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Duncombe Park
Sunday 14th February 2010
by Will Milburn

A chilly afternoon was warmed by some quality entertainment in North Yorkshire and the runners were high in both number and talent. The final hill was even more punishing than usual as the going described as Soft took its toll. There were areas that were more Good To Soft, but horses made a significant print nonetheless.

The Hunt Members kicked off proceedings and a quartet went to post. Gunner Jack had jumped poorly at Witton Castle and his fencing still wasn’t always the most fluent here, but he had too much toe and class for his opponents. Tom Greenall sat tight through a couple of mistakes and opened up an advantage on the long run from the second last, after which his partner never looked liked getting caught. Trained by Nicky Richards under Rules, Gunner Jack found the drop down from a mens open a far simpler assignment. Cop Howe, with Jacqueline Coward in the saddle, came second. Cop Howe struggled to raise his game when the winner was driven clear, but was fighting back on the incline and got to within two and a half lengths. Iron Express in third made a lot of the running and appears to have lost little of his old zest, even though he is into the veteran stage at the age of 14. Whilst his legs might not be able to carry him quite as quickly as a few years ago, he gave Jeanette Johnson an exciting first ride. Only three finished as Mythsandlegends was pulled up.

With Victor coming down at the first, the 17 horses that set out for the Confined were soon reduced by one. There was something of a surprise, although certainly not a fluke, as Pen Gwen powered on up the hill having been to the fore throughout. Henry Brooke did the steering on Kate Walton’s seven-year-old, who was making his first appearance in point-to-points. At the professional game, Pen Gwen was campaigned predominately over two miles, but he didn’t seem to be tying up at all. Brize Norton (Guy Brewer) is an autumn recruit from racing under Rules and he was finishing strongly having been given a breather going to the final fence. Carrying a seven-pound penalty, Brize Norton looks capable of a fair level of form in this sort of grade. Third-placed Keen Whip was well supported in the market, however he was ridden along by Mark Walford with a circuit to travel. Keen Whip did stick to his task though and kept responding to pressure. My Wee Woman in fourth helped make the gallop and she was waging a losing battle in the final quarter mile. She’ll stand a decent chance in races of this type. Fairy Skin Maker didn’t do too badly, while Dannymolone was noted making late headway having got left behind. He’ll no doubt be better off for the race. The useful Buy Onling was bang in contention when he sadly took a fatal fall three from home.

Ten horses faced the starter for the Restricted, which looked quite a tight affair on paper. Miss Tosca showed her rivals a clean pair of heels once push came to shove in the hands of Tina Jackson and she was not for catching. Miss Tosca paid her Witton Castle conqueror last week Oaklands Bobby a sizeable compliment. Tina has her string in fine fettle at the moment and they seem fitter than many following the cold snap. With Miss Tosca in such good heart, it will be interesting to see how she gets in the next level up. Chasing her home were Areyacoddinmee and Richard Smith. Areyacoddinmee can be slightly in and out and got became a little outpaced on the slog from the penultimate obstacle. However, he flew as soon he met the rising ground, but the lollipop came in time for Miss Tosca. Staying could be his forte. Dead-heating for third were Fli Mi Son (Mark Walford) and Racing Ace (Chris Dawson). Fli Mi Son went off the jolly, but he got a bit low at several fences and generally didn’t pick his hooves up. If he can improve in that department, he should be able to pick up a restricted. Racing Ace has his best years ahead of him at the age of six and has strengthened up further over the summer. He has enough talent to add to his Mordon maiden success. Keenans Reserve can come on for the run, while the same can be said for Lewesdon Duchess who set the pace and wasn’t given a hard time when she was headed.

The 14-runner Mixed Open was a hot contest and the finish was fought out by two of the Yorkshire big guns. Laertes made most for Tom Greenall, got headed by Eliza Doalott and Guy Brewer at the bottom of the hill, but battled back and had his head in front again on the flat. Laertes has stamina in abundance and two Highland Nationals at Perth to his name. The grey is a class act on his transition to pointing and will take a lot of beating if lining up in the Grimthorpe Gold Cup in April. They went flat out on the run between the final two fences and Eliza Doalott had the edge on the turn in, but Laertes regained the lead and kept her at bay in a stirring climax. Eliza Doalott won “The Heart” at Hexham last season and has been a revelation since returning from a spell hurdling. She should get back to winning ways in opens and hunter chases before long. Extreme waiting tactics were employed on Willywont He as usual, on this occasion by Steve Charlton. The gelding progressed through the field on the final circuit and he kept on well for third. Willywont He sometimes doesn’t get very high at his fences, but still proves a solid performer in these races. In fourth, Tinarana Lord has flattered to deceive in the past, but he did all right. Sevensider had a nice blow out after three years off, whereas Natoumba was quickly on the retreat after a dreadful blunder.

