Photos by Jon Hodd
Like at Hornby Castle two days earlier, the track had been heavily watered and ideal jumping ground was on offer. I would describe the going as Good and the track rode well all afternoon. With the big crowd, there was no shortage of action to keep punters happy and the Easter weekend in Yorkshire was an immense success.
The Veterans and Novice Riders race got proceedings underway and 12 horses faced the starter. There was a taking performance from Clever Nora and Henry Brooke, giving Henry his first success as a pilot. Always moving powerfully, Clever Nora hit the front on the run to the final fence and waltzed away on the run-in without too much trouble. This was due reward for her consistency. Beauchamp Oracle had no answer to the winner’s finishing kick, but ended up a good second for Charles Clark. A top hunter chaser in his day, Beauchamp Oracle has adapted adequately to the lower grade and new environment this year and has a little race in him. Third-placed Astral Prince was never far away from the pace, wasn’t helped by an error at the ditch, and was left behind by the principals from the fourth last. Gemma Tutty’s mount was mysteriously required to carry a three pound penalty. Quite why is anyone’s guess because the only race Astral Prince had won since the summer of 2007 was a hunt members, whereas the race conditions stated that it is a win in a confined or club members that attracts a three pound penalty. Astral Prince was beaten far enough for the extra weight not to have made any difference though. Baron Romeo in fourth never got seriously involved. Caraman was in third, but well held, when he unseated his rider some way after the second last. Holy Joe ran out through the wing at the 9th whilst in the lead.
The Restricted brought together nine hopefuls and there was a gritty display from Persian Prince, with Chris Dawson doing the steering. Never far away from the gallop, Persian Prince showed a sturdier disposition than he had when out-battled at Mordon a fortnight ago. His fencing has also been sharpened up dramatically since he claimed a Witton Castle maiden in February. Colm McCormack guided Oaklands Bobby into second. A hard puller, his jockey had Oaklands Bobby under control by the third fence and from then on he was right there until flattening out from the last. He is improving rapidly and might be able to pick up a restricted. In third, Riot Act and Lucy Mason gave best in the closing stages, having had been close enough if good enough levelling up for the judge. This was Riot Act’s finest moment since a lengthy layoff nonetheless. River Line made most to the home turn, but could only keep on at the one pace and had to settle for fourth. Plume D’Oudairies pulled too hard and the petrol gauge hit zero coming to the third last. Chibuku was bang in contention when he fell at the open ditch, five from home.
There may only have been six runners for the Mixed Open, but it was incident-packed and just the three got round. Eliza Doalott is a seven-year-old mare who seems to get better by the race and she absolutely trotted up under Guy Brewer. Once she had caught the long time leader, she didn’t have to get anywhere near top gear bypassing the final fence to score with consummate ease and completed a hat-trick in doing so. Who is to say she won’t progress to a four-timer. Following Clever Nora in the opener, trainer Maxine Stirk was making it a double on the card. Runner-up Le Passing set off at a tremendous rate of knots in the hands of Toby Greenall, establishing an enormous advantage, but he was reeled in by the second last by the favourite. This didn’t really tell us anything new about Le Passing. Zaville (Colm McCormack) was nursed round for a distant third. She had only previously raced on the flat so should at least come on for the experience. On Y Va was carried out by a loose horse on the bend before the 11th. L’Oudon fell at the 10th whilst leading the chasers, bringing down Johnny Venture. It was a horrific fall for Pip Tutty and it appeared that she had suffered a serious injury. Having left the course in an ambulance, there was fabulous news when she was sufficiently in one piece to return to the course before the end of racing. To emerge from the awful melee relatively unscathed, albeit with a facial injury, was fortunate indeed given that it could have been a lot worse.
11 horses lined up for the Confined and My Old Piano made it four out of four in completed point-to-points under Tom Greenall. The only blot on this fellow’s copybook between the flags occurred when he tipped up at Witton Castle. Patiently ridden as normal today, he needed shaking up in the home straight, but comfortably held his rivals at bay once he got to the front. There is no reason to suggest My Old Piano won’t be able to defy a three pound penalty in similar company. Over To Joe gave him most to do and, with plenty of assistance coming from Simon Walker on top, Over To Joe was keeping on soundly in the closing stages to extend his run of minor placings in second. Stroom Bank, partnered by Chris Dawson, was a fair third. Stroom Bank couldn’t raise a renewed effort from the second last, but was still miles clear of everything else. The remainder were tailed off, headed by Celioso in fourth.
The Maiden was a solid event of its type and saw a field of 11 set out. There was a close finish between Tom Greenall on Apollo Saturn Five and Calapocus under Mark Walford. The verdict went to Apollo Saturn Five by a head. The seven-year-old was nothing if not resolute having taken up the running on the approach to the final fence. He kept finding more when tackled by Calapocus. Apollo Saturn Five has taken time to get the hang of things and chased home Chibuku at Hutton Rudby last time. This was definitely in the right direction again and he can progress further. The victory made it a double on the card for Tom. The admirable Calapocus lost little in defeat and bounced back from a below par showing at Whitwell-on-the-Hill, where the fast ground may well have been against him. His overall profile suggests a maiden is well within his capabilities. Third-placed Cherryland went on for Guy Brewer starting the final lap, but had no extra in the tank down the home stretch to trouble the duo ahead of him. Sent off the jolly, he exhibited some ability once more and can collect a small race. In fourth, Dreamaker had done his running by the third last, whilst Knoxhill Archie was one-paced once the whips were up. This was a better race than that in which Bossall Billy was second at Welbeck in March, while Summer Equinox’s jumping leaves a lot to be desired.
The Conditions Maiden for animals that haven’t finished in the first three in any race often uncovers a few above average sorts, however the 13-strong class of 2009 might not be of a high vintage. That said, there was nothing wrong with the way Blazing Bull disposed of his field to give jockey Chris Dawson a double on the day. Some sketchy early leaps aside, he was impressive and didn’t need to get out of cruise mode. He was the only horse galloping at the death and the benefits of the experience of his Dalton Park debut were clear to see. There will be bags of improvement in Blazing Bull. He was landing a gamble from 9-1 to 2-1 favourite. Wasityou came second for Ian Smith. Wasityou was treading water in the last quarter of a mile, but still managed a personal best as his past efforts had been rather uninspiring. Pingpong (Mark Walford) in third had the only reasonable form at the outset, but he emptied when push came to shove. 2m4f seems to be about his limit on a normal track. Three miles appears to stretch Captain Commanche’s stamina and he was out on his feet from the turn in, although it was a major step forward on what he had previously achieved. A short maiden would appear to be the best opportunity for him to improve on this fourth spot. They seemed to go a decent clip, mainly due to the keen Robin De La Folie, who faded in the final half mile, but can strip fitter for the outing. Erritt Lodge was to the fore from the drop of the flag until he was pulled up lame before four out. The debutant Humbel Lad was making progress from the rear as the pace slackened when he capsized four from home. He wouldn’t have been far away.