by Mal Davies

Atrocious weather conditions took the gloss of what promised to be a decent day's racing at Eaton Hall on Saturday. The wind took several tents into orbit, not to mention the majority of bookies, some of whose pitches blew away. By the end, there were only six layers left. 

The ground was barely raceable, especially in the back straight where there were a series of large waterlogged patches. In the end, it is no wonder that the eight race card saw no more than 30 runners. 

Highlight, such as it was, of the day was the PTP debut of LORD DIXON, easy winner of the first division of the open maiden for Gary Hanmer. The six-year-old Lord Americo gelding had placed form in an Irish maiden and had shown well in bumpers. He handled the rotten ground really well, and cruised home easily by 12 lengths from Edward Gretton on The Ugly Gunner, with a shattered Snitton West a long way back in third. The winner will surely progress beyond restricteds, and was probably the only pointer for the future. 

The members race was a three-horse affair, won by Ray Owen on MERRY CHRISTMAS, who was five lengths to the good of 15-year-old Orton House.                       

Lord Dixon's time won him the Perpetual Challenge Trophy as his division was considerably faster than the second division, won by PAUL and Carrie Ford, who out battled the Charlie Barlow ridden favourite Mr. Moonbeam to land by three lengths. River Moy was third, and if he ever gets his jumping together better than he did today, should win his maiden; he ran well enough between fences, and had he dealt with the obstacles better, would have gone far closer than his half length third. 

WEAK MOMENT finally got off the mark for the season for Alistair Crow in the Mens Open; he again ran in snatches, and looked again to get himself tailed off, as he had done at Garnons last week, but in the dreadful ground, the Roselier gelding got the better of another by that sire, Ask Antony and David Sherlock. The easy to back Henry Bruce faded from three out to finish third for Edward Gretton. This is likely to prove one of the weakest Land Rover qualifiers this season. 

The Ladies Open was a walkover for MELNIK and Karen Cookson, and the ground was now getting so bad that only four faced the starter in the confined. Having appeared to be well out of contention on the last circuit, the thirteen year old BARNEY’S GOLD was expertly stoked up by Gemma Garton to get up and pip Carrie Ford's Fenloe Rambler in the day's best finish.  

Gary Hanmer notched his double on CHANGE AGENT when galloping all over his four mediocre rivals in the restricted, despite a slow jump at the last. Dunston Trigger and Tania Harrison got a tight verdict for second in from of Hannah Kinsey on Charlie Keay. Another poor race and tougher tests await the facile winner. 

Richard Burton nipped up from the abandoned Chaddesley meeting to nick the three-horse intermediate on the Weston Park winner CASCUM LAD, ahead of a tired Cherokee Run, with the Hanmer mount Rise To It pulled up.