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Saturday 8th April 2006

by Ian Marshall

photos by Arthur Thompson

On Grand National afternoon, a big screen drew the crowds to this North Yorkshire venue that was dogged by heavy showers throughout a long day that began at 1.30pm, but didn’t finish until just before 6.10pm. Some high quality performers were on show and there was thrilling action that kept racegoers enthralled. A slight extension to the course, coupled with ground that had plenty of give, meant that most races took in excess of seven minutes.

The Confined was only for horses that hadn’t won an open point-to-point or under Rules and 13 entries stood their ground. Charlies Memory triumphed under Jacqueline Coward, indicating just how much he despised the appalling conditions at Mordon a fortnight ago. Tracking the leader from flagfall, Charlies Memory stayed on strongly on the run-in to confirm the favourable impression that he generated in collecting an Alnwick maiden and trouncing the opposition in a Dalton Park restricted. His winning streak might not be over yet either. Runner-up Queenies Girl had Paul Frank for assistance and probably put in a career best effort. She has been greatly taxed in hunter chases in 2006 and relished this more realistic level. Northern raider Suetsu (Claire Metcalfe) was third and ran a solid race. Sweeping Storm (Richard Smith) was back in fourth, showing again that he is highly capable without actually looking like winning. Sams Way could never get in a blow, while Just A Man flattered to deceive. Purple Jean led for much of the journey, before giving way in the back straight for the final time. Bobby Buttons was fancied on a course where he has done well in the past. He might have sneaked a place but for falling at the penultimate obstacle and appeared a bit sore afterwards.

Charlies Memory (Jacqeuline Coward)

The Hunt race was for horses qualified with both the Bedale and West of Yore, which has proved a shrewd move the past couple of years, and attracted eight participants. Scenic Storm was successful, with Nigel Tutty extremely positive in the saddle. Scenic Storm is a sound campaigner and was far from disgraced on his previous outing behind Skew Whip in a Catterick hunter chase. It was a case of “catch me if you can” today and the result was barely in doubt. Sajomi Rona was guided into second by Ian Smith. He has been a good deal more reliable this year and might find a little race. Alfie Twofourtwo was a warm order, however the twelve lengths he was down at the line was as close as he ever got. Abby Hutchinson will have learnt a lot on her second ride and the experience will have been invaluable for employing waiting tactics in the future. Was A Drive (Paul Hodgson) was sporting blinkers rather than his usual cheekpieces, but was fourth yet again.

The Restricted was a very open heat and proved to be keenly fought out by the 15 runners. Gunner Royal gave jockey Jacqueline Coward and trainer Cherry Coward a double, just as Gunner Royal and Charlies Memory had done at Dalton Park in March. Gunner Royal has got too far behind on a couple of occasions this season, but he certainly possesses a useful turn of foot if kept within touching distance. He also displayed a fine attitude to get the better of a duel with the equally gutsy Oso Tilley, partnered by Niall Saville. It was an excellent comeback from the mare and she obviously likes Hornby Castle as she landed her maiden here in 2005. Third-placed Mile High City has mainly competed in sizeable fields since coming over from Ireland. He hasn’t been doing too badly and with Ben Woodhouse piloting today, he improved slightly once more. Nampara Cove (Lee Bates) in fourth is capable at times, although he is rather inconsistent. Master Jackson, Winanoscar and Karinga Leap all departed on the first circuit. Lothian Rising made a good reappearance and will come on for the run.

Runner-up Oso Tilly (Niall Saville)

The Ladies Open was expected to be ultra competitive as the dozen runners oozed talent and it fully lived up to predictions. In a healthy betting market, Duchess Account and Wilfie Wild disputed favouritism. Wilfie Wild has already stamped himself a class act and he came out a two length winner. Lynne Ward shrewdly adopted a midfield pitch, as opposed to the usual strategy of holding him up well behind, and it paid handsome dividends, with Wilfie Wild joining issue in the last half mile and keeping on powerfully in the closing stages. He is the second winner of the meeting to come out of Skew Whip’s Catterick race and, with similarly astute handling, it would be no surprise to see Wilfie Wild get his head in front in a hunter chase. Second went to Physical Force, who achieved a huge amount of credit. He is always a picture in the paddock and gets on particularly well with Freya Hartley, 11 stone being far more up his street than the bigger weights he carried in mens contests last year. The fact that he had plenty left in the tank in the home straight confirms truly once and for all that he doesn’t necessarily need an easy trip. Still relatively young at eight, Physical Force will be amongst the best ladies pointers in Yorkshire for some time to come if remaining healthy. Iron Express in third continues to distinguish himself in defeat, never giving up the ghost, and surely an initial victory in points is just around the corner for Jacqueline Coward’s mount. Fourth-placed Duchess Account met the 7th fence all wrong and Emma Brader made an astounding recovery to keep the partnership intact. Crucial momentum was lost though and Duchess Account was fighting a losing battle from that point. Mister Bromley wasn’t at the top of his game here, or at Corbridge on his latest outing, and had little response when the pace increased.

