Competitive racing was the order of the day at the Hurworth point-to-point on Saturday where there were a high number of runners to entries. It was a red letter day for Sean Murray who opened his account between the flags.
Racing started with the W M McIvor & Son Hurworth Hunt Members, Subscribers and Farmers race. Vicki Swales, who works for trainer Lynne Ward was having her first ride aboard last year's winner Chernik and Kate Sutcliffe also came out of retirement to have a spin on Boxer Georg. Having made much of the running with Blue Bertie, Boxer Georg ran a great race to finish fourth, carrying overweight, but it was Beau D'Argent and Lucy Bell that landed the spoils having ridden a patient waiting race. The pair won convincingly by eight lengths over Blue Bertie ad Philip Greaves, with Fairy Mix in third under Elliot Brookbanks. This was only Fairy Mix's third run and a win shouldn't be far away.
The Restricted race was part of the national Subaru series, where the first three qualify for the final at Stratford at the end of May. It was one of the fastest and closest finishes of the day and could have gone any of four ways as Beau Traveller was the first to head for home, however it was Wizadora who managed to assert up the hill and get her head in front under William Easterby, a length ahead of Spruce Up and Russell Lyndsay. Hardy Oscar was three lengths back in third and Beau Traveller finished in fourth. "We've never been certain if she is a stayer or not, but I think on that evidence we can safely say that she is, she seemed to relish the hill" said Sam Coward.
The Teeside Ladies Open saw the withdrawal of Impact Zone as Joanna Mason had been injured in a fall in the previous race, leaving a field of four to go to post. Drom a previous course winner, partnered by Emma Todd took this by 25 lengths from the only other finisher, Dead Ringa, ridden by Jess Gillam for the first time. "He didn't attack his fences as much as he did when he won the hunterchase at Mussleburgh earlier this season and he hung right a bit, but once Oaklands Bobby came to us he took off again," enthused the winning rider. Oaklands Bobby was right in contention but a mistake at the second last caused Alice Petch to lose her stirrup and become unbalanced and as a result the pair unfortunately went the wrong side a doll and had to pull up.
The Men's Open was sponsored by Max Europe Ltd and landed a bit of a surprise result for Executive's Hall, ridden by Elliot Brookbanks. The jockey, having been nurtured through the Reveley school of riders is now riding freelance and is making quite a name for himself on the Yorkshire circuit. "It was a bit of a shock," reported the winning trainer Sarah Dent. "He missed a bit of work about six weeks ago so we thought he would need this but he did it well in the end," she continued. Monsieur Jourdain was two lengths back in second and his next target is likely to be the Grimthorpe Gold Cup where the extra distance will really suit. Sposalizio finished in third for John Dawson.
The Jacksons Law Firm Yorkshire Area Point-to-Point Club Members Riders Conditions Race saw nine horses go to post and provided a win for Opera Og, owned, trained and ridden by Sean Murray. The pair have been knocking on the door all season and this win was no surprise. Held up in rear throughout the race, he gradually crept into it to have a three length lead going into the last and won by five lengths. "I work for Dave O'Meara and do him in my lunch hour or before work, which sometimes means riding out in the dark at 4.30am but he's a legend of a horse!" reported Sean. Newspage was second by five lengths under Chris O'Mahony and French Seventyfive was a further 10 lengths back in third for Emma Todd. He looked to be back to his best and can assert over an easier three miles.
The Maiden race had been split at entry stage and 11 turned out for the Tees Valley Mitsubishi sponsored division one. It was quite an eventful race where only three finished, but there was even drama between those finalists! Apart from one which pulled up, the others all parted company one way or another, which left Shepherd's Call ridden by Will Milburn and Witch Way with Max Johnson aboard to battle out the finish. Shepherd's Call hung left as if to go round the course again, rather than straight on up the run in and a stewards enquiry was called, however the interference was deemed to be accidental so the places remained unaltered with Shepherd's Call gaining a three quarters of a length advantage over Witch Way. Honourable Howard was a distance back in third under Jack Jordan and was completing for the first time this season. "The result was down to the jockey on the day," said trainer Andy Nicholls, "he suggested we put cheek pieces on to make him concentrate and he seemed to ride him more attackingly which I think helped. He's done lots of hunting, including two hours as soon as we got him off the horsebox when he arrived with us! It was a great result for the syndicate who all had a great day," he added.
In the second division, To Begin fulfilled the promise shown at Mordon to take this under John Dawson by four lengths from Devil At Midnight and Jack Teal. Devil at Midnight had made most of the running but To Begin was always handy and once he got his head in front he never looked in danger. Mr Mistopheles was 10 lengths further back in third for Tommie Dowson on his seasonal debut.