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Saturday 30th April 2005
by Ian Marshall

Prolonged rain overnight and through the morning meant conditions were very testing at Heslaker and the precipitation continued well into racing. This fixture normally attracts huge crowds, but the rain did keep many away. However, the ratio of declarations to entries wasn’t at all bad, given the number of meetings over the weekend. It was another day to remember for the Brader family with both of their horses winning, while that old favourite Blank Cheque might well have gone out on a high at the age of 15.

The Hunt Members had four runners and David Coates sent the wily campaigner Blank Cheque to the front with a lap to go, from which point they made the best of their way home. Blank Cheque was taking this race for the second year in succession and Wendy Wild’s charge has probably run his last race, as an honourable retirement beckons. His overall record in points reads 12 wins from 52 starts. It would be no surprise to see him try to win this event for a third time in 2006 though. Atlantic Crossing (Nick Bannister) was left at the start, which seemed to be a bit hurried, and could never land a blow. He pipped Aughmor River (Alistair McIntyre), who got very tired after being up with the pace, for second. Ridgeway was making his seasonal reappearance, but seemed forward enough, however the conditions found him out and he was pulled up with six still to jump having raced prominently.

Six horses came under orders for the Confined and Duchess Account gained her fourth victory of the season under Emma Brader. The mare has now won half of her ten races, the last three of which have been for today’s rider. Prominent and Gary Hanmer were allowed a soft lead that reached about 50 lengths at one stage and looked for the most part as if they weren’t going to be caught. Duchess Account can never be written off until the winning post has been passed though and, despite still being 25 lengths down at the second last, she began to eat into Prominent’s advantage before joining issue at the last and pulling away on the short run-in. It was a ride that was timed to perfection and Gary himself would have been proud of it. Third-placed Emperor’s Son was being niggled along by Serena Brotherton with a circuit left and couldn’t reverse March’s Charm Park form with Duchess Account, even on three pounds better terms. Striking Distance didn’t get into it in fourth, while Vic’s Last Chance jumped poorly.

Eight horses lined up for the Ladies Open, which saw two fantastic performers, Mister Bromley and Step And Run, in opposition. They had landed four races each in 2005 and had filled second spot on the other occasion they had graced the track, the former at the hands of the hitherto unbeaten Auntie Kathleen at Charm Park and the latter to the very smart Cloth Of Gold at Welbeck. Something had to give today though and it was Mister Bromley and Serena Brotherton that came out on top. Mister Bromley is extremely versatile as regards the ground, showing his liking for heavy going at Stainton last time. Mytimie (Tania Harrison) ran rather in snatches, but put his best work in at the finish to claim second. Aunt Gladys, running in her first open and under a new rider in Freya Hartley, took third. The mare might well have benefited from the lighter weight carried in ladies opens compared with the restricteds that she normally runs in. Aunt Gladys was bang there at three miles and possibly didn’t quite get home, making a tired mistake at the last to forfeit second. Class Of Ninetytwo and Sue Sharratt plodded on for fourth after being up with the gallop from the word go, although he was done few favours by Mister Bromley heading out on the final circuit. Step And Run found underfoot conditions against him and was pulled up leaving the back straight for the final time. This was nothing like his true running and if he was going to be beaten again this was the ground on which it was going to happen.

There was a field of seven for the Intermediate. Skew Whip has created a lasting impression in this his first season and he enhanced his growing reputation further by scoring by three lengths. The seven-year-old was completing a hat-trick, traveled supremely well and could even afford to fluff the last. As soon as Richard Wakeham sent him on with two to jump, he had the rest off the bridle and the outcome was never in doubt. The Hiscox Final at Huntingdon has been mooted as a possible target. Runner-up Rebel Army and Richard Burton were previously unbeaten and were also hat-trick seeking. Rebel Army was being driven along leaving the back straight, but did rally to the cause. He might just have bumped into a real tartar here and could well add to his wins at Eaton Hall and Flagg Moor for the astute Caroline Robinson. Marrasit (Steve Charlton) in third isn’t the easiest to train, but is able. High Fields (Oliver Greenall) in fourth hasn’t yet matched his exploits of the 2004 campaign. Denny’s Well seems a hard ride.

Uncle Neil and Richard Burton led their seven rivals a merry dance in the Mens Open to make it five wins on the bounce for trainer Sheila Crow. Uncle Neil’s previous victory had been at Alpraham, which like Heslaker is a long course, on similar going. It is a rare event indeed for the country’s leading jockey to leave a meeting without a winner. Victoria’s Boy (David Coates) was second, having run at Cheltenham on Wednesday. This consistent type deserves to get his reward as his efforts are ultra-consistent. Third-placed Torn Silk (Nick Kent) enjoys Heslaker, but he was struggling from the moment he hit the 13th mighty hard. Gus Berry (William Kinsey) was a distant fourth. Preston Brook ejected Oliver Greenall at the 2nd.

The Restricted brought together seven decent sorts and there was a one-two for trainer Mary Sowersby. Snizort led home Kindle A Flame, with Freya Hartley doing the steering on the winner and her partner Guy Brewer was on the runner-up. They came down the hill locked in combat, but Snizort gained the upper hand and retained it to the line, despite being less than fluent at the final fence. The modest pace of the race played to Snizort’s strength, as he didn’t get outpaced yet kept his typical late burst. The reapplication of blinkers worked the oracle on a horse who had been knocking on the door all season. Kindle A Flame lost his maiden tag at this meeting in 2004 and has now been first or second on all three completed outings. His jumping has let him down in the past, but there were no such worries here and, granted a clear round, he can find a restricted. Oso Tilley (Jo Foster) in third did much of the donkey work at the head of affairs and could only run at the one pace when headed. This was much more like her true form after disappointing at Easingwold a week ago. Fourth was Dayenoo (Oliver Greenall), who couldn’t quicken in the last half mile. Scarlet Gunner played up at the start and seemed reluctant to join the other runners. He was well beaten in the end. Flying Through was on best behaviour and in touch when falling four from home.

The Maiden saw six contestants and Master Kris justified odds-on favouritism under Richard Tate. It was only a matter of time before Master Kris broke his duck as he hadn’t run a bad race in either Ireland or the UK. The five-year-old was prominent throughout and didn’t have to be particularly hard ridden to score. Strong King with William Kinsey on board wasn’t beaten too far in second. He chased home Top Weld in similar conditions at Flagg Moor in March and was also runner-up at Alpraham, albeit beaten a long way, earlier this month, but does appear pretty exposed. Coverdale and Nigel Tutty were third. Coverdale wasn’t fluent at the fences, but this was a fair effort. Caimins Well (Stuart Ross) in fourth jumped appallingly and was never in with a shout. Thorny Issue was pulled up legless before three out. This was very different ground to that which he encountered when runner-up in a big field at Easingwold last weekend.

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