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by Ian Marshall & Arthur Thompson

A superb season of thrilling action excited racegoers in Yorkshire and 2005 will linger long in the memory for the sheer number of class performances from both horse and rider. With plenty of rain around, watering wasn’t needed until late in the campaign and ground conditions were generally easier than in many other parts of the country.

Even before the Yorkshire season got underway, the region’s horses were scoring on their travels. On the opening day, Lady Susan Watson’s Just Fluster and Sarah Jane Stilgoe’s Cmewin made the long journey south to Cottenham worthwhile by taking a restricted and a maiden respectively. Mark Walford was the successful pilot on both, as the unfortunate Richard Wakeham’s licence hadn’t come through in time. At the same venue on 23rd January, Spider Music flew the flag of the white rose for the Clarks in style too, although there was more bad luck for Richard Wakeham who broke his wrist in a fall.

It was at Market Rasen on the last Sunday in January that things really got going though, with many of “our horses” on show, and four of them came out on top. Duchess Account took the restricted, which turned out to be a recurring theme in the months ahead, and the three divisions of the maiden went to Bulmer Bank, Vics Fane and West Coaster. The Trish Russell-owned Bulmer Bank was making his debut on a racecourse and created a favourable impression, going about his business with the minimum of fuss under Simon Walker. Disappointingly, the six-year-old wasn’t seen again after pulled muscles followed by other niggles kept the gelding at home. He’ll be worth keeping an eye on in 2006. Vics Fane was mightily impressive in making all the running in his race. He was produced well forward by trainer Roger Marley and gave rider Richard Tierney, who was already extremely competent, his first success between the flags. West Coaster dueled with Farington Lodge for the last half mile, but the former stuck his neck out at the death.

The opening Yorkshire area event at Witton Castle set the tone for the year with a magnificent four-timer in the saddle by Ben Woodhouse from his only four rides and plenty of horses taking part. The first race went to the Sarah Dent-trained and John Mackley-owned Carew, rewarding these stalwarts of the game for their constant effort. In the intermediate, one of the stars of 2005 was unleashed for the first time, Mister Bromley, guided ably by Serena Brotherton, taking no prisoners for a bloodless success. Mr Mahdlo won the mens open for the Woodhouse team preceding glory in hunter chases for the veteran. It was the imposing grey Auntie Kathleen in the restricted that created the biggest ray of sunshine, destroying 17 rivals in a clinical display.

With the West of Yore fixture at Hornby Castle abandoned well in advance due to the track being unfit and the Sinnington twice postponed, firstly because of snow, then by waterlogging, it was a month until the next Yorkshire meeting. In the meantime, there was a treble for Oliver Greenall at Brocklesby Park on horses trained by David Easterby, the same afternoon as a double for Ben Woodhouse. These were followed by ultra consistent performer San Francisco making the long trip to Netherby a fruitful experience.

Charm Park on 6th March was well worth waiting for with a lot of quality on show, in addition to no shortage of quantity. What was probably the strongest open of the Yorkshire season was the mixed at this fixture and it was a tale of three misters. Mister Friday looked a classy recruit when disposing of two of 2004’s top horses Mr Mahdlo and Mr Pendleberry. Having won a novice chase for Peter Niven, it was no surprise to see Mister Friday go on to bigger and better things in later months. No fewer than six of those beaten went on to score before the season was out, two of them notching a brace. The confined was equally interesting and Auntie Kathleen kept her unbeaten record by making it three out of three, staying on just too strongly from the courageous Mister Bromley. Auntie Kathleen wasn’t to be seen again, but she remains an extraordinary talent. A restricted triumph for Vics Fane reinforced his Market Rasen maiden victory, fighting off Wilfie Wild after the last. The latter was stepping up on efforts in the previous couple of years and built on this to improve markedly as 2005 progressed. Mark Walford grabbed the final two maidens on Wee William and Honor and Glory, trained by his mother Gillian who is so profitable to follow in those races. There were injuries to two jockeys though, Nigel Tutty escaping relatively lightly with cracked ribs after a terrible fall from The Viking and Richard Tierney breaking a collarbone in the last, in contrast to his joy on Vics Fane.

The next weekend, several made the trip to the northwest and Whittington. Ben From Ketton got Simon Robinson off the mark, but The Big Breakfast made mincemeat of his rivals in a maiden, rewarding Maxine Stirk’s patience and giving Guy Brewer a 50th winner in the saddle between the flags. The Big Breakfast had gone into many notebooks at Charm Park when he received a gentle introduction in the hot confined. The following day, Dalton Park had stronger racing than is sometimes the case there. Mr Mahdlo proved resilient to hold off Shackleton in the mens open and Ledgendry Line showed he is no back number in the hands of Serena Brotherton in the ladies event. Wilfie Wild indicated that a week ago was no fluke as he dispensed with a reasonable lot in the restricted, hardly breaking sweat. Rider Lynne Ward could scarcely remember her previous victory. Former showjumper Kiora Bay made a winning start in a new discipline, while there was the strange sight of Black Rainbow running twice, finishing third in the first division of the maiden, having run out at an early stage in the mares maiden earlier in the programme, a race that saw Rising Talisker finally get a win under her belt.

