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Sunday 5th February 2006

by Ian Marshall
photos by Arthur Thompson

With the week’s frost having cleared, Witton Castle was in perfect order on going just the soft side of good. The Yorkshire Area’s opening meeting of 2006 saw a high proportion of runners to entries and, if the afternoon is anything to go by, we are in store for a terrific year. An 11.30am start ensured, however, that there was a rather poor crowd. The current Yorkshire Mens champion, Ben Woodhouse, had a four-timer at this fixture in 2005 and showed that he isn’t prepared to relinquish his title without a fight by triumphing on all his three rides.

A total of 13 declarations from 17 entries set the tone for the day for the Members Maiden for horses hunted with nine adjacent packs. The race was won in a canter by Polar Gale, who was partnered by Chris Dawson. A John Wade inmate, Polar Gale was always traveling smoothly and strolled effortlessly away after the last to score by ten lengths. Should he be aimed at a restricted, it would be a brave man to bet against him following up. Polar Gale’s only previous visit to a racecourse had been in this contest in 2005, when he ran out at the penultimate fence when looking a likely winner. Kappillan took second under Mark Walford. This was the fourth occasion he has filled that position in seven outings and his time will surely come soon, especially having blown away the cobwebs today. Third was another consistent campaigner Dracaena (Nigel Tutty) and fourth was Bridal Action (Brian Hall). Bridal Action and Lady Phoenix set a searching pace and, although obviously they had the best of the ground, this race was significantly quicker than the three closing maidens, whilst the horses carried five pounds more. Lady Phoenix almost came to a halt when slipping on landing at the 11th, while the well-backed grey Mistermagicman was moving with purpose when departing at the 12th. The latter returned with a nasty-looking cut on his hind leg.



There were 14 runners in a strong Intermediate and the layers proved to be shrewd judges with the two market leaders fighting out the finish. Ellie Bee and Ben Woodhouse got the better of Sams Way and Clive Mulhall by a head. Ellie Bee stuck to her task well after pulling hard and appears to have retained all the ability she showed last season. She landed her restricted at Charm Park beating Snizort, a horse who later collected a restricted and two ladies opens. Sams Way just couldn’t quite get his nose in front, but lost little in defeat. He ought to find another opportunity before long. Just Fluster under Steve Charlton was another half a length down in third and finished with a wet sail. He is a bit in and out, but this and his previous effort at Cottenham have a solid look to them. Oaklands Ted and Tina Jackson were a close fourth and are also on the upgrade. Wild Edgar would have been at worst fifth if he had not come down at the final fence. Purple Jean and Queenies Girl will both be better off for the run.


A field of seven turned out for the Ladies Open and featured an eagerly awaited clash between Wilfie Wild and Mister Bromley, who had won nine races between them in 2005. It was Wilfie Wild that came out on top under Lynne Ward by a comfortable five lengths from his main rival, Serena Brotherton’s mount. Wilfie Wild took his first ladies open here in May and picked up exactly where he left off. If he can take to the bigger fences in hunter chases, he has the potential for success in that sphere. Mister Bromley will no doubt take his fair share of races again and the outing will have been of benefit as well. Whilst fifteen lengths back in third, Pacon did seem to be staying on still in the home straight when it appeared that he would be beaten out of sight. He might be of interest in the hands of Hannah Kinsey on a longer track. A distant fourth was Tender Touch (Freya Hartley). Long-time leader Texas Ranger was very tired when getting rid of Jo Foster at the second last.


12 runners in the Mens Open, and another winner for Ben Woodhouse, this time on Barryscourt Lad. Once a high class performer with Martin Pipe with a Great Yorkshire Chase among his credentials, Barryscourt Lad did sufficient to warrant the utmost respect at this level. He could possibly improve on this as he looked less than perfect in the paddock. Unlimited Free in second gave Jack Newitt an excellent first ride, bowling along at the head of affairs for much of the journey. Unlimited Free has previously raced in the south and boasted some decent form there. Barneys Lyric in third was given a lot to do by Oliver Greenall and ran on. He had to be coaxed not to plant himself at the start and doesn’t look the easiest of rides. Fourth-placed Plutocrat (Richard Wakeham) muffed the third last, losing valuable impetus, so did well to finish as close as he did. Astral Prince prefers flat courses such as Witton Castle, while Mr Pendleberry wasn’t disgraced either.


