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Witton Castle
Monday 7th May 2007
by Ian Marshall

photos by Arthur Thompson

Small fields were again the order of the day at Witton Castle on officially Firm ground. There was a good covering of grass though, being particularly lush in the home straight, and following the abandonment of the Old Raby fixture here in February, the surface was a lot more even than it often is for this meeting.

The Hunt Members was a match between Summer Stock and Chris Dawson and Tom The Piper and John Dawson. Having been a reasonable second on his previous run at Mordon, Summer Stock only had to be shaken up to hold his opponent and sensibly neither jockey was overly hard on their mount. Tom The Piper was making his debut and will doubtless be better off for the experience.

Chris Dawson (Summer Stock, yellow ) from little brother John on Tom The Piper

Four horses faced the starter for the Intermediate and there was a taking performance from Bally Brakes under a fine positive ride from Lee Bates. Soon with a healthy advantage, Bally Brakes was given a breather that allowed the favourite Dannymolone to close the gap, but then smoothly pulled away again turning for home. It was impressive stuff and a similar showing would see Bally Brakes go close in a confined. Bally Brakes had been the first horse for several years to profit from a walkover in Yorkshire at Hornby Castle on Easter Saturday. Dannymolone (Simon Walker) might have found the going a little too fast, although he has consistently given the impression that decent ground brings out the best in him. Prior to today, his latest offerings had been to pick up a good restricted at Whitwell and be a fair second in a Market Rasen hunter chase. Sweeping Storm (Richard Smith) in third was always playing catch up. Only three finished as Delfinia was pulled up.

Ballybrakes (Lee Bates) after his runaway win in the restricted

The Restricted featured five hopefuls and had a thrilling climax. Brown’s Beck had led from flagfall until he wandered around approaching the final fence, possibly having been distracted by the orange fencing at the side of the course flapping in the breeze. This allowed Guy Brewer’s persistence on Butler Services to pay off and a prodigious leap at the last sealed victory by the minimum distance despite the renewed challenge of Brown’s Beck and Steve Charlton. Butler Services is proven when there is rattle underfoot and has run very well on the three occasions in points where conditions have been suitable. He survived a bad mistake at the third last when his pilot performed a minor miracle to remain on board. Butler Services is due to go under the hammer at Doncaster Spring Sales. Brown’s Beck had never been dangerous in a hunter chase at Hexham on Saturday evening, but thoroughly deserves to land a restricted as he has been phenomenally consistent. Oaklands Ted couldn’t go the gallop, but did run on into third for Tina Jackson, ahead of Myoss in fourth. Junior Des Ormeaux again failed to shine and is one to avoid.

Butler Services (Guy Brewer) winner of the Restricted

Brown's Beck (Steve Charlton) 2nd in the Restricted

Bookmakers were happy after the seven-runner Mens Open as Lanaken was another all-the-way winner at the rewarding odds of 20-1. An enterprising ride from Guy Brewer meant Lanaken had his rivals on the stretch and a bold round of fencing allowed the gelding to saunter to success by ten lengths from the fast-finishing Lutin Du Moulin. Lanaken is almost unrecognisable from the horse that gave the injured Serena Brotherton two crashing falls in March. His current jockey managed to fine tune his jumping at Charm Park and Easingwold before bearing fruits today. Lutin Du Moulin seemed to get left at the start, but Paul Hodgson did give him time to get back on terms with the others. It isn’t easy to know what to make of Lutin Du Moulin, although he has now been placed on four outings this year. To his credit, Lutin Du Moulin was keeping on at the death when the rest of the beaten horses had already run their race. Third-placed Astral Prince (Ian Smith) wasn’t disgraced, even though he didn’t reach the heights of his recent Easingwold triumph, to where he may return next weekend. Rigadoon was a bit one-paced in fourth. The odds-on jolly, Mr Hawkeye, seeking a four-timer after three imperious victories, was the only horse to bridge the gap from the pack to the leader. However, he was two lengths down and appeared held when he fell at the penultimate obstacle. We won’t have heard the last of him.

Lanaken (Guy Brewer) winner of the Men's Open

There was also a quartet present for the Ladies Open, during which Preston Brook slipped up on the flat early in the race. Gabla bagged the prize in the hands of Tina Jackson. Lynne Ward has placed Gabla well to have now collected two ladies opens on firm ground in small fields. He didn’t have too many worries this time. Joanne Brown couldn’t get Wrapitup on terms and they had to settle for second. Wrapitup would be worth a look if turning out at Easingwold in a week’s time. Rare Presence and Sally Ireland were back in third.

Gabla (Tina Jackson) winner of the Ladies Open

Division One of the Maiden went to Grant Tuer’s Treefella under Miles Seston. Treefella wasn’t extended to hack up by a distance from seven adversaries. He had exhibited signs of greenness when a good third to two more than useful four-year-olds, The Good Guy and Buffalo Bob, on his Whittington debut. Treefella is likely to attract interest at Doncaster Spring Sales. Hailes Hill, with Jacqueline Coward in the saddle, was a well beaten second, although he did step up on anything else he had shown in the past. Mustard Millie (Mark Walford) in third should improve with experience, but at present is still having her confidence restored after a fall at Dalton Park. The searching pace meant only three finished. Final Era looked booked for second when falling three out having led much of the way. Avanti Tiger was pulled up lame, while Spinney Well had a nice introduction and will do better in time.

The field - Open Maiden Div 1

Five horses were declared for Division Two of the Maiden, which was the slower of the two. The moment the starter let them go, Alpha Zeta went out to run his rivals into the ground and he never looked like being pegged back at any stage. Ian Smith’s partner safely negotiated the final fence when beginning to tire and crossed the line clear by 15 lengths. Stamina has been the problem for Alpha Zeta and stable companion Secret Racine, and trainer Joanne Brown deserves plenty of credit for finding a fast ground maiden for each of them. Kings Bloom, with John Dawson in the plate, hasn’t hit form since returning from injury, but did at least grab second. Sea Maize (Chris Dawson) lost that position close home to be third and is better than this. Only three finished.

Alpha Zeta (Ian Smith) winner Open Maiden Div 2

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