Mr Mahdlo then found Sedgefield to his liking when clearing right away in a hunter chase. Heavy ground was again the order of the day on 19th at Hutton Rudby. Ikdam Melody and Chaos Theory took the opens, the former being a welcome winner for Jo Foster. Both horses were behind Mister Friday at Charm Park at the beginning of the month. Orleans is a different horse at the track and took the restricted, but the versatile Mister Bromley is happy anywhere and again did enough. The concluding maiden was characterized by a brilliant ride from Rachel Clark on Been Here Before to swoop late on and land a massive gamble. Back to Lincolnshire and Brocklesby Park for the Yorkshire contingent on the Sunday and all eyes were on Mister Friday. He was never extended in the mens open and this turned out to be his final run of the year in points. Clive Mulhall was initiating a double, which was completed on Mighty Man in the finishing maiden. Equally impressive was an armchair ride for Jacqueline Coward on Strongtrooper, well ahead during the final circuit, the ex-rules performer absolutely trotted up.

The trip north to Mordon on Easter Saturday allowed observers to be indulged by the displays of Sams Way in the restricted and Wilfie Wild in the intermediate. Both were in commanding mood, making all comers appear a rung lower in the pecking order. Shackleton and Ledgendry Line were on the scoresheet once more and, having had much success under the professional code in his younger days, Birkdale claimed the mens open at the age of 14 for a popular win. Market Rasen saw Clive Mulhall gaining another double, but the general standard was low as signified by Prioritisation and Milliners Guide capturing maidens. As well as Freya Hartley did on top on Milliners Guide to give trainer Mary Sowersby her first winner of the campaign, it was poor stuff. Back at Charm Park on Easter Monday, Ben Woodhouse continued his rich vein of form by guiding Ellie Bee home in the restricted, while Bobby Buttons got his head in front at last in the maiden as Tina Jackson took over in the plate for the first time. However, a Brader family twosome via Duchess Account and Skew Whip was the highlight. Having gained valuable experience at the first meeting here, Emma Brader timed the mare’s late surge to perfection to ride her first winner. A thrilling sight in full flight, Duchess Account was seen to good effect later in the season as well. Skew Whip was partnered by Nicky Tinkler and turned division one of the conditions maiden into a procession. A couple of educational outings had put him straight and this imposing customer has a huge future.

The feature race of the Yorkshire year is the Grimthorpe Gold Cup and this time Shackleton won the day for Oliver Greenall, Lord Daresbury and David Easterby. It was hardly a vintage renewal, but the horse has kept his form well and been there or thereabouts at all times in 2005. The Middleton members is often quite a decent heat and this year was no exception as the magnificent Mister Bromley kept on stoutly from Kings Boy and Duchess Account. Richard Wakeham’s return to the saddle from injury was a triumphant one, guiding Skew Whip home in the restricted. Quickening clear impressively from the second last, Skew Whip soon stamped his authority on the contest. Wilfie Wild continued his phenomenal rate of improvement when disposing of Ledgendry Line in the ladies confined, whilst Texas Ranger was well adrift. Both divisions of the two and a half mile maiden went to nice types. Mr Tee Pee came right away at the climax in the opening part and is highly thought of by Ben Woodhouse. In the second, Bexley hacked up under Richard Tierney for the Marleys in the style of a horse to follow, fitting perhaps as he was owned under Rules by Trevor Hemmings.

On Grimthorpe day, Market Rasen was the venue for Mister Friday’s eagerly awaited hunter chase bow and his supporters didn’t go away disappointed. He treated his rivals with disdain, although assignments in the time ahead were undoubtedly tougher.

Hornby Castle on 10th April again saw a feast of runners and some close finishes. Buddy Girie got the better of Sams Way in a scrap for the confined, Forty Shakes snatched the restricted on the line in a tight tussle with the revitalized Bobby Buttons and Oso Tilley was all out from No Info in the concluding maiden. Trooper Collins in the members and Backsheesh in the mens open gave Grant Tuer a double in what was a difficult season for him. Backsheesh’s appearances are few and far between, but he is always worthy of consideration if turning out. Silver Groom claimed the ladies open with great tenacity to show that even at 15 and in his final campaign he can’t be written off. San Francisco and Wilfie Wild filled the places, indicating the calibre of the opposition. The opening leg of the maiden witnessed Black Rainbow giving her all for Tina Jackson to land the odds.