The Restricted had 11 runners and went to Flat Stanley and Jo Foster by a length from Kindle A Flame and Guy Brewer. It was a welcome victory for Jo, who had a particularly frustrating 2005, when many of her rides weren’t at their best. Flat Stanley, whose blood was found to be wrong last year, was returning to something like his true self. Kindle A Flame can usually be relied upon to give his running and is up to claiming one of these races. Classic Echo (Lee Bates) was well beaten in third and just the three completed. Charlies Memory made much of the running, was headed, and then moved dangerously up again, but he didn’t get high enough at the second last and paid the penalty, bringing down Boardsmill Rambler. There is much to like about Charlies Memory’s attitude and he’ll be back. Boardsmill Rambler would probably have been fourth, if he had stood up, and was the pick of the paddock. Bulmer Bank will be straighter for the run.


17 horses faced the starter for Division One of the Maiden and there was a taking performance from Green Admiral, ridden by a cool Richard Tierney. It was a cosy success and there was a lot left in the tank. Even though Green Admiral had shown next to nothing under Rules and had last been seen in March 2004, he must have shown something at home as he was backed off the boards into warm favouritism. If staying healthy, he can land a restricted. It was a contest that ought to throw up a few winners. In vain pursuit in second was Alfie Twofourtwo (Mark Walford). He’s far from straightforward and needs expert handling, but on this evidence has a maiden in him. Young Claude, under Miles Seston, was available at generous odds, but belied them in third to prove he will be a force in points. This giant of a horse would have been significantly closer than eight and have lengths behind Green Admiral if he hadn’t made a horlicks of the last. All of the former conditional’s mounts have warranted close inspection so far this season. There was a pleasing debut from fourth-placed The Poser (Chris Dawson). Master Jackson has now run in three strong maidens and emerged with credit in each of them. Gunner Royal was nearest at the finish and will have gone into many notebooks making eye-catching late headway. Hardy Oliver had a confidence booster and Astral Dram was prominent for a long way, while Lilly Beach dropped away quickly entering the back straight for the final time.

Division Two of the Maiden was split into two parts of ten. Part One went to Garden Shed Spider to give jockey Ben Woodhouse a hat-trick. Ridden exceptionally quietly, Garden Shed Spider loomed up to My Sunshine just before the last with the pair clear and sauntered up the run-in to register a 20 length verdict, albeit somewhat flattering. The conqueror had been brought down just after halfway whilst going well on his only previous appearance at Charm Park last spring. The winning owners, The Garden Shed Partners, were reported to have received a £35,000 offer shortly after today’s race. Thatlldoya and Jo Foster were second. Thatlldoya has some fair form in Irish points and was making up for a minor misdemeanour at Thorpe Lodge a week ago. Rare Presence (Freya Hartley) in third is a decent yardstick, but is nothing out of the ordinary. My Sunshine and Guy Brewer crossed the line at a walk to be fourth. The five-year-old mare unfortunately went lame behind just before the final fence and faces a spell on the sidelines. She was giving Garden Shed Spider a lot to think about having kicked on during the final circuit and the outcome was by no means certain when she picked up her injury.

Part Two saw Zapata Highway collect the spoils with David Thomas in the plate. He hadn’t been entirely convincing in 2005, but returned in much better shape. The winning distance of 20 lengths would probably have been less than half that had Irene Kate stayed on her feet at the last. Runner-up Willynilly, a full sister to the smart Mighty Willing, was seeing a racecourse for the first time. Serena Brotherton’s charge could be a nice prospect at the age of eight, having taken time to mature. Tight Fisted Benny was third for Miles Seston. He too had been absent last year and will benefit from the experience. Kismet and Steve Charlton were fourth. Welham was an early casualty and Camair Commander departed before the race had started in earnest. Irene Kate was booked for second until dislodging Guy Brewer at the last. Formerly with Paul Webber, she had been off for a couple of years and has a bright future. Guy Brewer, Chris Dawson and Nigel Tutty all suffered heavy falls, Guy especially appearing to take a kick whilst on the ground. It is hoped that they are back in the saddle soon.

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