by John Bulman

The unbelievably dry weather and lack of any watering meant fast ground for the Morpeth meeting and this inevitably took its toll on the number of runners.

The seemingly ageless Peter Craggs took the members race on his first ride since 1999 aboard his mothers Dean Deifir. The odds on favourite looked booked for second until the outsider of the three runners, Morwick Millís saddle slipped and he came a cropper at the last. Peter is now based in Cuba and this was his first and only ride during his brief holiday.

If the first race was won by a veteran, their could not have been a more opposite story in the next race as Freddie Muck won the confined under a positive ride from young Ben Mounsey-Heysham. Ben is only 17 and was riding his motherís horse which ran under rules for her brother, Nigel Twiston-Davies. Freddie Muck stayed well and always held the odds on Hoh Tel and Chris Gillon.

The ladies was a match that turned into a solo performance as Sledmere refused the first several times, allowing Harden Glen and Jenny Riding to canter round in their own time.

Three horses competed in the menís open and it was the veteran Shining Light and Simon Robinson who took the honours, always travelling too strongly for the odds on Water Font who looks a very tricky ride and isnít one to trust. The third horse, Gullible Guy, ran a sound enough race and might be worth noting if dropping down in grade.

The restricted was won by the headstrong Raging Torrent who was atoning for his misbehaviour the previous week at Dalston where he had run out with the race at his mercy. He was a short price and never looked in any danger in beating The Timberman and Laura Lugs quite comfortably.

Tomís Man finally lost his maiden tag under Chris Gillon when defeating Rutherford and Starbuck. Tomís Man won easily but beat a moderate bunch and will find restricted company a lot tougher.

Clive Storey landed the young horse short maiden on Ian Starks Alias. He went clear two out and beat Inglemotte Miss quite comfortably. Robin Rock was the only other runner and again failed to finish. The form is probably only moderate but Alias is young enough to improve.

All in all, a very average days pointing with nothing really jumping out and impressing. All the winners will find it tougher in more competitive races and we didnít really learn much that we didnít already know.

Next meeting is the Eglinton, Lanark & Renfrewshire on Easter Saturday at Ayr racecourse, followed by the Braes Of Derwent at Corbridge on Easter Monday. We need some rain before then otherwise the season is in danger of fizzling out before May.