Sandon basked in glorious sunshine for the annual Easter Saturday meeting of the North Staffs. It must a have been a record crowd; in all years that I have been going to the Staffordshire course, this was the biggest crowd that I had ever seen. There was good racing at the course; clerk of the course Mark Allman had done a good job watering the track, which was described by the riders as good to firm. It was certainly “Ladies Day” with 6 of the 7 races going to lady riders with Sue Sharratt taking centre stage with a treble, her first ever as a rider.
The easiest way to make money at Sandon is to follow rider Sue Sharratt in the Members race and she won the race for the fourth time, this time around aboard Life Of A River, who made every yard to win easily by a distance from Russell Dobney on Impose. The winner is owned and trained by Dianne Cope at Eccleshall. Cope is also the entries secretary for the North Staffs Hunt.
Forty minutes later, Sue Sharratt was back in the winners enclosure after Ridware Boy made all to the win the Open Maiden gamely by a length from Vallum under Stuart Ross. The winner is owned and trained by Richard Froggatt at Hill Ridware, Nr Rugeley. The winner is also home bred by Frogatt, who is the clerk of the course for the Meynell & South Staffs meeting at Weston Park. The runner up is trained by the trainers niece, Jane Frogatt.
Sharratt completed a treble in the Restricted aboard Traffic Offence who was not extended in beating Tide In Knots easing down by 12 lengths. Hardy Oliver was a further 4 lengths back in third. The winner is trained a stones throw from Bangor On Dee racecourse by William Lloyd and owned by his mother Belinda. William is the grandson of Frank Lloyd, who has trained quite a few winners under rules.
Sue Sharratt came very close to landing a four timer in the Ladies Open aboard Redskin Raider. She landed over the last a length up but was caught close home by Sammie Beddoes on Home Made, who got up by a neck in the final couple of strides. The winner is as tough as teak as this was his second hard race in week after winning a hard fought contest at Bangor the previous Saturday. Winning trainer Heidi Brookshaw said afterwards that her charge just does enough every time, adding that he always keeps a bit back for himself. The winning owner Pip Harney, the joint master of the North Shropshire hunt was a relieved man after the judge’s verdict in his favour, saying afterwards that his horse is such a battler, a very apt description.
Sutton on The Hill trainer Carly Goodall got off the mark for the season as a trainer and a rider following the very smooth success of Kelly’s Fable in the two mile five furlong Open Maiden. Firion King, who finished third, was promoted to second after the official runner up, Bangkok Bob, was disqualified after an objection by the clerk of the scales to rider Michael Murphy for failing to weigh in with the correct weight as he was 3lbs short. As for winning owner Steve Mace from Blackshaw Moor, it was his first venture in racehorse ownership in point to points, Mace has two horses under rules in training with Barry Leavy.
It would be fair to say that the Men’s Open was not the best race in the world with only three horses going to post. It was a very tactical affair which was won by Jonathon Jarrett on the Steve Wynne trained General Gossip in the well known colours of owner Dave Manning who got the better of Charlie Huxley on the odds on jolly Dare by 8 lengths. Wynne was delighted with his winner when I spoke to him afterwards, he said, “When I bought him off trainer Richard Phillips, he told me that he needed soft ground, but as he has got older he seems to prefer the quicker ground. I was really pleased with the way he quickened up and galloped all the way to the line.”
Coole Venture was a prolific winner when trained at Hadnall by Sheila Crow. He still retains his form at 13 as he showed when easily winning the novice riders race under a very confident ride from Fhine Banks. The winner is trained by her mother Christine Banks at Himbleton. The winner rider is the granddaughter of the legendary point to point rider Pat Tollitt.