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Old Raby Hunt Club
Witton Castle
Sunday 7th February 2010
by Ian Marshall

Following the postponement of Sheriff Hutton and abandonment of Whitcliffe Grange in January, the Yorkshire Area season got belatedly underway in County Durham on a damp and misty afternoon. There was only a small crowd and it got progressively colder as the card wore on. There was no shortage of runners however, and those that did attend went away happy having witnessed some good, competitive action. The ground was officially Good, Good To Soft In Places, but proved to be tacky and many horses finished tired.

11 of the 14 entries stood their ground for the opening Old Raby Hunt Club Members Conditions Maiden and there was a taking performance from the five-year-old debutant, Beau Dandy under John Dawson. Beau Dandy occupied the perfect position chasing the leaders and when asked to go about his business, collected with the minimum of fuss. There were plenty still in contention on the home turn, but it was Beau Dandy that had the fleetest turn of foot. It will be interesting to see how he gets on in restricteds as he has a bit of potential. Gemma Tutty guided Devils And Dust into second. There or thereabouts from the off, Devils And Dust kept on and could have bumped into an above average rival. This was as much as he has shown to date. Easby Mandarin took third for Emily Stead. Easby Mandarin was often placed under Rules in the care of Chris Thornton and it is something of a surprise that he is still a maiden at the age of nine. He couldn’t quite quicken sufficiently at the crunch, but a maiden should soon come his way. Buckshaw, second in this same race in 2009, was fourth. Bobtante was made favourite, but faded late on and might have needed the run. Rockall gave some hope for the future on his pointing debut.

There was also a field of 11 for the Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate, which went the way of My Old Piano and Tom Greenall. Making headway at his leisure from the back, My Old Piano took over at the final fence and sauntered to success in the fastest time of the day. My Old Piano is unbeaten in his seven completed point-to-points, although he was disqualified from a Garthorpe intermediate for failing to carry a five pound penalty. He is a very smart customer. Runner-up Joseph (Jake Greenall) looked as though he had pinched the race at the second last, but the winner was always travelling smoothly and eased to an advantage. Compensation surely awaits for Joseph. The Easterby/Coward team were difficult to overcome last year and the same is likely to be the case in 2010. Nectar De Guye led at a fair clip in the hands of Mark Walford and, whilst he couldn’t live with the front two once they went past, acquitted himself well nonetheless. Nectar De Guye had picked up a restricted at Alnwick in December and can continue to make his presence felt. Quinta De Lobo in fourth got tired having threatened for the most part. Lane Marshal made progress from the rear before hitting the proverbial wall. He’ll come on for this.

The Ladies Open had 15 runners. Lutin Du Moulin is a standing dish at Witton Castle and loves it around here. Bar the favourite, it was a very open betting heat and punters will have been happy with the generosity of some bookmakers as this fellow stuck out his neck and carried off the prize. Anna Dawson’s mount came to challenge in the home straight and ran on well. He was highly consistent for Lucy Horner in ladies opens last year and there is no reason why he won’t continue to pay his way in these races. Andre Chenier, with Charlotte Cundall in the plate, came out of the pack to bag second. Whilst those at the head of affairs might have been stopping, Andre Chenier, not renowned as a thorough stayer, was putting in his best work at the finish. In another 100 yards, he might well have prevailed. Third-placed Keeverfield made much of the running for Sam Drake and ran out of puff in the final quarter mile. He ensured there was no hanging around and the Whittington intermediate winner is likely to go close again at this level. Patiently ridden Robin De Sherwood, who had Saturday’s Wetherby hunter chase winner Robbers Glen in third when scoring at Alnwick in December, was made the odds-on jolly, but he never got to the leaders and was back in fourth. He maybe wasn’t good enough on the day, but was given more than enough to do. National Petition came next and it appears that he will make an impact in this sphere. Turbo should be seen to greater effect during the rest of the season.