There were 14 participants for the Veteran & Novice Riders race and like the mixed open it came down to nip and tuck on the run-in between father and daughter Chris and Charlotte Cundall riding Smart Thinker and Major Shark respectively. It was the latter that prevailed to present Charlotte with her initial success as a jockey. Major Shark hasn’t always appeared the easiest of rides in the past, but he didn’t shirk the issue here and responded to his rider’s urgings to get on top in the shadow of the post. Charlotte was going one better than when a good second in a ladies open at Witton Castle on another decent animal. Smart Thinker, a grey, set sail for home, but was just run out of it at the death. Smart Thinker was in the care of Ferdy Murphy under Rules and can make a further impact between the flags. Sam Gawn gave Flora Blackett a superb jump round of jumping and came third. This fellow had some fair form in Ireland and looks as though he will continue in the same vein in Britain. Fourth-placed National Petition the favourite was restrained out the back and made headway to chase the leaders, but had nothing left in the tank at the business end. Potts of Magic was very easy to back and was never sighted.

Division One of the Maiden had 13 runners, among them several types with some potential, and could turn out to be a heat that throws up a few winners. Oaklands Robbie was first to cross the line, however he was disqualified as jockey John Dawson was unable to draw the correct weight. The race was awarded to the promising debutant List Of Life, guided by Mark Walford, who almost poached an unassailable lead until cut down in the last fifty yards. Despite being rather green, List Of Life did enough to see off all bar the light first past the post. With the benefit of this experience, there are bags of improvement in List Of Life. Oaklands Robbie has taken a while to learn his trade and was stepping up considerably on his previous efforts. He sprouted wings when it mattered and collared List Of Life late, but the burst of speed may have been partly due to the loss of the weight cloth. Oaklands Robbie did at least show that he possesses more than a modicum of ability. Promoted to second was another debutant Toplander, ably assisted by Chris Dawson. He stayed on soundly without being given an unduly hard time. With the benefit of this experience, the prospects are very good for him to pick up at least a maiden in the coming weeks. Chapel House and Richard Smith were promoted to third. Chapel House was sent off the warm favourite, but patiently ridden, when he was asked for an effort could only keep on at the one pace. He might have needed the outing. Ajimorag was there or thereabouts from flagfall and held every chance when he toppled over at the second last. Expect him to go close in the future. Gnillish got tired after showing up well for a long way. Rose Moon had a gentle introduction and will do better.

Division Two of the Maiden brought together a big field of 16 and there were several ex-NH performers that were beginning to look exposed in that sphere. Calapocus, placed on several occasions in points, came good at the ninth time of asking with Steve Charlton in the plate. Calapocus had become a bit frustrating last year, however he fairly sprinted clear of these. We shall see, but often a horse can take a while to lose their maiden tag, yet bag their restricted shortly afterwards. Runner-up What A Cliché (Ted Cameron) was well beaten, yet stepped up markedly on anything he had done in the past. Maybe his new vocation is a more suitable standard for him. Minstalad in third hadn’t shown an awful lot in bumpers and over hurdles, although he wasn’t short on experience. John Dawson’s mount was one-paced when it got serious, but gave the impression that maiden points are more up his street. Rosa Fina wasn’t disgraced in fourth without setting the world on fire. Amongst Friends was a spent force approaching the last and will come on plenty for this. The Lumberjack had been on the sidelines since an encouraging third at Thorpe Lodge more than two years ago. He looked as though he was going to be placed until he went very wide on the home turn and ran out. He’ll be worth a look next time. Bardolet got rid of Joel Thomas before the race had begun in earnest. Thatsthereasonwhy was detached under heavy restraint and that was where he stayed. He hasn’t been seen since 2008 and didn’t achieve much then, but does seem to have something about him that gives cause for optimism.

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