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College Valley & North Northumberland at Alnwick
Sunday 7th March 2020

by Peter Burgon

Lyall Hodgins, 18, is one of the rising stars on the Northern Area circuit and stole the show on Sunday's College Valley & North Northumberland card at Alnwick with a skilfully executed double on Mahler Lad and Onestepatatime, both of whom he was riding for the first time.

Formerly trained by Donald McCain, Mahler Lad was returning from a 317-day absence in the Womble Bond Dickinson PPORA Club Members Novice Riders Conditions Race. Always lying handy, the ten-year-old got a great run up the inner down the home straight to lead two out and kept on well to repel a late challenge from Worcester Pearmain (Elizabeth Gale) by half a length, with ex-chaser, Arizona Bound (Ailsa McClung) a similar distance away in third.

The gelding's Ingleton near Darlington-based trainer, Caroline Dennis has enjoyed success with a few other ex-McCain inmates in the last six years, including Cousin Guillaume, Darlington County and Drill Sergeant. For the record, Mahler Lad actually beat subsequent five-time Grade 1 winner, Bellshill on his Pointing debut in a Moira Maiden contest on 22nd March 2014.

After finishing in the frame on her two previous visits to Alnwick in 2020, Onestepatatime deservedly got off the mark in Saffrey Champneys Fred Scott Memorial Open Maiden Race, coming from off the pace to beat promising debutant, Into Overdrive (Nick Orpwood) by half a length, with long time leader Luca Brasi's Boy (Jess Bedi) a further nine lengths away in third.

Hodgins, who works full-time for Nicky Richards, kept his balance remarkably well considering that the saddle was slipping and he rode with no irons over the last three fences. From the family of Jodami, the winner was bought by her Malton-based owner/trainer, Tony Ross for 5,500 euros at Tattersalls Sales in Ireland in August 2018.

Marlborough raider, Indigo Breeze (Jack Andrews) led all the way in the 2 mile Bedmax Point-to-Point Flat Race and cantered home twenty lengths ahead of Simplystic (Emma Todd) with No Filter (Amie Waugh) a further twelve lengths away in third place. Following Saturday's four-timer at Ampton, this completed a great weekend for Andrews, who was making a first visit to Alnwick. He said: ''I rode him in a piece of work at Lambourn earlier in the week and that convinced me to make the long journey north.''

This four-year-old half brother to 2012 Albert Bartlett hurdle winner, Brindisi Breeze is trained by Gearoid Costelloe, and the impressive manner of his victory would make the 340-mile return journey seem a lot shorter. The youngster's next appearance will be at the Tattersalls Cheltenham Sale on Thursday.

Mr Pepperpot (John Dawson) supplemented his West Percy Restricted success in the Oriental Club Owner-Trainer Conditions Race. The evergreen eleven-year-old is certainly making up for last time having only made a belated Pointing debut in February 2018.

He jumped and travelled well from the outset, and, after establishing a big lead coming up the hill from four out, picked up again when challenged approaching the last by Alone No More (Will Ramsay) to score by a length.

Son Of Suzie (Amie Waugh) finally got the better of a prolonged duel with Roderick Random (Charlotte Dun) after three out to record his third win of the season in the Charles Stanley Ladies Open Race, with the pair separated by four and a half lengths at the finish.

Amie said of her father, Simon's charge: ''He goes out in the field every day, doesn't need a lot of work and has only been ridden five times since his Musselburgh outing on February 26. He'll probably run next at Overton on March 21.''

Thyne For Gold (Fred Timmis) justified the long trip from Ray Owen's Denbigh yard by landing the UBS Men's Open Race. Content to track his two rivals for much of the contest, the nine-year-old was produced with a well-timed challenge to lead three out and, despite idling a bit in front, was always doing enough to hold off De Bee Keeper (Ross Wilson) by a couple of lengths.

The winner, a half brother to the Pauline Robson-trained winning hurdler Kingrullah, was bought for £4,000 out of Donald McCain's yard at the Goffs Doncaster Sale in May 2019. Owen said: ''He was a handful when we first got him and was regularly bucking his riders off. Even today, he took off going to the start and is a bit difficult to settle. Fred gave him a great ride and I think the flatter track at Overton will suit him much better.''

This was the first time since the 2014/15 season that all 4 Alnwick meetings have taken place. They received a total of 334 entries with 211 runners in 26 races and a healthy average of 8.11 per race. Clerk of the Course, Tom Oates, along with Nick Hargreave and their team of helpers have done a great job over the last few months and being able to move the fences to fresh ground after the first two fixtures makes a huge difference.

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