The Scottish Point-to-Point season got off to a great start at Friars Haugh, Kelso on Sunday, where The Borders Distillery Jedforest fixture saw 56 runners contest a seven race card - a remarkable 91.8% of the 61 individual horses entered.
Current title holder, Nick Orpwood extended his lead over Kit Alexander in the Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship to 11pts with the first treble of his career.
Course specialist Eco Warrior initiated his treble in the Brown & Turner and Border Berries Jedforest Conditions Race. Orpwood played the waiting game on the 10 year old before getting an immediate response when he asked for an effort after four out. In front at the next, the gelding quickly settled the issue and, despite being eased down on the run-in, still had two lengths to spare over Settledoutofcourt (Ailsa McClung) at the finish.
This versatile sort, a dual winner on the Flat in his younger days under James Doyle and Frankie Dettori, carries the colours of Carolyn Maclay, who said: ''He was very quirky a few years back when trained by Venetia Williams but travels and settles much better in his races now. He will go hunter chasing next time out.''
Orpwood's decision to make plenty use of Takethepunishment in the Jockey Club & Retraining of Racehorses Veteran Horse Conditions Race worked a treat as the 10 year old kept up a relentless gallop from the outset to see off his rivals one by one, before coasting home eight lengths ahead of Abbeyview (Laura Fenwick), with Tony Hogarth's evergreen 15 year old gelding, Molten Brown (Joanna Walton) a futher three lengths away in third.
The home-bred winner, a half brother to Crazy Diamond, formed the first leg of a training double for Victoria McKie. He is ridden out at home by husband, Ian, who shared the Men's National Point-to-Point Jockeys Championship with David Turner in 1980 before winning the title outright in 1981.
Orpwood completed his treble on the Victoria McKie-trained youngster, Dream Over in the 2m4f Harbro Open Maiden Race. The 5 year old crept into contention on the final circuit before taking it up from Teds Charley Roe (Lucy Brown) at the last and scoring by two lengths.
This Shirocco mare is related to former 164-rated chaser, Lady Cricket, who won 11 times under Rules, including 7 for Martin Pipe. McKie said: ''I bought her as a foal and have always liked her. It has taken a long time for her to mature and the penny still hasn't dropped.''
Killer Crow provided Kit Alexander with the first leg of a double in the Howson and Houldsworth Bloodstock Men's Open Race. Owned, trained and regularly hunted by Jack Clark, the 11 year old wasn't suited by the slow pace but his class told in the end as he took command from two out before surviving a last fence blunder to beat Roo Roo (Lyall Hodgins) by two lengths.
Matthew Man was always prominent under Kit Alexander in the Billy Stenhouse and Scotswell Memorial Open Maiden Race, and the partnership forged clear from two out to win by a cosy four lengths from Al Le Gone (Lyall Hodgins). Still lightly raced for a 9 year old, he might make a quick reappearance at Alnwick on Sunday.
Coincidentally, the winner made his debut here in the corresponding race in January 2017 when 4th to Takethepunishment. His dam, Garden Feature had a fine record between the flags, with 7 wins and 7 placed efforts from 17 starts. A proven stayer, he landed the 4 mile Open at Alnwick on two occasions.
Son Of Suzie supplemented a recent Alnwick success with a hard fought half length win over Nine Altars (Charlotte Dun) in the A S Crawford Groundworks Ltd Ladies Open Race. After looking beaten two out, Amie Waugh conjured up a renewed effort from the 12 year old, who was almost back on terms with a more fluent jump at the last before finding a bit extra on the flat to edge in front close home.
Waugh's father, Simon, said: ''He's not the fastest and needs plenty of cut. We might go hunter chasing with him later in the season.''
My Liege (Joe Wright) returned from a 391-day absence to account for several more fancied rivals in the Charlotte Agnew Eventing and James Swinton & Co Ltd Intermediate Race. The 9 year old had a prolonged duel with recent Alnwick scorer, Mr Pepperpot (John Dawson) throughout the final mile before leading near the line to snatch a short head verdict, despite Wright's saddle slipping on the run-in.
Wright said: ''I wasn't expecting that as I thought he would need the run. He obviously has an engine as he won a Wincanton Bumper on debut for Evan Williams back in December 2015.''
Lochmaben-based owner, Mick Jones, who heads the 4-strong All Or Nothing Partnership, added: ''He has strengthened up a lot since we got him three months ago. I've had a few Pointers in the past, including Blackthirteen, but never been lucky enough for one to win first time out before.''