by Geoff Handley

The Oakley staged their fixture at the  new venue of Brafield-on-the-Green in Northamptonshire, having raced last year at Towcester but for many years had raced at Newton Bromswold. The meeting had to pass an early morning inspection following Friday's snowfall & heavy overnight rain. The official going was described as soft with good/soft in places & proved to quite testing on the day. 

Hunt Members
All five entries were declared & favourite backers got off to a great start as Rosie Goodwin won on Romany Pearl. Always up with pace, she took up the running on the final circuit to win easily by 30 lengths with the rest of the field well strung out. This twelve year old didn't make his debut until the grand old age of 10, but has run many promising races & fully deserved his success today. 

Open Maiden (Div 1)
Victory went to Born to Dream making his points debut & ridden by Rowan Cope. Always up with the leaders, this 6 year old jumped well & trainer James Richardson has a promising youngster on his hands. Started around the 12/1 mark. Odds-on favourite Nickit ran on one pace under champion jockey Richard Burton & is proving costly to follow, having been a beaten favourite last time at Mollington.

Open Maiden (Div 2)
Richard Burton didn't have to wait long for his first victory of the day & his 10th this season as the 2nd division of the maiden produced the best finish of the day as favourite Uncle Ada beat Northsprite by a head.

The Ladies Open
Run in the fastest time of the day of 6mins 48 secs, this went to all the way winner Killerine ridden by Heather Irving. Setting off from the front she soon had the field strung out, only the favourite Cascum Lad gave the winner any kind of race but Killerine soon saw off the market rival to win going away by 10 lengths. A most impressive ride from the front. Disapointments of the race were Bush Hill Bandit & Phar From Chance who soon pulled up.

The Mens Open
Red Rebel gave Rowan Cope his second winner of the day and a well deserved success for local trainer Caroline Bailey. Voted the best turned out horse in the parade ring, he got rather warm & Rowan was anxious to leave the ring before the others. However he made no mistake during the race beating Sheila McKenzie by 6 lengths. Red Rebel acts on any going and this was his 12th Points victory in addition to 3 hunter chase wins. The big disappointment was favourite Mickthecutaway, a winner at Barbury Castle & unlucky last time when falling at the last when in the lead at Weston Park. Virtually tailed off on the first circuit, he plodded on to finish a remote fourth.

A hat-trick for Rowan Cope & a double on the day for Caroline Bailey as favourite Choral Dream easily saw off the opposition. Ran in Lord Atterbury's open at Barbury Castle, finishing a staying on 6th that day. Runner up was Wibbley Wobbley ridden by Thomas Ellis

The final race was run in a hailstorm and for those brave souls who stayed to the end, they missed probably the best race as two promising youngsters went head to head with favourite Pot Shot giving Richard Burton a double on the day & just beating Greet You Well and foiling a four timer by Rowan Cope & a treble for Caroline Bailey by 3/4 of a length. The two were neck & neck all the way up the straight & touched down together at the last with the rest nowhere.
Pot Shot trained by Pam Sykes had made two promising runs last season over 2m 4f winning his maiden at Eyton-on-Severn & had made a promising debut this season when runner up to Highway Oak at Barbury. Greet You Well had opened his account last time beating Nickit in a Mollington maiden.

A good first day for the new venue, a total of 57 runners competed in the 7 races. Viewing was reasonable though all 8 fences could not been seen from any one spot.
The parade ring was excellent & the number board accurate & informative and the car park provided easy access. Overall good value for money with an entrance fee of ?7. A good day also for messrs Cope & Burton with five winners between them.