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Saturday 11th February 2006

by Ian Marshall

A chilly wind cut to the bone to the dismay of all, but some useful performers kept attention on the track. A fascinating Mens Open clash between My Best Buddy and Silver Streak, combined with an interesting Confined, meant the afternoon was well worth seeing on ground officially described as Good, Good to Firm in places. With the word firm being used in the going, no doubt several horses will have stayed away.

The Hunt Members had six participants and a worthy short-priced favourite in Sadler’s Lamp. He had to work hard though under a welter burden of 12 stone 12 pounds to land the odds. Leaving the back straight, Nick Kent was the first of the leading four to pull the stick, but it had the desired effect and he pulled away up the home run. The winner was making it two out of two in points following his triumph in a maiden at Thorpe Lodge in January. Second was Coombs Spinney (Oliver Williams), who showed a modicum of ability. Spot On Tom plugged on for third under Tom Parr. Essennbee and Mark Bennison were fourth. Essennbee had previously only raced in bumpers and has a bit of potential on today’s evidence.

There were 12 runners in the Confined, which went to a wide margin winner in Sea Ferry. Matthew Briggs sent the ten-year-old to the front five from home and the partnership never looked like being caught to record an 18-length verdict. Sea Ferry seemed to have lost his way under Rules, but appears a revitalized customer on this first effort between the flags. Trooper and Antony Woodward came from a long way back to grab second. He is another one that was thought to have lost his enthusiasm in the professional game, but showed that he might not be a back number at this level. Third were April Spirit and Nick Kent. April Spirit was fit enough to do herself justice and didn’t fair too badly. Skew Whip finished fourth under Richard Wakeham and has matured further over the summer. Skew Whip jumped particularly well and will come on leaps and bounds for the run. Ikdam Melody will improve for the outing and certainly wasn’t disgraced. He’ll have hunter chases on the agenda again. There was a promising comeback from Claire’s Nomad after a year off. Silver Buzzard and Gola Cher were slightly disappointing.

Ten horses were present at flagfall for the Ladies Open and Upham Lord marked his return to pointing with victory. Jill Dawson’s charge was up with the pace throughout and exhibited an excellent attitude to hold Ledgendry Line and Serena Brotherton at bay over the final three fences. After an unsuccessful stint in both handicap and hunter chases, Upham Lord was back on familiar ground for a 22nd career success in point-to-points and has every chance of adding to that score. Ledgendry Line kept his form admirably well last year and ought to have race or too in him in 2006. On The Mend in third was outpaced for much of the journey, but stayed on stoutly in the closing stages for Freya Hartley. Coming back from a layoff, it is fair to say that there should be some better to come. Diceman (Jackie Coward) in fourth will strip fitter next time. Aunt Gladys departed at the first and Find Me Another was a casualty at the 7th.

Six went to post for the Mens Open and My Best Buddy and Rowan Cope claimed the spoils. Perfectly placed throughout, My Best Buddy was shaken up in the home straight and readily stuck to the task to win with something in hand. Having taken a Heythrop confined under a five pound penalty last month, My Best Buddy remains in good heart and can be relied upon to run his race. Bunratty’s Sole was second for Nigel Bloom after a 2005 that was cut short by injury. He has an excellent strike rate and should get his head in front in East Anglia soon. Henry Pearson (Nick Kent) in third was tackling an open for the first time and acquitted himself with credit. Silver Streak (Richard Armson) was back in fourth. Although beaten just eight lengths in total, the grey ought to have done better than this, but never appeared completely happy.

The Restricted attracted 12 runners, but all eyes were on one horse, last week’s Witton Castle maiden winner Green Admiral. Richard Tierney did the steering on the odds-on shot and his supporters never had any concerns during the three miles. The only worries beforehand were if Green Admiral would “bounce”, but once that issue was out of the way, there was much to like about the way he dispensed with his rivals in a canter. Having now scored on both starts between the flags, there will be few to oppose a hat-trick bid. Moscow’s Return chased hard in second for Nick Kent, but was no match for the winner. Just A Man gained third for Ben Woodhouse, having looked dangerous exiting the back straight, however he found little off the bridle, as has often been the case in the past. Alias (Mark Bennison) in fourth is no superstar, but at least puts everything into it. Sajomi Rona was just pipped for fourth, while Cashari got very tired.

The ten-runner Panacur/TBA Mares Maiden didn’t seem the strongest on paper, although four horses were visiting a racecourse for the first occasion. First was Letsgeton, the most experienced in the line-up. With Scott Peltell on top, Letsgeton galloped on in determined fashion. Handler Andrew Sansome has had a fine start this term and his runners are worth every consideration at the moment. There was a fair effort from Mistress Cool (Stuart Morris) in second and there could be plenty of improvement in her in the future. The third and final one to complete was Royal Return. She was given an awful lot to do by Oliver Greenall, but this was a gentle introduction and it would be a surprise if the David Easterby-trained grey didn’t have a maiden within her capabilities. The debutante Naranjita can derive benefit from the experience and looked the part in the paddock.

A dozen combatants faced the starter in Division One of the Maiden for Geldings and On Top with Fred Hutsby in the plate took the plaudits. Leading most of the way, On Top was not unduly extended to make a successful beginning in points following his switch from hurdling. There wasn’t a great deal to recommend him among his Rules form figures, but his trainer/rider had been extremely pleased with On Top’s work at home. Shannahyde made up good late ground for Jacqueline Coward to fill the runner-up spot, six lengths behind the impressive victor. This was his opening gambit having come over from Ireland and he is likely to make an impact in the weeks ahead. There was a pleasing first outing in third from Tycoon Tim (Rowan Cope) from the Caroline Bailey stable and he is definitely one to keep an eye on in the future. Stuart Morris guided Preston Magic into fourth and he is undoubtedly a different proposition this year. A backward type, Victor One showed a bit under a quiet ride, while Incisive is learning more with every race.

Division Two of the Geldings Maiden saw the biggest field of the day, which numbered 14 horses. Oliver Greenall gave Lambhill Stakes a positive ride and they never looked like getting beaten. In the leading pair through the duration of the contest, Lambhill Stakes asserted his authority upon proceedings in the last half mile. After the furore concerning his previous effort at Thorpe Lodge, few observers will be shocked by this success. The runner-up berth went the way of Fifth Column. He had traveled a long distance south to take part and can use his five-year-olds’ allowance to his advantage in the north. Fair Doo made late progress for Ben Woodhouse to take third and can find a similar heat. Mighty Rising (Charlotte Cundall) in fourth was running on in the closing stages when others had cried enough. Karantaka, representing the powerful Marley team, came down at the last, having raced prominently on this debut display. He would probably have been placed if he had stood up and an event of this nature should be within his range if shaking off the effects of the fall.

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