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Percy at Alnwick
Sunday 4th February 2018
by Peter Burgon

North Yorkshire trainer, Justin Landy improved his strike rate at Alnwick since December 2015 to 87.5% after saddling the first four-timer of his career on Sunday's Percy card at the Ratcheugh Farm course and, not to be outdone, Middleham-based jockey, Joe Wright recorded his first treble.

Levelling, a 6 year old flat-bred mare, set the ball rolling in the Warcup Law Firm Men's Open Race on her first outing since April 2017. Patiently ridden by Wright, the youngster responded immediately when given a squeeze after four out but after hitting the front at the next had to pull out all the stops to scrape home by a head from John Dawson's mount, Fever Pitch.

Lincolnshire farmer, Robin Woodward, joint owner of the mare with Wright, said: "The original plan wasn't to go straight into Open company but she needed a run and stable companion, Weston Flame was in her other option, the Conditions Race. She might run next in a Catterick Novices Hunters' Chase on March 7."

Knocklong made it six wins from seven starts at Alnwick for Landy's yard in the BA Electrical Contractors (Northern) Ltd Ladies Open Race. Catherine Walton deputised for the injured Charlotte Crane on the 10 year old, recently bought by Crane's father, Ivan, who didn't appear to jump or travel as fluently as he has done on many occasions in the past before beating Laura Fenwick's new acquisition, Abbeyview by two and a half lengths.

That Catterick contest is also a possible target for Weston Flame after she returned from a year on the sidelines to land the Northumbrian Pellet Company NPPA Conditions Race. Always lying handy, the 8 year old was sent on by Wright two out and steadily forged clear to score by four lengths from Oakham raider, Dynamic Island. The mare has made a miraculous recovery after fracturing her pelvis in the corresponding race at last year's Percy fixture.

Wright, 19, who has worked for Micky Hammond's Middleham stable for more than three years, completed his treble and Landy's four-timer on recent Sheriff Hutton Maiden winner, Sir Lonica in the Ryecroft Glenton Restricted Race in the best time of the day. The 7 year old gradually reeled in the leaders on the final circuit before settling the issue in a matter of strides after hitting the front soon after four out. He cruised down the home straight in splendid isolation and crossed the line twenty lengths ahead of the only other finisher, Lord Usher.

Staffordshire-based Alex Gould, joint owner with Justine Davis-King, said: "He was bought privately in Ireland through bloodstock agent, Mark Gichero and I've already turned down some good offers for him. A Maiden Hunters' Chase could be on the agenda later in the season."

The victory took 19 year old Wright's career tally to 30, which includes 9 under Rules, while Landy, who combines training his string of seven Point-to-Pointers with his full-time job as a farrier with Mark Johnston, is hoping to be this season's leading handler in the country for yards with seven or fewer horses.

All 9 entries faced the starter in the CA McBratney Racing & J Murdoch Contracts Open Maiden Race and it resulted in a popular local success for the Tony Dobbin-trained mare, Worcester Pearmain. Given a positive ride by Connor Wood, the 8 year old made virtually all the running and battled back well after being headed at the last by Raleagh Mountain to secure a one and a half lengths verdict. Wood said: "She jumped well apart from making a bad mistake at the last and I thought she was beaten when Raleagh Mountain came past."

The mare's dam, Granoski Gala, now 19 years old and still hunting with Morag Herdman, had a fantastic strike rate from Herdman's yard between 22 January 2006 and 11 May 2008, winning 10 of her 14 Points as well as landing the 2007 Heart Of All England Maiden Hunters' Chase.

Dobbin's wife, Rose said of her father, Duncan's home-bred mare: "She was out in the field for a year after the 2016 season until we decided we'd have another go with her. She's very tough and has enjoyed a quiet week since finishing runner-up at Friars Haugh and only needed a light canter a couple of days ago."

There was a match between last Saturday's Jedforest scorer, Summoned and Ripstick in the concluding Joiners Arms Percy Hunt Members Race. Tom Hamilton dictated a modest pace on the odds-on favourite, Summoned but his mount wasn't really enjoying himself out on his own and kept losing concentration. However, the partnership was still at least fifteen lengths clear when running out through a marker on the climb to three out and Catherine Walton's mount, Ripstick was left to come home in his own time. This completed an unexpected double for Walton and was a first training success for more than nine months for her stepfather, Jimmy Walton.

The next fixture at the Ratcheugh Farm course is the College Valley & North Northumberland on Sunday 11th March which features the first Point-to-Point Flat Race to be held in the North.

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