The course rode extremely well after the recent rain and was officially Good To Soft, Soft in Places. The start to proceedings was dogged by persistent heavy drizzle, but the rest of the meeting was largely dry until a torrential downpour arrived just after the seventh race, which lasted till the final contest climaxed at about 6.20pm. The car park is notorious, being on the side of a steep hill, but the organisers deserve immense praise for their efforts in getting everybody on and off the course.
The Hunt Members had six participants and went to Gabor and Steve Magee. He lost ground with virtually every jump, but Gabor held too many aces for his rivals and stayed on well for success. Pinnacle Ridge, a maiden, gave the winner most to do in second. Rachel Clark’s mount set a fair pace and despite running down a few fences kept on stoutly. Pinnacle Ridge should land a race at the lowest level before too long. In third, Buddy Girie (Philip Cornforth) couldn’t change gear when it mattered, although at 15 still seems to have some zest. Primitive Rhythm in fourth had no more to give from the top of the hill.
The Younger Horse Maiden was split at scale and nine horses went to post for Division One. Mark Walford picked up a nice spare ride as Jacqueline Coward was in action at Wetherby and he made full use of it on Come On Pops. Stalking the leaders throughout, Come On Pops joined issue over the last couple of fences and scored a touch cosily. At Hutton Rudby on Easter Saturday, the gelding had been pulled up with a circuit to go and the stewards were unable to have a word with his jockey, who had already left the course. Runner-up Hello Noddy, with Richard Smith in the saddle, completed for the first time in five attempts between the flags. At Charm Park, Mordon and Hornby Castle, Hello Noddy would more than likely have been placed if had got round so clearly had some ability. Jumping errors have been his downfall on each occasion, but he was foot perfect today. Hello Noddy has the ability to go one better. Liverpool and Jo Mason were there or thereabouts from the off and ended up third. Liverpool’s form in maidens is pretty solid and he surely has one in him. In fourth, Kayfhorn ran another sound race following his promising debut at Hornby Castle.
Ten horses were present for Division Two of the Maiden, which saw Mystically last out to win under Oliver Greenall by a rapidly diminishing neck from Treehouse and Steve Charlton. Mystically has been struggling to get the trip over three miles and finished legless when runner-up over two and a half miles at Mordon last week. His suspect stamina was able to hold out on this sharp track. Treehouse will be one for the notebook as he was quite unlucky. Finishing well on the concluding climb, Treehouse had been slightly hampered on the home turn and might have prevailed without this incident. Compensation awaits. Saddlers’ Harmony was third for Guy Brewer and managed to cut out the calamitous blunder that has often been his undoing. Although rather exposed, he has a little talent when his jumping is in order. Fourth-placed Castle Rookie did a bit better than previously and can maybe come on some more. Jabo was in touch when he ran out after three from home. A bad mistake at the 14th put paid to any semblance of a chance that the early pace-setter Popin Buttons still had.
The Ladies Open had a field of ten that contained no outstanding candidate and several with a decent chance of lifting the prize. Briscoe Place was successful under an excellent forceful ride from Caroline Hurley. On his latest outing in a Sedgefield hunter chase, he had only run out of puff late on having led for most of the journey and this tight circuit suited him well. Once Briscoe Place kicked on, he had just sufficient in reserve to prevent any challengers getting to him on the punishing run-in. Staying on hand over hoof in the closing stages was runner-up Be The Tops, with Emma Dwyer on board. Be The Tops would have got up in a few more strides, but the line came in time for Briscoe Place. Be The Tops is one of the unluckiest horses this year as his mixed form figures don’t really tell the whole story. He has come up against some very useful types in the past and a similarly open affair as this might yet see him get his head in front, which he does deserve to for sheer perseverance. In third, Jimmys Duky (Lucy Bell) indicated that he can mix it in this grade after picking up a Mordon maiden a week ago. He had had one previous try in ladies opens, but his Hutton Rudby fourth to the awesome Sea Scout was difficult to evaluate. This easy track is about Del Trotter’s limit in terms of stamina and he faded into fourth. Hornby Castle winner Plutocrat did all right without doing quite enough to trouble the principals, while Astral Prince should come on for this reappearance. The favourite Misty Gem, who had Plutocrat’s Hornby Castle race at her mercy when unseating her rider at the last, ran a strange race today, dropping out after half a mile and being pretty much tailed off from then on. She shouldn’t be written off yet as this wasn’t her true running.
