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South Durham
Saturday 19th May 2007
by Ian Marshall
photos by Grace Beresford

Free admission was again the reward at this fixture for racegoers brave enough to miss the FA Cup Final. A few horses stayed in their boxes for the third meeting of the year here as the ground was Good To Firm. Oddly, horses seemed to be going in well on any bare patches, but barely seemed to make a print on some areas with a good grass covering.

This was the final afternoon of the Yorkshire Area season and the Lady Riders Title was retained by the excellent Jacqueline Coward, while the talented Chris Dawson claimed his first Gentleman Riders Title.

There were five runners for the Hunt Members and Sir Alf took the prize to seal the Yorkshire Gentleman Riders Title for Chris Dawson. It is the fourth year in a row that Sir Alf has won this race, some achievement. Sir Alf was also making it four victories on the bounce in 2007. He continues to go about his business with the minimum of fuss and has yet to be fully extended. Runner-up Ben From Ketton blazed the trail in the hands of Simon Robinson, although he was no match for the winner, who was always stalking the principals. Tiger Talk (James Waggott) was third, but couldn’t go with the front two exiting the back straight. Washington Pink completed in fourth. Abandon Ship fell before the main contenders had played their hands. For an awful moment, it seemed that the horse may be seriously hurt, but thankfully he was back on his feet quickly and horse and rider appeared largely unscathed as they walked back.

Action from the hunt members

Eight horses went to post for the Confined that featured no penalties. Very few got into contention and the two pace-setters fought out the finish. So impressive at Witton Castle earlier this month, Ballybrakes went to the front at halfway and Lee Bates only had to get serious on the run-in to register another sound triumph. Quick ground suits this fellow well and he bowled along happily at the head of affairs. He is hard to beat in this sort of form. Breaking Breeze led for the first lap before Ballybrakes went on. He deserves plenty of credit for trying to peg back his main opponent running to the last, but Chris Dawson’s mount just couldn’t reel Ballybrakes in. Bobby Buttons and Steve Charlton in third weren’t disgraced, but this likeable sort couldn’t pick up coming down the hill having looked to be closing three out. Just A Man in fourth was putting in his best work at the death, however, as so often is the case, he left himself far too much to do.

Ballybrakes and Lee Bates on their way to victory in the confined from Breaking Breeze

The Mens Open was a seven-strong heat and went to Novel Idea and Michael Smith. Novel Idea had made a massive impression when waltzing away with the restricted at the April meeting at this venue. He had been successful since at Mosshouses too and quickened up nicely today to win with a bit in hand, breaking the course record in the process. The decent ground has seen him in a useful light and he can progress further in 2008. The amazing Queenies Girl, with Paul Frank in the saddle, came second. She is at the top of her game at the moment and it requires a pretty special performance to get the better of her in this sort of mood. Boasting fine credentials were Forty Shakes and Chris Dawson, who were third. This was a tougher assignment though than the two hunter chases he had won earlier in the season as Novel Idea and Queenies Girl are bang in form. Nocatee did all right to chase these and has shown a bit more of late.

Northern raiders Novel Idea and Michael Smith winning the men's open from Queenies Girl, Forty Shakes and Nocatee

A delighted Michael Smith

There were only three declarations for the Ladies Open and the northern challenger Themanfromcarlisle was strangely allowed to open at 4-1 in the market granted that there were big question marks about his two rivals in the prevailing conditions on a short track. Given a canny ride from the front by Kelly Bryson, Themanfromcarlisle made all and never appeared in danger at any stage. Keeping up a relentless gallop and an exemplary round of fencing secured this success. Jacqueline Coward was hard at work on Potoffairies with a full circuit to race so did well to finish second. Potoffairies is worth another chance when there is a much greater emphasis on stamina as he needed every inch of Heslaker’s lengthy course to gain the day in a ladies open a fortnight ago. Third-placed Duchess Account (Emma Brader) was always struggling and, although she closed for a time, the winner had a lot left in reserve. This run is best forgotten as the lively surface was against her.

Northern raiders take both the men's and ladies open, Themanfromcarlisle and Kelly Bryson seen here taking the second last

Ten horses set out for the Restricted, which saw Brown’s Beck battle tenaciously under a power-packed drive from Steve Charlton to master Shapani and Chris Dawson by a head. Brown’s Beck has kept his form fantastically well and has been knocking on the door all season. He doesn’t like too much cut in the ground and had been runner-up already on four occasions in 2007. Brown’s Beck should continue to give a good account of himself in the future. Shapani has left previous frustrations far behind this year and tried his best to collect here for Chris Dawson, but found the victor a little stronger in the final throes of the contest. He is much improved. The pair were clear of the honest Caribbean Lad and Philip Cornforth in third. Caribbean Lad is another suited by top of the ground and can run to a fair standard on it. He was just ahead of Iron Trooper, who was attempting a restricted for the first time, and didn’t get on too badly. Killnascully King was the early leader, but didn’t find a lot in the last half mile and can do better, while Zaffiera was never sighted.

Brown's Beck and Steve Charlton on their way to victory in the restricted

The Open Maiden had the biggest field of the day, 14, and several were still in with a shout turning for home. There was quite a surprise as a superbly judged ride from Oliver Greenall produced Sales Flow to challenge with a quarter of a mile to race and she ran on enthusiastically to claim the spoils. It was a total turn-up from her antics in the paddock, where she needed plenty of encouragement simply to walk round, but the persistence paid off. This was a far less stern test than the marathon at Heslaker she took part in earlier in the month. It is a rare event indeed that a David Easterby trained runner is available in the betting ring at 33-1. Runner-up The Viking made stealthy headway after a lap under Mark Walford to loom large as a threat between the last two obstacles. The Viking could be classed as unlucky as he was awkward at the final fence or he may have prevailed. It will be a surprise if he isn’t eventually good enough to pick up a maiden. Michael Morley guided Stanley Park into third to be placed again. The able Stanley Park should find a race. Back in fourth, the blinkered Banners Flying seemed fairly hard work, but does at least act on the surface. The going was too fast for the ultra consistent Artic Omen, who got tapped for toe exiting the far side, whereas Hailes Hill was soon trailing.

Sales Flow and Oliver Greenall take a fence alongside Artic Omen before winning the open maiden

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