Wilfie Wild (Lynne Ward)

There were also 12 horses present for the Mens Open, but it all revolved around one of them, as Plutocrat turned the affair into a procession. Improving with every race in 2006, it was an immense performance to score by 20 lengths. When Richard Wakeham played his hand, he soon had everything else in trouble and he went further and further away until the post came. Like Physical Force earlier, there were possible stamina worries surrounding Plutocrat to consider, but those theories were totally dispelled. In this type of form, he is going to be difficult to beat in the remainder of the season, having got to within a length of that wily campaigner The Butterwick Kid at Brocklesby Park in March. A never dangerous second was Sad Mad Bad. Ridden with restraint by Oliver Greenall, Sad Mad Bad doesn’t always have the heart for a fight, but isn’t easy to dismiss from calculations. Third was Astral Prince (Nigel Tutty). It wasn’t a bad effort, but he is vulnerable to anything with a change of pace. Robber (Michael Morley) in fourth maybe didn’t quite attain the levels of his three other runs between the flags, but doesn’t look like he will ever let you down. Buddy Girie had a decent blow-out. Only four of the field weren’t carrying a seven pound penalty, one of which was Snizort. With blinkers at last back on, he was perfectly placed in the back stretch, when he seemed close enough in good enough. He was found wanting though when the pace was upped. Normally operating in ladies opens, a return to that arena is highly likely and would be a prudent approach.

Plutocrat (Richard Wakeham)

Division One of the Maiden exceeded the safety factor so was split into two parts. There were ten runners in Part One, but just three finishers. Kappillan got off the mark at the tenth attempt between the flags, half of which have seen him fill second spot. Driven along in third with a circuit left to cover, it needed all of Mark Walford’s persistence to get him home. It was richly deserved and due reward for his efforts. In the end, Kappillan was 25 lengths ahead of Toms Party and Guy Brewer. Toms Party is definitely starting to get the hang of things, if is in his own time. A distant third were Rose De Bois and Ann Wilson, who did at least get round slowly. Beeches Dream made a bold bid for glory, however she had given her all and was a legless second when sensibly pulled up by Claire Metcalfe before the final fence. She’s certainly worth another chance. Steviebill was well to the fore, but his run petered out in the back straight on the last lap and he may have been feeling the effects of a hard race at Bangor last week.

Eight horses lined up for Part Two because Cup Final was withdrawn in the paddock. Three completed and Primitive Rhythm came out on top. Guy Brewer used all his expertise to dictate a steady pace and the mare was never headed to comfortably take the spoils. She had been stuck in the mud at Mordon on her previous outing, but earlier had displayed some promising credentials. Runner-up Top Pack went in vain pursuit on what was his first meaningful start in point-to-points. With normal progress, he ought to be up to claiming a maiden under Richard Wakeham. Riot Act was third for Ben Woodhouse, again performing respectably. She Likes To Boogy had a gentle debut and Springbok Noodles showed some speed before tiring.

Three were also all that could get round in Division Two of the Maiden, even though 12 horses set out. Nevertheless, there was an exciting finish to conclude proceedings as Thatlldoya repelled Whinny Bank by a neck. Niall Saville’s strength at the business end was crucial as Thatlldoya idled a bit in front, having appeared to have the event in the bag. His love of soft ground has meant Thatlldoya has been in his element recently, two second placings being pleasing to the eye. Jacqueline Coward was narrowly denied a hat-trick on the runner-up, whose form hadn’t been particularly encouraging in the past. Visiting a racecourse for the first time in third was The Artful Fox in the hands of Guy Brewer. A striking sort, connections must be extremely happy with the outcome and The Artful Fox has a bright future ahead of him. Abbey Whin is beginning to shape better now that his jumping is less of a concern, while Willing Whip is managing a little further in each race. Both could be seen in a different light on a sounder surface, the latter especially as she is in receipt of all the allowances this year.

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