by Ian Marshall

A bumper crowd turned out at Hornby Castle for this traditional Easter fixture and, although fields were relatively small for a Yorkshire point-to-point, some top-notch performers were on show. Surprisingly, as an immense amount of rain has hit this part of the world in the last couple of months, the going was described as good, good to firm in places.

First up was the six-runner Confined Conditions race, which only featured horses that hadn’t either won under Rules or in an open point-to-point. The progressive Dumadic, who was backed in to favouritism, duly obliged, but all Nigel Tutty’s skills in the saddle were needed to do so. The seven-year-old is not the most fluent of jumpers and even survived a scare on the flat at the end of the first lap, when he nearly slipped up, but lacks little in talent. If the difficulties in the fencing department can be ironed out, Dumadic could be a class act. Dumadic stayed on well for the urgings of his rider when it had looked like Trooper Collins would collect running to the penultimate fence. Grant Tuer had sent Trooper Collins to the front, but entering the home straight he appeared to down tools and, while only beaten one and a half lengths, his temperament must be questioned on this evidence. Stoney River (Simon Walker) was third and seems much better from April onwards. Fourth was Emperor’s Son (Serena Brotherton), who was on the back foot after a blunder at the 9th that his jockey did well to sit.

For the second year in succession, Royal Crimson made all to take the Hunt Members race under Rupert Alers-Hankey and finished alone. It would be no surprise to see the partnership make it three out of three next year. Of his two rivals, the unregistered hunter Sweet Solitaire and Jenny Crosier were well adrift when pulling up early on the final circuit, however Scenic Storm was only two lengths down and not yet done with when he ejected Phillip Kinsella at the second last.

The Restricted saw the gutsy mare Purple Jean prevail in a tight finish involving three horses. Having led in the early stages, she was reined back into third, but put back into contention on the run to three out and was galvanized into action on the run-in by Guy Brewer, just getting up. The grey had nearly got her head in front at Dalton Park in March, but was collared late on by High Fields. Energy Man (Mark Bennison) took second and Orleans (Simon Robinson) third. Energy Man had been hinting at a revival this season and Orleans had previously done well at his favoured Hutton Rudby when second to Journey. Lord Nick was fourth under Nigel Tutty on his seasonal reappearance. Son Of Sam attracted plenty of each-way support in the ring and was looking like getting into the argument until giving Lee Bates no chance at the third last.

Texas Ranger and Jo Foster made it three Ladies Opens on the bounce, but they were given a fright this time in doing so at long odds-on. Hadeqa, with Serena Brotherton aboard, chased valiantly in the final half mile, but couldn’t quite peg back the leader. Always in the front rank, Texas Ranger was kicked on down the back straight and stuck on well late on. Hadeqa was completing the course for only the second time in twelve starts in points and he jumped much better in the main today. It seems a masterstroke by Michael Brown to switch him to a ladies’ contest and Hadeqa may be interesting next time. The Minister was a fair third under Tina Jackson on the fourteen-year-old’s return from a lengthy layoff. On The Mend finished fourth on Freya Hartley’s comeback ride.

The Mens Open saw High Peak complete a four-timer in the quickest time of the day, with Richard Wakeham in the plate on this occasion as Tom Greenall was riding under Rules at Carlisle. High Peak jumped into the lead at the 13th and was never headed thereafter. At the line, he had two lengths to spare over Mademist Sam and Nigel Tutty. Mademist Sam was sporting first-time blinkers, but still made a few errors. However, an open ought to come his way before the end of the season. A further one and a half lengths back in third was Backsheesh (Grant Tuer). The ten-year-old had been off the course since the Cheltenham Foxhunters of 2003 and set the pace for much of the journey. He appeared fit enough to do himself justice, but time will tell. Glendamah (Michael Morley) in fourth could find a small race, as he has shown a bit more on his last two starts.

It isn’t often Grant Tuer leaves a Yorkshire fixture without a victory and The Murphy Meister provided today’s in the first division of the maiden. Once the hard-pulling Selectric had given way with a mile to go, The Murphy Meister made the best of his way home. It was the winner’s first engagement since having a small operation to aid his breathing, which could well have done the trick. Although not a particularly strong heat, a follow-up might be on the cards. The Murphy Meister is a half brother to Mohera King, a winner four times under Rules in Ireland and Britain. No Info (Nigel Tutty) was well held in second, but still comfortably in front of Catosphere (Lee Bates) in third and favourite Man At The Top (Mark Bennison) in fourth. No Info may pick up a little maiden if showing reasonable improvement. Catosphere displayed a modicum of ability for the first time, but did give several fences a hefty belt. Man At The Top didn’t really come on for his third place to Aunt Gladys at Welbeck, but shouldn’t necessarily be discounted yet. There was an encouraging debut from Tullineaskey Kitty, who traveled OK until getting tired.

The second division of the maiden was twelve seconds quicker than the previous race and went to Kate Walton’s Clever Fella, the subject of considerable interest in the market. Nicky Tinkler was hard at work on this one a long way out, but was rewarded for his perseverance, Bobby Buttons (Nigel Tutty) being held off in the closing stages. In his only previous point-to-point, over 2m4f here in February, the five-year-old had bagged third. That race has worked out well with winner Eighty Days going on to secure a Friars Haugh restricted and the second, Sweeping Storm, landing a Dalston maiden. Bobby Buttons is nothing if not consistent, having now been placed on countless occasions, but when can he at last get his head in front? Hattie (Philip Cornforth) only relinquished the lead at the third last, but plodded on for third. Hanisia (Peter Atkinson) was a distant fourth. Crake Way, running in the colours of the Jumping For Fun Partnership, seemed a promising sort for the future before being pulled up. In a ragged start, Madaar refused to race and Highland Wonder almost did the same, managing to clear just two jumps and those when several fences behind.