Half a dozen horses lined up for the Mens Open that went the way of Chorizo and Oliver Greenall. Travelling supremely well, Chorizo was simply shaken up to stride ever onward. Chorizo started the season off a maiden and has progressed to five victories overall, the last two of which have been opens. He is a class act and more success can be his if he is kept on the go into May. Over To Joe chased him home under Simon Walker. Over To Joe is only modest and Chorizo wasn’t hard pressed. Tacolino, with Charlie Johnston on top, was third. Held up, Tacolino never reached the leaders and could only run on at the one pace. Best over easy trips like this, Vic’s Last Chance filled fourth spot after making the running. Andre Chenier was in contention for a place when he took Chris Cundall through the wing three out.
The Restricted was contested by 11 runners and there was no surprise when Bow School gave Oliver Greenall a treble on the card. Bow School is an inmate of David Easterby and a couple of indifferent jumps have cost him dear before. There were no flaws though this afternoon and Bow School was always likely to be good enough to claim a restricted. Stable companion Malton came second in the hands of Mark Walford. Malton isn’t a great battler, but did appear to go in pursuit with more relish than often is the case. Mandalay Bay was putting in his best work at the climax for Pip Tutty to be third after struggling to get on terms. Once those ahead of him begin to flag, Mandalay Bay comes into his own. Oaklands Ted was never far off the gallop and nicked fourth. He isn’t easy to catch right. Out To Lunch has some reasonable placed form in maidens, in addition to claiming his members, and was just run out of the placings.
A total of 14 horses faced the starter for the Confined and Cop Howe bounced back from a lacklustre effort by recent standards at Charm Park in March in the best possible way by careering away to score by eight lengths. Jacqueline Coward got back from a ride at Wetherby in which she came second to partner this fellow. A wind operation last summer has been the making of Cop Howe and this victory complemented his triumphs at Witton Castle and Duncombe Park in February. The ease with which he disposed of the opposition here suggests that the winning streak can continue in the future. The plucky Glenelly Gale held on for second under Toby Greenall. Glenelly Gale is a resilient sort and, whilst not a patch on his heyday, is still capable of fair form. Guy Brewer secured third for Toms Party. Toms Party came from a long way back and was seemingly outpaced and not going anywhere quickly with a mile to go, but did pick them off one by one thereafter and nearly snatched second. He can be a bit frustrating, but ought to have another race in him. Madison De Vonnas occupied a prominent position from the start and kept on for fourth. He can usually be relied upon to give his running. Since his useful displays at Sheriff Hutton, Duncombe Park and Charm Park, Well Presented has gone off the boil and couldn’t raise his game once the tempo lifted. Scotmail Lad was unfortunately pulled up lame with a lap to travel.
The Open Maiden drew in 15 hopefuls and Culbann held arguably the strongest credentials. She collected top spot under Mark Walford, being left in the lead by the fall of Lewesdon Duchess and making the best of her way home from there. Culbann wasn’t winning out of turn and had been a respectable second at Easingwold in 2007. There was no hiding place and they ended up well strung out in the worst of the weather. Lynette Pounder guided Nina Chester into the runner-up berth. Charting a wide course in search of better ground as only Saddlers’ Harmony had done earlier in the afternoon, Nina Chester gamely rallied in the closing stages after slipping to third at the penultimate obstacle. On her third handler, her owner now undertakes the task and Nina Chester has appeared a much happier animal in 2008. Whilst beaten some way, Nina Chester did at least complete the course in three ladies opens in February and March, which was a massive improvement on anything she had previously accomplished. She is heading in the right direction. Hailes Hill Lad and Mark Bennison were third. The seven-year-old had come on leaps and bounds for his Hornby Castle debut and obviously possesses in excess of a modicum of ability. A more galloping track will more up his street too. Next year, he should be even more clued up and ready to do himself justice. These three were clear. Villa Mara in fourth is finding it hard to land a telling blow even at this level. Lewesdon Duchess seemed to be going well within herself when she came to grief. Her next appearance will be eagerly awaited.