Midweek, Mister Friday was back in action, this time in a hunter chase at Cheltenham. Another immaculate display from Yorkshire’s finest meant he was in front again at the post, Mullensgrove, former festival foxhunters winner Earthmover, Tanager and Denvale being among those left in his wake. Going from strength to strength, Mister Friday will take some beating, even in this company, at hunter chase level.

A Herculean effort from all concerned at the Cleveland hunt to remove thousands of gallons of water from the course allowed the meeting at Stainton to go ahead on bottomless ground. In the members kicking off proceedings, the winning almost white gelding Stepastray could hardly be identified as such at the end. Horses that like to come from behind were to the fore, Duchess Account in the intermediate, Scotmail Lad in the mens open, Mister Bromley in the ladies open and Cmewin in the restricted, the latter sprouting wings from another county to sweep past Queenies Girl as she faltered.

Mr Mahdlo remained in fine fettle to land a Perth hunter chase, before Maxine Stirk’s other youngster Clever Nora headed north to pick up a Corbridge maiden under Freya Hartley. Brought along slowly, Clever Nora will be better still with a bit more growing under her belt. Easingwold isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but course specialists Civil Gent and Hadeqa certainly like it, the respective opens heading their way, astoundingly at generous odds too. Hattie couldn’t be caught in the members, Shirostran was rewarded for his consistency in the restricted and Noggler paid immediate dividends to Serena Brotherton for purchasing a half share in him in the younger horse maiden. Wynyard Dancer created a surprise in the confined. The mare has dumped Tina Jackson on several occasions over the last two or three years, not least when called a few names at the Middleton three weeks previously, but she put her best hoof forward this time.

There followed two highly notable victories for Yorkshire-based horses in hunter chases. First of all, Mister Friday returned to Cheltenham to again take on Mullensgrove in even hotter company, but the result was just as it had been before, a cosy success. As he likes the track, Mister Friday must hold a real chance in the Foxhunters at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival if staying healthy. He can hold his head up high after his first campaign at this level and, on what I have seen so far, must take all the beating in his quest for further honours. Up at Hexham, the Heart of All England hunter chase found Imps Way in the form of her life and the mare showed a good attitude to grab the headlines, Wilfie Wild and Bobby Buttons capsizing at the bigger fences. Clive Mulhall was the winning jockey on both Mister Friday and Imps Way. Imps Way later performed with even greater distinction to be placed in the John Corbett Cup at Stratford.

More monsoon conditions at Heslaker on the final day of April (doesn’t it always pour with rain on the morning of the meeting here) meant races were a war of attrition. Blank Cheque went out on a high at the age of 15 with a bloodless triumph in the members. A grand servant over the years, he has earned a long and happy retirement. There were more jubilant scenes in the winners enclosure for the Brader family as both of their horses won on the same day for the second time in 2005. Emma Brader now really looks the part in the saddle and she timed Duchess Account’s challenge to perfection in the confined to collar the longtime leader at the last, having at one stage been a distance in arrears. Duchess Account gives her all and the tally of four wins during the season speaks for itself. Skew Whip is a fine stamp of a horse and he completed a hat-trick in the intermediate in the hands of Richard Wakeham by taking the scalps of Marrasit and the Richard Burton ridden favourite Rebel Army. Skew Whip is an exciting prospect for 2006. Mister Bromley is a class act and he made no mistake in the ladies open for his fifth success of the year, leaving the smart Step And Run trailing behind. Be it a slog like this or top of the ground, Mister Bromley handles it all the same and Serena Brotherton must be very pleased with him. Snizort, following several placings in recent months, went one better in the restricted with blinkers reapplied, surviving a howler at the final fence to lead home his Sowersby stable companion Kindle A Flame.

Witton Castle on the opening day of May got off to an inauspicious start with a farce of a members race, which is best left described as that, but thankfully the afternoon improved significantly. Bobby Buttons’ rise to prominence gained momentum with a hard fought display in the intermediate to defy Ellie Bee. Only the previous evening, he had come to grief in a hunter chase at Hexham. In the same boat was Wilfie Wild, who impressed once more in the ladies open, holding Ledgendry Line at bay again. It is hoped that Wilfie Wild can carry on where he left off next year. Prioritisation stepped up on his Market Rasen maiden victory to land the restricted, while Royal Snoopy was the ready winner of the mens open. Dannymolone fully deserved to get his head in front in the second division of the maiden after some promising efforts. The other two divisions saw trainer Roger Marley unleash a couple of useful young horses in Just Jay and Ballyowen, both of whom received many favourable comments.

Sikander A Azam then secured a Fakenham hunter chase, The Butterwick Kid fended off Imps Way to take the Yorkshire Point-to-Point Association hunter chase at Wetherby and Royal Snoopy was on the mark in a Market Rasen hunter chase.

