by Richard Hall

We didnít begrudge the £5 per occupant plus £5 per car entrance fee. There were eight races on the menu, two having divided due to the sheer weight of entries, and all looked competitive.

The good going ensured that there were a large percentage of runners to entries, and the second division of the Maiden divided again to provide a ninth race. The first leg went to J M Turnerís Pampered Gale, under a positive and determined ride from Andrew Sansome, who proved far too strong for his market rival and eventual favourite, the Caroline Bailey trained Sydney Hobart. Pampered Gale jumped superbly throughout and once sent on five from home, the result was never in doubt. The runner up plugged on at one pace with the third, Camden Loch a distance away in third.

The second leg provided Ruth Hayter with her first winner of the season in Marmaduke Mountain, who was having only his second outing in public (he pulled up in a Maiden over course and distance last year). Seemingly outpaced as the race moved up a gear a mile from home, the winner ran on from three out to collar the long time leader Lord Kinsale (who had never before completed in three points and a chase) at the last. Harkness Warrior, who had been prominent throughout, kept on at one pace to finish third. The well backed Union Square, from the powerful Hickman stable, never jumped well and came in a disappointing last. He was the third losing favourite on the trot as Duke of Buckingham, odds on for Division One of the Maiden, had earlier fallen four out when upsides Caroline Baileyís Surprisingly Gifted ridden by Rowan Cope. The two were well clear at the time but Cope kept his mount up to his work to keep a comfortable distance between himself and Neil King aboard Baie Des Singes. Out of Actons, who set a strong early pace, ran on again to take third. This was quite a remarkable feat considering he was carrying ten pounds overweight! The race provided some light relief for those of us standing at the final fence. Tynemine, at the back of the field, decided at the last possible moment that he had had enough and he was not going to jump it. He braked violently, sending jockey Mick Lurcock flying through the wings of the fence. For a second the crowd hushed as Mr Lurcock burst through the rails and bounced on the floor. In one movement, however, he jumped to his feet, clearly uninjured. He picked up his whip and threw it angrily to the floor. ďF*** itĒ he declared, before realising where he was. As the crowd giggled he reddened with embarrassment, apologised for his language, and humbly began the long walk back. 

A favourite eventually obliged in the fourth race of the day, Division One of the PPORA Club Race, and provided Ruth Hayter with a quick double. Gatchou Mans, ridden by Andrew Braithwaite, was prominent throughout and went into a clear lead when Mill of the Rags tired badly three from home. Seabrook Lad finished strongly to challenge on the run in but his after the line celebrations were not enough for the judges to declare him the winner. Novatara finished well to deprive Pongo Waring of third.

A Ruth Hayter treble was narrowly averted in the second division when Village Copper, unusually ridden from off the pace, was given far too much to do when finally asked to catch Native Status, brilliantly piloted by Andrew Ayers. The winner injected a burst of pace five from home that took the rest of the field completely by surprise. The ten-length gap that resulted proved to be enough, although Village Copper had reduced it considerably by the time they passed the post. Corston Joker confirmed the return to form of the Turner horses by running out of the pack to snatch third. Sorcererís Drum, backed as if defeat was out of the question, was outpaced on the second circuit. This was the second outing in succession where he had failed to live up to the expectations produced by his promising second to The Auctioneer in a competitive Open here last year. Perhaps he needs heavier going or stronger riding?

Labula Bay became the dayís fifth losing favourite when turning in an abysmal performance in the Menís Open. He jumped slowly throughout and a bad blunder four from home sealed the fate of his backers. David Dunsdon, unable to ride because of commitments in Spain, appears to hold the key to him. He had ridden the (hitherto) progressive 8yo to victories in a Maiden and an Intermediate at this track without a hint of jumping problem. The race was won by the second favourite, Aintgottime, who had early won by default at Horseheath when Endeavour jumped a pathway on the run in and ejected Geoge Cooper to the ground. Todayís victory was achieved entirely on merit, however, as Dickie Barrett made all the running, and still left some in the tank as he came home clear of the field. Dynamic Lord was second for the Turnerís, with Ruth Hayterís Cinnamon Club third.

Spring Gale provided the only opposition to Noyan in the betting exchanges for the Ladies Open, eventually being sent off the second favourite. The market was proved right. Under the trainerís granddaughter, he completed a hat trick of seconds for the Turnerís; a distance clear of the third but twenty lengths adrift of the Chris Elliot trained, Jo Foster ridden winner, who was completing a treble in Ladies Openís at the track. As in his previous victories, Noyan set a blistering pace and drew away on the second circuit to win as he liked.

Jo Foster and Chris Elliot teamed up again on 20/1 shot Sheís A Corker in the Restricted, but this time entirely different tactics were employed. Put to sleep early, this former (unsuccessful) hurdler made rapid progress from halfway to take the lead with a mile to go. Four out and only Daydreamer, seemingly with a double handful, could go with her. Two out and Daydreamer had to be ridden to keep his place. At the last only half a length separated them. Jo Foster played safe and popped over it. Andrew Hickman on the favourite went for the ďbig oneĒ. Jo Foster chose right. Her rival clipped the top and stumbled on landing. Daydreamer hung on for second. Millenium Way (another Turner inmate) ran on again to take third. Neil Kingís Balla DíAire, a promising winner over two miles four furlongs at Cottenham the previous Sunday, appeared not to stay the extra half mile and finished tired.

Andrew Hickman, however, had earlier had his obligatory winner in the Intermediate on Ballinure Boy, trained by his wife Sara. They came out best in a dour struggle from three out with the trailblazing Fiddlers Snap, the two having drawn well clear of the remainder. This signalled a return to the form he had shown at the track two years ago when winning a Maiden and a Restricted. As in his previous outing this season, where he was an early casualty in the Intermediate won by Labula Bay, he had been well backed from 6/1 to 3/1. The poor performance of the two market leaders, Lovelock (chasing a treble) and Running Mute (who had been sent all the way from Scotland) ensured that the bookies only cried crocodile tears. This was clearly useful form and both the winner and the runner up should be backed next time.