dalton Park, Buy Onling was entitled to the utmost respect. He should continue to give a fine account of himself. George The Grey was being niggled along by Oliver Greenall with a mile to go, yet stayed on for second. He didn’t look totally happy, but will probably pick up one of these races before the season is out. Third was the giant Benwell under John Dawson. But for a blunder at the last, he would have finished closer. Since winning at this track last year, he has been consistent in this grade. Celestial Hall was in front at the top of the hill, but could only keep on at the one pace to be fourth. The conditions at Dalston had been desperate when he caught a legless Jimmys Duky on the run-in. Mandalay Bay was behind these and did OK.
A total of ten horses came under orders for the Mens Open. Andre Chenier gained the day having raced in second for much of the journey. He was campaigned almost exclusively at around two miles in the professional game, but certainly wasn’t ridden to get the trip by Guy Brewer. Once he had taken up the running at the penultimate obstacle, Andre Chenier never looked like relinquishing his lead. Lutin Du Moulin showed his second at Charm Park on Easter Monday to be no flash in the pan by filling the same spot here. Nathan Moscrop did the steering once more and Lutin Du Moulin was staying on long after others had cried enough. He can go on further from this. Queenies Girl (Paul Frank) in third only gave best approaching the final fence. She doesn’t always find that much at the death, but is still consistency personified. Ben From Ketton was back in fourth.
Division One of the Maiden featured 14 runners and River Line found plenty off the bridle for Guy Brewer to forge ahead before the last. River Line had been to the head of the pack from the off, stamina didn’t appear to be a concern and he stayed on resolutely on the run to the judge. His fencing was pretty proficient too for a horse that was completing the course on the first occasion. He had shown some ability on both his previous runs though. Runner-up Find The Way (Jo Foster) tried hard, but couldn’t raise his game sufficiently at the business end. He should pick up a little maiden as his Witton Castle third was of a similar standard. Sams Party was the other to shine in third in the hands of Oliver Greenall. A good second in an admittedly modest mares maiden at Dalton Park, she could sneak a small race as well. Pop Play Again tried to mix it in the chasing group and did all right in fourth. The newcomer Nothing Left should do better with experience. Not even the vastly experienced Nigel Tutty was able to anchor the tearaway Newsham Glory, the jolly. She was still a fence clear when she ran out at the 13th. Whilst it was doubtful she would have lasted out, she had shown no signs of stopping up to then.
Seven horses went to post for the Ladies Open and there was an exciting climax between Narciso, with Jacqueline Coward on top, and Welcome to Unos under Serena Brotherton, with the former getting the better of the argument by half a length to give his jockey a double on the day. Once Narciso was given the office, he headed Welcome To Unos, but couldn’t pull away. They went at it hammer and tong in the final quarter mile with Welcome To Unos responding to his rider’s perseverance by battling back, but Narciso was not to be denied and stuck to his guns to hang on. Narciso’s 2008 appearances stand up to the closest scrutiny as he has been runner-up to both Minouchka and Duchess Account and those are two top quality mares. Now that Charm Park mixed open winner Welcome To Unos has come to himself and is in the groove, he’s a tough nut to crack. The blinkered Interdit (Pauline Robson) seems to need things to go his way these days and that was never likely to happen in the torrential rain. He did stay on into third past fourth-placed Longstone Lass.
A select quintet lined up for the Intermediate and Chorizo and Oliver Greenall sprinted clear in the closing stages to score. The seven-year-old is a classy gelding in points as his form under Rules with Paul Nicholls wasn’t at all bad. His three completed outings between the flags have resulted in bloodless victories and a confined should be well within his capabilities. Runner-up Brown’s Beck, with Steve Charlton in the plate, was outgunned by Chorizo, but still kept on. As much juice as this in the going makes life difficult for Brown’s Beck and he shouldn’t be long in winning when decent ground in April and May can bring out the best in him. The ground was in Ginger Biscuit’s favour and he took third for Paul Frank. The winner of a Hutton Rudby restricted over Easter weekend, Ginger Biscuit is reportedly best fresh, which makes this an all the more pleasing effort. Golden Streak, a hard ride, was back in fourth and appeared even less cooperative than on his fair performance at Dalton Park a fortnight ago. Norfolk Jive was still in contention when he made a bad mistake at the open ditch and was pulled up.
Division Two of the Maiden had 15 runners, but few got into it, and they were strung out like washing behind The Artful Fox and Guy Brewer, which gave the jockey and trainer Mary Sowersby each a treble on the card. The duo had combined to bag a double at Whittington over the Easter weekend. The Artful Fox picked off the front running Distant Memory coming down the hill and cleared right away, galloping on relentlessly to pass the lollipop 15 lengths in front. An instantly recognisable handsome chestnut, The Artful Fox has put last season’s poor displays that so mystified connections firmly out of mind. He’ll be worth a look in a restricted back here or at somewhere like Heslaker if the rain continues to fall. Distant Memory in second does it the hard way for Steve Magee, doing the donkey work, and he deserves reward for his bravery. His Brocklesby Park conqueror Sam Cruise is now plying his trade over hurdles. Romanov Rambler and Lee Bates were a modest third. Romanov Rambler deserves credit for boxing on when others had long since given up. Vodkova King is by no means the Easterby stable star, but he stayed on past beaten horses to be fourth. There will be easier pickings for him. Oaklands Bobby isn’t without hope and was still handy when he came to grief. Treehouse was a warm order, but was never sighted.