Easingwold was the venue for two hard fought opens. The mens saw Civil Gent eat ground up the hill to somehow beat longtime leader Journey having looked dead and buried, while Heather Lad was superbly ridden by Annabelle Armitage to keep Hadeqa at bay in the ladies. After her victory at Hutton Rudby in a maiden, Queenies Girl has often gone close in restricteds, but today was her day. Paul Frank always had things under control and Queenies Girl resolutely saw out the trip.

The Hiscox final at Huntingdon featured Bobby Buttons and Skew Whip stepping up in class. Neither seemed out of place though and both distinguished themselves well, departing at the third last and fourth last respectively when appearing likely to be placed.

An uncompetitive card at Mordon brought the Yorkshire season to a close with Sir Alf winning the members for trainer Maria Myco on home turf. Strongtrooper finished alone in the confined and Journey made every yard in the mens open. Wynyard Dancer dug deep in the ladies open, prior to Carew winning the restricted, having been successful on the opening day of the campaign in a Witton Castle maiden. The climax of 2005 was a maiden, going to Oaklands Ted, who gave rider Tina Jackson a double on the day. Chris Dawson was left with a dislocated shoulder after a nasty tumble.

Victoria ’s Boy traveled to Tabley to collect a mens open and many Yorkshire-based horses made the trip to Hexham for their two point-to-point meetings. At the first, there were three entrants at the head of affairs passing the post. Ronnie Barr’s Penny Peppermint, a striking 13-year-old mare, who has had her problems, put them behind her to manage the intermediate, ahead of Sams Way. Scenic Storm, having put in a very creditable performance in the Heart of All England hunter chase on the National Hunt track here, had sufficient staying power in the restricted. Snizort, sharpened up by blinkers and Freya Hartley’s assistance in the saddle spreadeagled the ladies open field by a convincing margin of ten lengths.

The second Hexham fixture also had three of the Yorkshire contingent in front. There was a repeat of the previous week as Snizort was in the same sort of form in the ladies open. It was a stronger field this time, including the smart Swiftway, but the result was no different and never in doubt. A hat-trick underlined the importance of headgear to keep Snizort’s mind on the job, but reinforced the view that he has great potential. Annies Answer made up for a final fence fall at Corbridge when she would have gone close by hacking up in a maiden. Reg Makin’s charge is another young horse with fine prospects. Strong Will came out on top in the hands of Lee Bates in the other maiden.

There was still time for Colonel Ludlow to head south to poach a restricted at Garthorpe. Loving the easy track, Colonel Ludlow moved Chris Cundall one nearer 100 winners between the flags. He is in the nervous nineties.

Hunter chasing in late May, 25th at Cartmel found Victoria’s Boy, Ikdam Melody and Wilfie Wild making it a one, two, three for Yorkshire. A competitive contest produced a tight finish, but Victoria’s Boy found most at the business end. Imps Way was back at Hexham for victory, Clive Mulhall as usual in the plate. The mare always seems to keep finding more. On Bank Holiday Monday, Buddy Girie hit the headlines in a maiden event at Cartmel. He might not have had all that much to beat, but he did enough.

All in all a fantastic year and the only areas of real concern are the sharp bends before the second last fences at both Easingwold and Mordon. They are a major worry and something must be done to ease their tightness. Several horses slipped up at them, one such fall leading to Chris Dawson’s injury, and it is only luck that prevented a horse being seriously hurt.

Ben Woodhouse had an amazing year and ran away with the male jockeys’ title, ahead of Oliver Greenall, who is learning quickly. Clive Mulhall was also in superb form, in hunter chases as well as points, while Richard Tierney is undoubtedly a name for the future, along with Chris Dawson, and Richard Wakeham used his talent to good effect when available. Nigel Tutty was beset by injury and Guy Brewer and Lee Bates were equally quiet, but they’ll back in force next year.

Among the ladies, Serena Brotherton took the honours, going barely a meeting without a winner. Tina Jackson and Freya Hartley managed to get through a season unscathed, allowing them each to show just how good they are really are. Lynne Ward made herself known, Rachel Clark has much potential and Emma Brader did superbly well in her first season.

Turning to the trainers, both Ben Woodhouse and Serena Brotherton showed that both disciplines can be combined. David Easterby remained strong, whereas Mary Sowersby took time to get going. Roger Marley and Gillian Walford can never be written off and Charles Brader did fantastically with just two horses.

Of the horses, Mister Friday is the major force and carries our main hopes next year in hunter chases. Imps Way is adept in that sphere too. Mister Bromley is simply phenomenal, closely followed by Duchess Account and Wilfie Wild. Vics Fane and Auntie Kathleen had immense beginnings to 2005, but were sidelined after two victories each. Two younger horses to become front page stories were Skew Whip and Snizort and we’ll be seeing much more of them, together with the born again Bobby Buttons.

See you in 2006.

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