Ratcheugh Racing Club at Alnwick by Peter Burgon
Alnwick is almost like a second home to last season's champion trainer Tom Ellis, who recorded his fourth double is as many visits to the North Northumberland course at Sunday's Ratcheugh Racing Club fixture.
It was also a memorable day for his wife, Gina Andrews, who became only the second lady rider to record 300 point-to-point victories following her win on Latenightpass and, after doubling up on Deafening Silence, needs only two more to equal Polly Gundry's all-time record total of 303 set in 2011.
The talented Latenightpass, bred and owned by Tom's mother Pippa, made it 6 wins from his last 9 starts between the flags in the PJR Blewitt Ltd Construction Ladies Open Race.
The eight-year-old was always in close touch with the leaders and, after a prolonged duel with Calypso Storm (Jess Bedi) from five out, went on by a length approaching the second last but had to be kept up to his work to maintain that advantage to the line.
Gina said: "He gradually warmed to his task and, after hitting the front too soon, was idling badly in the closing stages."
Tom added: "The original plan was to start him off at Horseheath on December 31 but that had to be scrapped when Gina's brother, Jack recently turned conditional. He's only had three gallops before today and will come on loads for the run. His main target this season is the Aintree Foxhunters' Chase."
A 4.45am start and 500-mile round trip for the Ellis team was made even more rewarding by the impressive victory of Deafening Silence in the second division of The Cook And Barker Inn Maiden Race.
The four-year-old travelled supremely well from the outset and was always in the leading quartet. Gina sat quietly as he cruised up the hill after four out to lead Sine Nomine (John Dawson) by two lengths at the next before forging clear from the last to win, going away, by nine lengths.
Gina said: "Credit must go to Jack who has done all the work on him at home. The further they went the better and he finished full of running."
Tom added: "He stands over 17 hands and is a proper powerhouse. We think a lot of him and he deserved that after being very unlucky on his first two starts at Dingley and Ffos Las."
Another milestone looms for the Ellis team as Tom only needs to train two more winners to reach the 150-mark between the flags.
Senor Lombardy (Lyall Hodgins) repeated last year's pillar to post win in the NE Builds NPPA Conditons Race with plenty in hand.
He dictated a strong pace and jumped more fluently than nearest rival, Frankies Fire (Nick Orpwood) before steadily extending his advantage from three out to score by eight lengths.
Hodgins, 20, who works for Nicky Richards, has made a great start to the new campaign with 2 winners from 4 rides. He said of the eight-year-old: "He has a big engine, is in his comfort zone bowling along in front and makes ground at his fences. His trainer, Kelly Harding had him spot on and he might well be back here in January."
Soft ground specialist, Overworkdunderpaid defied top weight of 12st 10lb when initiating a double for Leicestershire trainer, Kelly Morgan and jockey, George Chatterton in the BA Electrical Men's Open Race.
After making smooth headway to dispute the lead three out, the eight-year-old finally got the better of Game As A Pheasant (Ben Smoult) approaching the last before drawing right away on the run-in to win by twelve lengths.
Half an hour later, Chatterton was celebrating his first double after steering former Sussex National hero, Vinnie Lewis to a second course success in the 7-runner Geoff Allan Catering Five-Year-Olds And Over Conditions Race.
Always in the leading pair, he set sail for home after four out but, after going ten lengths clear at the next, lost impetus with a slow jump at the last and only held on by a rapidly diminishing half length from Coole Hall (Will Ramsay).
Chatterton, 23, said: "Overworkdunderpaid is ground dependent and was in his comfort zone today, while Vinnie Lewis likes to have his head in front and, after putting the race to bed before three out, was just idling down the home straight."
The former Durham University graduate added: "As I'm now working for Rothschilds in London and can only ride out at weekends, I'm probably more tired than the winner. We love coming to Alnwick and days like this make the long drive worthwhile."
The Great Phoenix, trained and ridden by Jack Teal, reaped the benefit of a pipe-opener at Hexham a fortnight ago when getting off the mark in the first division of The Cook And Barker Inn Maiden Race.
The youngster was never far off the pace and travelled up the hill from four our better than any of his rivals. Sent on after the next, he stayed on well to score by three lengths from Beat The Edge (William Easterby).
Teal said of Paul Clifton's charge: "He has come on a lot for that Hexham run, got in a much better rhythm over this half mile longer trip and has always felt like a stayer to me."
Cimetta showed her class when making a winning debut between the flags in the concluding Newton Hall Restricted Race.
Given a confident ride by John Dawson, the well related six-year-old cruised into contention on the final circuit. She took it up from long time leader, Cool Desire (Ben Smoult) with a better jump at the last and only had to be pushed out with hands and heels to score by two and a half lengths.
Dawson said: "She has plenty of scope and, having schooled well at home, was very clever at her fences."
The Northern Area Point-to-Point season resumes in the New Year with the West Percy fixture at Alnwick on Sunday 9th January.