There was a very popular win for Bafana Choice in the hands of Kate Rowntree in the Percy and West Percy Hunts Members Race in Sunday's well supported Percy fixture at Alnwick.
Owned and bred by the Percy Point-to-Point Secretary, George White, who was also a joint sponsor of the race along with Hugh Tulip, the 9 year old dictated a strong pace from an early stage and never looked like being pegged back after forging ten lengths clear of Ballyvesey three out. This was a third career success for Rowntree, who is based with the gelding's trainer, Sue Grant at Billingham. Rowntree said: "He has had some intensive schooling after unseating me at the second fence here a fortnight ago. He was loving it out in front, jumped superbly and was going so well that I took a pull coming to the last."
Harriett Bryce, 20, who had her first point-to-point ride at Dingley back in May 2011, got off the mark on Damiens Dilemma in the Ryecroft Glenton two and a half mile Open Maiden Race. In an incident-packed six runner contest, in which half of the field had departed by the sixth fence, her mount stayed clear of trouble and already had the prize in safe keeping when Havana Jack fell at the last. The 7 year old carried the colours of Northern Area Point-to-Point Chairman, Robert Miller-Bakewell, who missed the win as he was at Murrayfield watching Scotland lose narrowly to Wales. Bryce, who had about 10 winners in pony racing and once finished 3rd in the finals at Cheltenham, works full-time for Selkirk trainer, Stuart Coltherd, husband of Damiens Dilemma's handler, Lesley Coltherd.
Whitwell-on-the-Hill raider, Mister Splodge gave a front-running masterclass under Tom Hamilton when landing the Askham Bryan College Men's Open Race by two lengths from a rejuvenated Tommysteel. The 10 year old didn't see another rival from the off and deserved a change of fortune after a couple of near misses earlier this year at Sheriff Hutton and Friars Haugh. After scoring on Douglas Julian in a Kelso Hunters' Chase three days earlier, this rounded off a good week for Hamilton, who said: "He did that well and picked up every time I asked him."
First-time cheekpieces did the trick with Beggar's Velvet, who bounced back to form with an impressive five lengths victory over Radharc Na Mara in the TSG Ladies Open Race. Partnered for the first time by the under-rated Rachael McDonald, he left his rivals toiling after being sent clear approaching three out. The winner is owned and trained by Drew Holmes, who is based at Angerton near Morpeth. Holmes added: "He is very quirky at home and a bit of a thinker but this was definitely one of his going days. He stays well and might run next in a Kelso Hunters' Chase on Saturday 28th February."
First season handler, Jessica McKie must be thinking that training horses is an easy job after Crazy Diamond made it five winners from five runners in the Ancroft Tractors Ltd NPPA Club Members Race. Sent on three out by Nick Orpwood, the 11 year old ex-eventer cruised home with four lengths to spare over Senor Alco. Orpwood commented: "He travelled into the race well and pulverised the opposition in his most impressive performance so far. On this form he must be good enough to land a maiden hunters' chase."
Last month's West Percy Maiden scorer, Stoney initiated a double for Newton-by-the-Sea owner/trainer, Victor Thompson in the Restricted Race, which was sponsored by Jill Kelly and John Blades. Always going well under Kit Alexander, the 8 year old took it up three out and another great jump at the last sealed a two lengths success over the favourite, Milano Magic.
King Of The Dark took Thompson's seasonal tally to six when getting off the mark in the concluding Warcup Law Firm Open Maiden Race. Given a confident ride by the in-form Catherine Walton, the 8 year old tracked the leaders on the final circuit before hitting the front two out. Quickly putting daylight between himself and his pursuers, Walton's mount stayed on well to beat Senate Law by two and a half lengths with Afterclass a further four lengths away in third.
The winner was bought by Thompson for £10,000 at the 2012 Doncaster May Sales, six weeks after finishing 3rd on his sole start between the flags in Ireland. He missed the 2013 campaign after sustaining a cracked pedal bone and this was only his sixth career outing.