York & Ainsty
The ground at Easingwold was officially Good as extensive watering had taken place and this, coupled with an excellent grass covering, meant the course was in the best condition that I have seen it. The prudent decision to resite the fifth last fence also meant the only virtually permanent firm area could be avoided. The organisers were rewarded with a huge crowd and enthusiasm was hardly dampened by persistent rain throughout the afternoon.
The Hunt Members was a promising start to proceedings with seven runners of a fair ability. The odds-on favourite Buddy Girie secured the spoils under Philip Cornforth from Wrapitup and Joanne Brown. Buddy Girie is traditionally a spring horse and he kicked off his season with a victory in a confined at Charm Park over Easter. Whilst at 14 he is well into the veteran stage, he will continue to give a good account of himself in the next month or so and may make a return visit to Cartmel. Wrapitup was none too fluent at both of the last couple of fences, which might have cost him the prize. He takes a strong grip up front, but his stamina seemed to be holding out and he will be one to keep an eye on in the second fixture here. Having appeared to get outpaced during the middle of the race, Claire’s Nomad was staying on hand over hoof in the closing stages for Rachel Clark to be third. Rare Presence wasn’t disgraced in fourth.
The Younger Horse Maiden drew together ten hopefuls and Killnascully King lost his maiden tag at the seventh time of asking in Britain, with Oliver Greenall doing the steering. He always had the leaders in his sights and forged ahead at the final fence before powering up the finishing chute. Killnascully King had looked rather one-paced at times earlier in the year, but his close second to Mandalay Bay at Mordon a week ago hinted that there was more to come. There was a very tight call for second and third between Zaffiera (Ben Hamilton) and Saddlers Harmony (Guy Brewer), with the judge’s verdict going to the former. Zaffiera is certainly heading in the right direction and can improve further. Saddlers Harmony is also progressing slowly and a sound surface is the main contributing factor to his better efforts the last twice. Dejeeje showed easily the most yet in fourth and might just be getting the hang of things. Alpha Zeta forced the pace, but dropped right away. Crackpot refused to race.
There were just four runners for the Ladies Open and the long odds-on One Five Eight had a bit of a scare to land them. It needed all of Jacqueline Coward’s guile to get him home as One Five Eight certainly had to be kept up to his work to withstand the late challenge of Max’s Micro and Sarah Duell. There was no pace on at all and it turned into a bit of a sprint. Since his career under Rules was curtailed, One Five Eight has now been unbeaten in four ladies opens, although this success was nowhere near as facile as the previous at Charm Park. Max’s Micro stepped up on anything he had achieved before in 2007 to be second. Maybe both horse and rider are now finding their feet as this was a useful display. Madison De Vonnas (Freya Hartley) in third was already held when blundering at the final fence. He hasn’t yet regained the heights of his Whitwell debut in point-to-points earlier this month. Darak completed in fourth.
The Mens Open saw eight of the 13 declarations hold their ground. At his favoured venue, there was no stopping Astral Prince as he claimed the prize with Nigel Tutty giving maximum assistance. In my opinion, he had performed creditably on both of his other outings this year, including last time against the up-and-coming star Mr Hawkeye at Hornby Castle. There will also have been plenty enough give in the ground for his liking today so this really was a good run. Queenies Girl and Paul Frank were the runners-up. She has won round Easingwold before too and stuck to her task her well. Queenies Girl is pretty consistent as well and is versatile as to going. Sikander A Azam couldn’t quite pick up sufficiently on the run-in for Oliver Greenall and came in third. A monster gamble (7-1 to 5-4 in places) went awry on Noggler, who has won here before. He didn’t really look like leaving punters happy at any stage and ended up fourth. Lanaken would probably prefer a slightly quicker surface. Scenic Storm was oddly tailed off nearly throughout. This was a rare off day.
Ten horses lined up for the Restricted, but two had it between them from the top of the hill, pulling eight lengths clear of the third. The resolute Luke Lively and Mark Walford gained the day by the minimum distance from Toms Party and Guy Brewer. It was nip and tuck all the way to the judge from the last. Luke Lively has had a fairly light campaign as he bumped into Banchory Two at Charm Park in March under testing conditions. He can go on to better things. Toms Party gave it his best shot, but couldn’t quite battle his way ahead. The application of blinkers might just have sharpened Toms Party up and provided the going doesn’t get too fast, he might be able to find an end of season event. Young Blade was third for Chris Dawson and did all right. The form of his Hutton Rudby maiden triumph in March is rock solid as the second, third and fourth that day have since come out and won maidens. Caribbean Lad in fourth shaped with far more promise than on his seasonal reappearance. Unfortunately, three miles again appeared to be beyond Welham, even round here.
There were eight runners for the Confined that went to Hermes and Oliver Greenall. It was a double on the card for Ollie. Tracking the leaders, Hermes always appeared to have matters under control and he never looked like getting caught once he had been sent to the front. He has not been out of the first three in the five runs since returning from injury. Monte Cristo, with Richard Tate in the plate, only gave best late on having gone on inside the last mile. Stamina was the obvious concern with this fellow beforehand, but it turned out not to be a problem when push came to shove on this debut in points. He had decent form on the flat and over fences at lesser trips, but may well get three miles at this level. Dun Distinctly, partnered by Pippa Tutty, kept on in third. While he couldn’t get to the pair ahead, Dun Distinctly did show more than he has for a long time. Gaultier Gale was back in fourth. Zygomatic was a little disappointing as he was being rousted along with a circuit still to race.
The Open Maiden saw the biggest field of the day with 13 horses coming under orders. At his favourite track, Iron Trooper finally got on the board under Paul Collins on his 22nd start between the flags. He had been second on three of his four latest outings though, which suggested that he would eventually go one better. Culbann finished best of all for Jacqueline Coward in second, but couldn’t quite reel in the winner. She didn’t really seem to be able to keep up with the early gallop and a longer course might suit even better. Even so, she’s getting her act together and a maiden probably won’t be long in arriving for her. The ex-chaser Sea Maize came third after looking a big danger turning for home. She is another that should make her presence felt in the future. Working Class Hero was a respectable fourth and might just have a little race in him. Sales Flow was never dangerous, although she did make one bad mistake when beginning to take closer order. Follow Up helped set the pace before dropping out. He was by no means a failure under Rules and might well come on for the run. The difficult to train Ambiante was soon well in arrears.
The one slightly downbeat note was a facetious comment on the racecard next to a runner in the restricted. Whilst an honest assessment is welcomed and the form was not strong, a sarcastic remark is surely best left to the private Loose Leaf or “bible”, rather than the racecard.