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Percy at Alnwick
Sunday 2nd February 2020

by Peter Burgon

It was a case of quality over quantity on Sunday's Percy Hunt card at Alnwick, where 36 of the 47 individual horses entered faced the starter in six races.

After getting off the mark at Friars Haugh the previous week, Matthew Man wasted no time in supplementing that success in the Newton Hall Hunt Members Race.

Given another positive ride by Kit Alexander, the 9 year old made every yard of the running and sealed a three quarters of a length win over Franks Fancy (Jack Andrews) with a more fluent jump at the last. The winner's next target is the Tynedale Restricted at Corbridge on Sunday 23rd February.

On his 45th career start under all codes in the Stephen Kirkup Livestock Conditions Race, the unfancied Afterclass showed that he still retains plenty of ability with an all the way victory under Cameron Wadge, who was partnering the 12 year old for the first time.

He brushed off his rivals one by one on the second circuit before staying on strongly from two out to beat Lucinda Russell's ex-chaser, Arizona Bound (Ailsa McClung) by three lengths.

Auchinleck handler, Ella McEwen said: ''I often exercise him on trails through the woods and he seems to be enjoying life with a change of scenery.''

Wadge, who has been attached to Lucinda Russell's Milnathort yard since June 2017, added: ''He had lost his way a bit so we decided on a change of tactics. He loved being out in front and jumped for fun from fence to fence..''

For the record, this Stowaway gelding made his racecourse debut for Dessie Hughes in October 2013 when finishing three lengths 2nd to Gilgamboa in a Galway Maiden Hurdle and the winner graduated into a 159-rated chaser at his peak in 2016.

Shona Westrope's mare, Kalabaloo initiated another Alnwick double for trainer, Tom Ellis and his wife, Gina Andrews with a 7th victory from her last 8 starts between the flags in the Skinner's Ladies Open Race.

Roderick Random (Charlotte Dun) was granted an uncontested lead from the off and maintained a relentless gallop at the head of affairs until joined three out by Kalabaloo. Gina's mount went clear from the next to score, with plenty in hand, by three lengths in the fastest time of the afternoon.

This was the 8 year old's third success from three visits to Alnwick and her next outing will be in the Cheltenham Foxhunters' Chase on Friday 13th March.

Stable companion, Black Jasper completed Gina's second double of the weekend in the Imperial Racing Open Maiden to put her on the 11-winner mark for the season.

On only his second career outing and returning from a lengthy absence, the 6 year old jumped and travelled like a seasoned campaigner at the head of the 12-runner field before forging clear approaching three out. He had the prize sewn up when his only mistake at the last allowed the rallying Onestepatatime (Jack Teal) to reduce the advantage to one and a half lengths on the run-in.

After saddling his 15th winner of the season, Tom Ellis said: ''He's a really likeable horse who looks capable of progressing through the grades, and this stayers track suited him perfectly.'' The weekend doubles were an early birthday present for Gina (28 on Monday), who had been jumping stone walls when out hunting with the Galway Blazers earlier in the week.

Matts Commission (Jack Teal) made it 6 wins from 10 Pointing starts since joining Teal's Malton yard in 2017 with a cosy three and a half lengths victory over Path To Freedom (John Dawson) in the Ryecroft Glenton Men's Open Race - the second season in a row he has scored first time out.

Always going well, the 7 year old led two out before quickening up nicely on the flat and finished full of running. Teal explained that his charge's reappearance had been delayed by some minor niggling injuries.

Victoria McKie's Wooler yard has been invincible this year and made it 6 winners from 6 runners at the last 3 Northern Area meetings with Rio Des Echanault's short head victory over Dynamite Kentucky in the MKM Building Supplies Restricted Race, to maintain Nick Orpwood's 11pts lead over Kit Alexander in the Hexham Racecourse Men's Jockeys Championship.

The pace-setting Emory (John Dawson) produced a career-best effort on his seasonal debut and seemed to have the two market leaders in trouble three out before being headed at the last and going down by a length in third.

The winner's sire, Satri was a high class 7-8 furlong performer as a 4 year old in France. The most prolific winner of his progeny to date is Square Viviani, who has scored 7 times under Rules, including 2 for Micky Hammond in the last three months.

For the record, the first 4 Northern Area meetings have attracted 225 runners, with a healthy average of 8.33 per race.

The Northern Area Point-to-Point season resumes on Sunday 23rd February with the Tynedale fixture at Corbridge, which also features the first pony racing action in the North this year.

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