by Ian Marshall

The event marked 50 years of racing at Dalton Park and featured several interesting performers. A terrible weather forecast kept many away, but as it happened the worst of the rain was just before the runners for the first race entered the paddock. However, there was a strong wind and indeed it was difficult for spectators in the later races to remain stationary in the centre of the course. As usual, the ground was good, although some jockeys did describe it as tacky.

The four-runner hunt race fittingly went to Holderness senior master William Bethell’s Dolphin Square and Niall Saville. Always handy and far from friendless in the ring, the partnership held too many aces for their rivals over the last couple of fences. Dolphin Square was building on a decent third in a Hornby Castle restricted in February that had been won by High Peak, who scored again in the mens open later in the afternoon. Second placed Schoolhouse Walk (Lord Manton) can take a small restricted and Nordic Crest in third may be sharper for his seasonal reappearance. The latter carried 13st 1lb, which is a tough assignment in anyone’s book and you had to pity jockey Tom Greenall, who had to lug the saddle to the weighing room. Procol’s Boy (Simon Walker) trailed the front trio. Chris Cundall was forced to sit this one out after suffering a crunching fall at Charm Park a week previously.

The largest field of the day, 13, turned out for the Panacur/TBA PPORA Mares’ Maiden. A raider from the south bank of the Humber made the trip worthwhile and claimed the prize. When Aunt Gladys and Guy Brewer went on midway down the backstretch, they were stalked through by Near And Phar under Sarah Buckley. Near And Phar was produced approaching the penultimate obstacle and readily asserted to be ten lengths ahead at the line. Owned and trained by Sheila Mollett, and like Dolphin Square out of Phardante, she can go on to better things. Aunt Gladys had learnt from the experience of her Market Rasen debut and will know even more next time. Rising Talisker and Rachel Clark were eight lengths back in third and made much of the running, but the mare was a bit one paced. She could still pick up a little maiden. Mademist Sparky (Nigel Tutty) was a distant fourth, but Thixendale was running her best race yet when stopped in her tracks by a slipping saddle on the long run to the back straight for the final time and Alizarin was prominent when decanting Tim Craggs at the fence in front of the enclosures with a circuit to go.

As mentioned earlier, High Peak won the Mens Open under Tom Greenall for owner/trainer David Easterby. The rider was fresh from partnering Marsh Run to victory in a valuable mares’ bumper at Sandown the previous day. High Peak was completing a hat-trick having initially taken a Market Rasen maiden. His jumping had appeared to be the only chink in his armour in the past, but held up well today. High Peak was all out though, as Blank Cheque and David Coates came home with a wet sail and almost snatched it on the line having been way off the pace. It was the closest of finishes with the consistent Mr Pendleberry and Nicky Tinkler not far behind in third. Erzadjan and Lee Bates were fourth. However, the result could have been completely different as Mademist Sam, who is coming slowly to hand, was going great guns in front with a five length lead and looking all over the winner when getting rid of Nigel Tutty at the second last. Nip On departed at the same fence, but was probably held in fourth at the time. Both Blank Cheque and Erzadjan are out and out stayers and could be worth a look in the Grimthorpe Gold Cup at Whitwell-on-the-Hill on 4th April, while Cadrillon will be better off the race.

A small, but select, field of five went to post for the Ladies Open. Apart from the rank outsider, the maiden Dinan, all could be given some sort of a chance. Given a positive ride by Jo Foster, Texan Cowboy shook off the attention of Pharlindo a mile out and hacked up in splendid isolation. The winner jumped for fun, in sharp contrast to his point debut at Witton Castle. Texan Cowboy had been a solid third in a strong mixed open at Charm Park the previous week. Silver Groom (Jacqueline Coward) filled second spot, but couldn’t live with the early pace and, as is often the case, didn’t get overly high at several fences. Sally Scally in third was carrying a lot of condition and this should bring her on nicely. It was good to see the mare’s rider Tina Jackson back in action after a January fall at Kelso and hopefully her infectious grin will grace the winners’ enclosure before long. Pharlindo was pulled up in the end by Annabel Armitage and is better than this, if none the worse for his exertions.

The Restricted saw jockey Tom Greenall and trainer David Easterby notch a double with Lord Daresbury’s High Fields, who collared Purple Jean and Guy Brewer on the run-in. High Fields has been a revelation in blinkers, firstly managing a 2m4f Hornby Castle maiden, then following up today, and can make further use of his allowance for five-year-olds. Purple Jean might be found a race by Mary Sowersby if in the same vein of form and the grey would be a popular scorer. Third-placed Wilfie Wild and Lynne Ward have been knocking on the door for some time and must surely be rewarded soon. Switchback (Niall Saville) and In The Van (John Morley) came down on the flat after the 14th. Switchback was still traveling very sweetly, but it was too far from home to guess where he would have finished. It is worth remembering that this was only Switchback’s second race and the six-year-old remains qualified for maidens. Lord Scroop was an early casualty.

The first division of the maiden fell to Snizort, the gelding winning with his head in his chest under Guy Brewer. His second at Charm Park was a stepping-stone to this and it was a fine victory. Runner-up Bobby Buttons (Nigel Tutty) went off a warm favourite, but suggested, not for the first time, that he’s not one to take a short price about. The improving Flat Stanley and Jo Foster took third. He’s only small, but there must be more to come. Dolphin Square was well supported in the market, but was pulled up with a full lap left, hardly went a yard and is to be approached with caution in the future. Gollinger is also one to be wary of and struggles to get three miles, even with a capable pilot in Ben Woodhouse.

The second division of the maiden looked the weaker heat, with the form figures riddled with letters and numbers in short supply. Rounding the home turn with two to jump, there were five horses with every chance. It was the debutant five-year-old I’m No Fairy that landed the race. Given a patient ride by David Thomas during the majority of the contest, he stayed on resolutely after the final fence to collect. Staple Sound and Wayne Burnell were just run out of it in second, from Just A Man (Ben Woodhouse) third and Brown’s Beck (Michael Morley) fourth. It’s difficult to know if there is much to the form, but the third and fourth had each only run once, so will benefit for the experience and could be open to improvement. The front-running Fairmile Star was returning from a two year break and might not have been done with when taking a hefty tumble at the last. The grey lay winded for several minutes before rising and if OK after his exploits could be interesting next time. With Richard Wakeham in the plate, he won’t lack assistance from the saddle.