Another bumper crowd turned out for Sunday's Percy fixture at Alnwick and the track's increasing popularity saw 73 runners contest the seven race card, the most runners here since December 2013.
Bafana Choice secured a fifth course win in the Andrew Robinson (Farms) Ltd Percy Hunt Members Race. Partnered as usual by Richard Smith, the 11 year old swept past the pace-setting Fine Parchment four out before forging clear up the hill. Eased right down on the run-in, he still had 25 lengths to spare over Senor Alco at the line. This was a very popular victory in the colours of owner/breeder, George White, who first rode between the flags around 1970 and was the Percy Point-to-Point secretary for about 30 years until recently handing over the reins to Christopher Moore. The winner could return to Ratcheugh for next month's College Valley fixture with the Buccleuch Cup Maiden Hunters' Chase at Kelso a possible target in April.
Always Tipsy made it 3 from 3 at Alnwick this term in the hands of Nick Orpwood to initiate a training double for Alan Wight. Coming from well off the pace in the Warcup Law Firm Men's Open Race, the 8 year old swooped on the run-in to overhaul former stable companion, Rossini's Dancer and score by half a length in the best time of the day. Orpwood said: "I thought I'd given him too much to do but he responded well when switched to the outside after three out, got a second wind and met the last on a great stride." The win also clinched this season's Alnwick Races Champion Horse Award sponsored by Imperial Racing.
Knocklong brushed aside a 7lb penalty in the Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Open Race to give Catherine Walton a 75th career winner between the flags. Always lying handy just behind the leaders, the 9 year old took it up at the last before sprinting clear to beat Trop Fort by three lengths with Denbigh raider, Kilcross Boy a further five lengths away in third. The gelding's owner/trainer, Justin Landy said: "He was sound again the day after his heavy fall here last month. He thrives on racing and might go again in a fortnight. Forthcoming hunters' chases at Catterick and Hexham are also options for him."
More than 25 years after riding his first winner, William Ramsay, 47, remains as enthusiastic as ever and should enjoy the head-cam footage of his victory on Pyjama Game in the Stockdale & Reid Solicitors NPPA Club Members Race. Always prominent, the 11 year old led from six out and gamely held off the fast-finishing My Lady West by a head. Berwickshire-based Ramsay runs his own company, Affordable Art Fairs and regularly travels to the likes of Milan, Singapore, Stockholm and New York. "He deserved to get his head in front again after a string of finishes in the first four,"added Ramsay.
The unfancied Ballingarrow lost his maiden tag in the two and a half mile Ryecroft Glenton & Portland Financial Management Restricted Race to end a lean spell for owner/trainer, Bill Hughes. Well ridden by 20 year old Donal Delahunt, who is attached to Lucinda Russell's Milnathort yard, the 9 year old was pressed by Robin De Boss from five out and kept on well to secure a half length verdict. This was Delahunt's first winner since crossing the Irish Sea, where he did have 2 Pointing successes, and he said of the gelding: "He hit the first and the second and that seemed to wake him up as he travelled well after that and was probably just getting a bit lonely out in front."
Active In Milan completed Wight's training double in the first division of the Apartment Group Open Maiden Race after making every yard of the running under the in-form Henry Morshead. Crazy Penguin and Lord Usher gradually reeled him in down the home straight but the 8 year old dug deep and scraped home by a neck from the former with Lord Usher a further half length away in third.
Despite boasting recent form figures of 3PP, Roderick Random justified plenty of market support by trouncing his rivals in the concluding division of the Apartment Group Open Maiden Race. Kelly Bryson couldn't believe how well he travelled through the race and the 7 year old put the contest to bed in a matter of strides after hitting the front two out, eventually coasting home twenty lengths ahead of Fayre Enough.
The next Northern Area meeting is the Tynedale at Corbridge on Sunday 26th February, while the fourth Alnwick fixture of the campaign is the College Valley & North Northumberland on Sunday 5th March.