The Mens Open attracted nine participants. Sonevafushi has oozed class between the flags and he held too many aces for the opposition, easing to victory by six lengths with Jake Greenall doing the steering. Even in his heyday, Sonevafushi usually went well fresh and the switch to pointing has certainly revitalised him. Although he is now 12, a follow up will be on the cards. Shanteen Lass and Henry Brooke came second, although they were basically no match for the prolific Sonevafushi. She has flattered to deceive before, but is capable on her day. Harry Challenor got Ballyvoge into third. Ballyvoge ran a funny sort of race and probably just kept on past beaten horses. He’s The Gaffer was a fair fourth and did OK. Course winner L’Oudon will derive plenty of benefit from the race. Gunner Jack jumped appallingly and will do better with slicker fencing.

A dozen horses set out for the Restricted, which saw a nice display from Oaklands Bobby under Chris Dawson. Chris was the third of the siblings to ride a winner during the afternoon. Oaklands Bobby quickened up smartly and held a narrow advantage over King Among Queens when that one unseated Jake Greenall at the second last. Oaklands Bobby did appear to going the more sweetly at the time and was good value for the three-length margin of triumph. Over an easy three miles, Oaklands Bobby could find a small heat in a higher grade. King Among Queens will no doubt receive support in the market when next seen. Miss Tosca (Tina Jackson) put in her best effort for a couple of years to be second. She could only run on at the one pace, but a repeat wouldn’t see her far away. Miller’s Rose claimed third for Tommy Morrison. She had won her maiden at this course and was far from disgraced. Miller’s Rose seems to need time between her races and sets a decent standard. Captainbruce was back in fourth. Ballela Road was prominent from the off, but had to give best from three out. This was something to build on. Chancery Lad has been away from the track since taking a maiden at this fixture a year ago. He was restrained out the back and plugged on behind without being overphased. He’ll surely improve for the outing. Celestial Hall did all right on his comeback until capsizing at the penultimate obstacle.

11 horses faced the starter for Division One of the Maiden, which was a tricky betting heat. Dark Moon was well-backed and Toby Greenall was confident enough to push him out to score. With the judge in sight, Dark Moon took it up and scooted decisively away. A restricted at least ought to be within Dark Moon’s capabilities as he looks a cut above the norm. Second were One More Gypsy and Oliver Greenall. The mare ran on in the closing stages after moving with purpose, but couldn’t quite get to Dark Moon. On this evidence, One More Gypsy won’t be much of a price to lose her maiden tag soon. In third, Chapmans Peak (Chris Dawson) gave the impression the lesser grade of points would be more his level after a low key career at the professional game. Mr Gossip in fourth never got into it and may do better. Brother Mark got caught flat footed when things became serious. Paint Me Silver did a lot of the donkey work up front and was left behind in the last half a mile. She isn’t without a little aptitude and could be of interest in a contest against her own sex.

Division Two of the Maiden was the finale and the seven-strong field (the smallest of the day) went along at a funeral pace, which meant it was the closest climax on the card. Close to the drop of the flag, one bookmaker had 9-4 joint favourites so layers and punters alike were undecided as to the outcome. Boxbury was nibbled at in the ring and William Bethell’s charge duly obliged with Mark Walford on board. Given the lack of tempo, Mark had his partner in the ideal spot to get first run on his rivals and Boxbury knuckled down to hold on soundly by half a length. He’d contested just a couple of bumpers previously and will still have bags of improvement in him. Second came Hunt Ball and Oliver Greenall. Hunt Ball was backward in bumpers and looked quite burly in the paddock. He should go one better. Oliver narrowly failed to ensure the four Greenall brothers each rode a winner during the day. Brave Admiral, on his initial visit to a racecourse filled third for Tom Greenall. The experience won’t have been lost on Brave Admiral, who wasn’t knocked about by his pilot. O’Gara in fourth won’t have been suited by a sprint up the straight and he can be expected to be seen in a more favourable light in a truer run race.

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