by Mal Davies

The crowd was down on the Easter Monday meeting, but this was still a decent quality meeting for late in the season, and saw Richard Burton land another double to go with his treble here at the previous meeting when, as then, he shared the riding honours with Sam Beddoes. 

Burton had to wait for his winners, eventually taking the last two aboard Involved in the Confined, and Petrouge in the Restricted. Involved goes from strength to strength and was landing his fifth win on the reel; going off at odds of around 1-3, Sheila Crow’s seven year old gave backers a few anxious moments down the hill, when in particular, the very game Fryup Satellite got close to challenge, but in the end, the winner won by 25L going away, with Tino Mastoras on Lifebuoy nicking second, eight lengths ahead of Fryup Satellite. 

Best finish of the day came in the final Restricted race; one false start was followed by a very ragged departure second time, and Just Cliquot was left about thirty or forty lengths behind. To his credit, jockey Gary Hanmer coaxed the mare back into contention with the pack, which was no mean feat given that Barney Bear was, as usual, giving them a brisk lead. By the time they rounded the final bend, Just Cliquot looked to be going better than Petrouge, whose jumping was not perfect at the third and second last, but perhaps the early efforts had left their mark on Just Cliquot, and Burton conjured a good jump at the last to settle matters, with Paddy Bettalot a well beaten third. 

The win of Involved apart, it wasn’t the best day for Eyton specialist Sheila Crow; Whatafellow, ridden by son Alistair was sent off at 1-6 in the Members’ race, but was beaten in a driving finish by Sam Beddoes on a previously unraced five year old, The Longest Day; though the time was slow, the winner jumped like an old hand, and can only improve. 

Lord Harry could only manage third in the Mens’ Open behind Hanakham, former winner of the Sun Alliance Chase; the 14 year-old showed he is as good as ever in this sphere taking the race to go with his recent pair of Bangor Hunter chase wins. The margin was a comfortable two and a half lengths from another elder statesman in the shape of Nothing Ventured. Lord Harry seems, at least temporarily, to have lost his old spark, and perhaps needs further than three miles these days. 

Sam Beddoes and Pennyahei won the Ladies Open with another excellent round, strengthening her bid to end the season as the North West Area’s leading lady rider; the winner was repeating her win here at the last meeting. Multiple winner Hoodwinker and Jane Williams were back in second, with Class Of Ninetytwo, who is perhaps starting to show his years only third, but again, this was probably an insufficient test of stamina. 

The two maidens were interesting heats; John Foley ridden by Paul Morris made it a gun to tape win in the first division, in a decent time too, with Celtic Boy, who had plenty to do coming round the home turn, closing all the time to get within six lengths of the winner; a tired Chatabit rambled home for a distant third. 

Keith Pearson nicked the second division of the maiden, with a fine ride; the winner who paid over 20-1 on the Tote was 12 lengths too good for the Burton ridden favourite Donrico. One who took the eye in the paddock (though got no further than the first on the track) was M’Lord, a Sheila Crow debutant by Mister Lord; on looks, at least, he’d be certain to win a maiden in what remains of this season, or early next.