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Cleveland at Witton Castle
Sunday 22nd April 2018
by Will Milburn

The Cleveland had a bumper eight-race card on Sunday on ground officially described as good, good to soft in places and it saw two divisions of the Open Maiden and a treble on the day for rider Jack Andrews and trainer Cherry Coward. It also saw Will Milburn and Chris Dawson get off the mark this season with a win apiece.

Jack Andrews wasted no time in racking up a quick double when taking both divisions of the Open Maiden, both trained by Cherry Coward. Division One went to Royal Chant, who'd shown some promise at Sinnington earlier in the season, however disappointed only last week at the Bedale, but the drying ground aided him and he stayed on nicely to beat favourite Baraymi under Nick Orpwood with Clashganny a further eleven lengths in third. Purchased from Ascot sales last June for £5,800, this son of Royal Anthem is an Irish point to point recruit and with the ground drying up could be one to note in the future.

The Second Division of the Maiden was a bit more of a surprise as Aine's Choice, who had pulled up in all three of her starts this season, ran out a convincing winner. The pair took it up approaching the ditch on the last circuit and looked to have the race well in hand as they powered clear towards the finish to win by eleven lengths in a time five seconds faster than the earlier division. Like her stable-mate, Aine's Choice was another Irish cast off that came from Ascot sales and looks a bargain purchase for only £600. "They've just needed better ground and their finally getting it" said trainer Cherry Coward, whilst rider Jack Andrews who works full-time for the trainer added "They get turned out a lot, so all the warm weather and sun lately has done them good".

Jack went on later in the card to score with Wizadora in the Club Members race for 9yo and up, the pair won this race last season and ran out a decisive winner. The pair quickened up well after the last to beat Thinger Licht and See Mores Finale. The winner was a disappointing second when odds-on favourite the week before at Bedale, "She just struggled on the ground last week, the better ground has helped her loads!" said Sam Coward and the team look to have hit full form.

The Men's Open saw Chris Dawson have his first winner of the season aboard Sposalizio for owner John Armstrong. The pair were always prominent and their task was made easier when The Mobile Man crashed out three from home when holding every chance, they stuck on well to beat Fisher under Billy Garitty whilst Martha's Benefit and Will Milburn were third and she looks to be slowly coming to form. The winner was continuing the theme of the afternoon as he had failed to strike any sort of form in two runs this season, however, the better conditions had seen him revived and can no doubt thrive as the sun continues to shine.

If there was ever a deserved winner it came in the opening Hunt Members race with the Gill Jones trained Arny under rider Emma Todd, the pair looked held three out but with favourite Monsun Storm blundering at the last, they rallied on the flat to win by a neck. "He's such a fantastic lad, he's looked after me through all that bad weather, in the snow and rain... he's great to ride at home he'll do anything!" said his trainer Gill Jones who confessed she had tried to find him a new home in the summer however, when failing that, gave him another go. "He's great to train so we thought we'd give him another go". Mr Wiggins was having only his second run in points and showed plenty of promise to finish third under Elliott Brookbanks.

The last race was the Confined and saw Jack Andrews denied a four-timer as odds-on favourite Six A Side stayed on well after a mistake and hold off Roll The Dice, who was running his best race for a long time. Will Milburn pushed his mount to the lead towards the last and stuck on gamely and win by a length. Hand Act Or Part under Joseph Williamson made most of the running and took third. This was the winners first victory since taking a Kelso Hunter Chase back in 2016. "The penalties we got for winning a hunter chase didn't really help him last year... he kept hitting the crossbar, but I'm delighted he's got his head back in front!" said his rider Will Milburn, whilst Emma Todd was full of praise for the horse, "He's been a great horse, in 25 runs he's only been out the first four three times!"

The Restricted saw John Dawson ride and train Ancient Empire to another success this season and continue his chase of the national title, the pair led between the last two fences and stuck on well and fend off Spruce Up who came with a late run to be narrowly denied, whilst Viaduct Jack ran with more promise in third under Jack Andrews.

The Ladies Open saw another commanding victory from Knocklong and Lottie Crane. The pair settled in behind Rumble Of Thunder and Jess Gillam who was having his first run since Sheriff Hutton in January, Knocklong led in the home straight and stayed on well to win a shade cosily with Rumble Of Thunder second and De Bee Keeper in third.

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