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26th February 2005
by Ian Marshall

A bitterly cold day and testing ground kept the numbers of both horses and spectators down, but there was no shortage of excitement. The combination of rider Oliver Greenall and trainer David Easterby completed a hat-trick and, following a four-timer at Witton Castle earlier in the month, jockey Ben Woodhouse added a double here.

The opening five-runner Hunt Members Race was run at a pedestrian pace, which no doubt contributed to Spot On Tom almost refusing and unseating Paul Broughton at the 2nd and Grate Spark pulling very hard and running out at the 4th. With little injection of speed, Henry Pearson fell at the 12th, although Nick Kent did remount to finish a long way back in third. Caribbean Twist and Freya Hartley absolutely hacked up from Two By Four, despite Oliver Williams’ urgings on the runner-up. The winner showed that he did have some ability when fourth at Market Rasen in January.

With brother Tom at Chepstow, Oliver Greenall took over on David Easterby’s string and their first victory was with Shackleton, who beat nine rivals in the Confined. The time was only two seconds short of a minute faster than the opening contest and also was the quickest of the afternoon, although this wasn’t all that surprising as the ground cut up as the day went on. An Irish import, Shackleton put in some reasonable efforts in hunter chases there last year, having won one at Clonmel in early 2003. He looks as though he will more than pay his way in Britain. Four lengths back in second was Ikdam Melody (Jo Foster), who has also come over from Ireland. He was giving Shackleton seven pounds and lost nothing in defeat. Ikdam Melody will come on for the run and is likely to be a force to be reckoned with in ladies opens. Ardmayle with Lucy Coney on board put in another solid display and passed the post in third. However, an objection by the clerk of the scales saw him disqualified. There was no announcement as to whether his rider had failed to weigh in or whether a weight cloth had fallen off somewhere along the way. The favourite Gola Cher was fourth (promoted to third) for Richard Hunnisett and was hoping to follow up his Market Rasen win, but may well have been unsuited by the ground. Duchess Account was pulled up three out by Nicky Tinkler in this, her first confined. She’s a none too fluent jumper, but it will be a surprise if she doesn’t visit the winners’ enclosure again before the season is out. John Rich wasn’t on a going day and Dolphin Square will improve for the outing.

Just four turned out for the Ladies Open and Texas Ranger justified odds on favouritism under Jo Foster, even with a highly indifferent jump at the third last. They didn’t have it all their own way though as Strong Trooper and Jacqueline Coward ran them close. Texas Ranger is a very useful performer and remains one to follow in ladies opens. There were seven lengths between the two horses at the line, with Strong Trooper heavily eased after the last. Strong Trooper is definitely one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. Gus Berry and Freya Hartley were soon tailed off and finished well behind in third. My Best Buddy got rid of Amy Stennett at the 3rd.

The Mens Open featured seven competitors and went to Preston Brook with Oliver Greenall in the plate. Preston Brook was a bit lively in the paddock, but a cool ride gave Oliver’s father Lord Daresbury, the owner, a double. Maitre De Musique was second for Michael Tate and Quarter Master third in the hands of Nick Kent. Quarter Masters did have a seven pound penalty so it was a fair effort. Mademist Sam and Nigel Tutty ended up fourth after trying to make all. History suggests that the popular grey Purple Jean will be a different proposition after her seasonal debut.

The largest field of the card was 15 in the Restricted and Sevensider came out on top for Oliver Greenall’s third winner of the afternoon. Owned and trained by David Easterby, Sevensider seemed to dislike similar underfoot conditions at Whitwell last year and disappointed at Market Rasen earlier in 2005. However, he has been a model of consistency otherwise and certainly wasn’t scoring out of turn. There were 14 lengths to runner-up Libido (Philip Andrew), who relished the soft going and was running on when others had cried enough. Lord Scroop with Michael Morley aboard took third and a clear round of fencing saw him show his true colours. Fourth went to Search Party and Simon Walker. Search Party was stopped in his tracks after walking through the open ditch on the final circuit and will enjoy better ground. Orchestra’s Boy was disputing the lead when departing at the 11th. Hunca Munca was carried out by a loose hose after the fourth fence from home whilst holding a slight advantage. He likes it at Brocklesby Park and would undoubtedly have gone close. Snizort was behind when his race ended at the same point as Hunca Munca. He’ll be better off next time for the blow-out and reapplication of blinkers.

The Panacur/TBA Mares Maiden attracted just six runners and Ben Woodhouse got Just A Lady home by two lengths from Rising Talisker and Rachel Clark. Ben Woodhouse can do no wrong at the moment and he always appeared to have the opposition where he wanted them. Rising Talisker got outpaced, but then stayed on again. Stingo (Matt Mackley) was third and All Right For The Time (Nick Kent) fourth. Primitive Rhythm was making her racecourse debut and will improve for the experience. She ducked the wrong side of a marker after the 11th.

Nine went to post for Division One of the Maiden. Just A Lady’s full brother Just A Man prevailed, again with Ben Woodhouse in the saddle and his strength at the business end sealed matters. Dayenoo and Oliver Greenall were half a length down in second. Dayenoo ought to find a maiden before the season is out. There was officially a distance to Draconian partnered by Matt Mackey in third. He was progressing from his debut at Thorpe Lodge earlier in the month. The debutant Ask Bobby under Guy Brewer claimed fourth after jumping right in the first half of the race. There’ll be better to come in the future. Storming Foley and Delaware Trail showed up for a long way, while Ballyards seemed to be put off by Ask Bobby jumping across him.

There were seven runners in the concluding Division Two of the Maiden, which went to Ever So Humbel and Joe Docker. Ever So Humbel was highlighted on this website by Dom Bradshaw in the One For The Notebook section following his opening outing at Thorpe Lodge at the beginning of the month. He was traveling strongly throughout and was quite impressive when asked to quicken by his competent pilot. Bold N Brave was a close second with Matthew Briggs aboard. Previously unraced, Bold N Brave should be placed to good effect by trainer Antonia Bealby with be benefit of the experience under his belt. The third Teeton Babycham is a hard puller, but is improving. Rare Presence (Guy Brewer) in fourth got left behind by the principals. Supreme Optimist’s threatening run petered out and he was pulled up.

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