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College Valley & North Northumberland
Sunday 10th February 2008
by John Bulman

An unseasonal and locally unheard of spring like day at Alnwick greeted a decent crowd for a good days racing. The course looked in good conditions and though the ground looked tiring it was not overly soft. There weren’t the large fields of Kelso last week but we were still treated to some very competitive races on a 7 race card.

Racing got under way with the Confined at 12.30 and 8 runners went to post. Senora Moss and Hartburn were market leaders and it was the pair who fought out the finish with Andrew Richardson just getting Hartburn up after the last after a good battle from Alistair Findlay on Senora Moss. Hartburn was having his first run of the season after rattling up a late season hat trick last year and looks to have progressed again. A Hunter Chase is within his grasp if his jumping is good enough (and if he avoids a 150 rated ex pro trained chaser!). Senora Moss had run 6 th in the hot Kelso Mnes Open last week and should gain compensation for another promising run in defeat. Harrovian ran well enough and should come on for his pointing debut under Clive Story in 3 rd. Kelso Restricted winner Mini Beck was still travelling well enough when coming down at 4 out and though it is impossible to say how he would have faired, he looks to have improved massively, the yard are in form and he can win again in the right grade.

The PPORA members race for Novice riders went the way of Lord Saar and M Turnbull who were always prominent and went away from Recent Edition and John Dawson from 2 out. Lord Saar was tired and wandering coming to the last but got up and over safely to win comfortably in the end. Recent Edition was well supported before hand but probably raced a little too keenly in the lead before tiring up the hill. Young Murf stayed on from well back in the field to take third for the next Mounsey-Heysham protégé to try their hand in points. This time it was Miss A (sorry I didn’t record your first name!) who got a terrific ride round on Young Murf. More may be needed for this horse to score though. Lord Saar was available at a very generous looking 4/1 after a promising reappearance at Witton Castle last weekend and was well ridden by the jockey who judged the pace well. The horses finished very tired in this race and it was probably a fast pace.

10 runners went to post for the Restricted and an open looking race wnet to the Alan Harrison owned Solway Flo who provided a welcome return to pointing winner for the talented Harry Haynes. Always well placed, Solway Flo made progress on leader and favourite Benwell to take up the running 2 out before forging clear to assert after the last. Not unfancied at 10/1 this daughter of ALflora has some ability if she can be kept fit. Benwell raced keenly and though looking the winner coming up the hill he tired and might be fitter for the race. A restricted is certainly within his compass. Onslow Road set a searching gallop before fading then getting a second wind up the straight. Imps Pride stayed on well enough without ever really looking dangerous and Granary House also ran well enough to suggest there is hope for the future.

The Ladies Open attracted only 5 runners but a competitive race was won by Rose Davidson on a Boy Named Sioux who put last seasons problems behind him by winning in game fashion under a positive Rose Davidson ride. Charlies Memory was probably given too much to do by Jaqueline Coward and never looked likely to catch Rose once she asserted up the straight. Floritchel unseated Pauline Robson just after half way while Wise Man (3 rd) and Rose Of The Hill (4 th) could never live with the front 2 once the pace quickened. They lost nothing in defeat but will need even more testing conditions or weaker ladies races to win.

After last weeks 19 runner Mens Open which looked as good as we have seen for many a year a disappointing 6 runners took their chance here. The Lord Daresbury owned Ca Na Trona was a hot odds on favourite and looked to be going as well as anything when unseating Oliver Greenall 3 out. Mr Greenall will not be pleased with the manner of his demise as it looked as though the horse stumbled slightly on landing and the jockey slid off the other side, one of those soft falls that has punters cursing but then again we aren’t jockeys! This left Wildfield Rufo (Ian Smith) and Benny Boy (Adam Waugh) to battle out the finish and in the end the pair couldn’t be slplit and a Dead Heat was declared. Wildfield Rufo was offered at 1/5 by one reputable (?) bookie which suggests they thought Rufo had held on. An impressive performance from Benny Boy who was one of the top novices 2 seaason’s ago and looks better than ever on this performance, still only an 8 year old he can go on to better things. The race had little strength in depth so it will be interesting to see how the form holds up.

The Maiden div 1 saw Oliver Greenall atone for earlier disappointment by getting The Fairhill Boy up after the last with a cracking ride. Coming from off the pace The Fairhill Boy stalked the leaders and responded gamely when asked the question approaching the last. Seemingly unfancied, he drifted from odds on to around 7/4 in the ring in the face of solid support for Moor Red and Quonarose. Moor Red had run a blinding race to be second in the better looking division of the Jed maiden the week before behind Fiftyfive Degrees and looked set to go one better when Andrew Richardson sent him on up the straight but he just got run out of it after the last as The Fairhill Boy surged past. He will surely get in to the winners enclosure before too much longer. Quonarose (Tristan Davidson) came with a good run but faded approaching the last. A promising first run of the season though. Clintburn reappeared much fitter than in previous years and was still in contention jumping 2 out before being outpaced. He will surely lose his maiden tag at some point this season. Others to run with some promise included Lemai and Hurrican Basil.

The 2 nd division saw Ishkado get his head in front. A promising 4 th in the Fiftyfive degrees maiden (see also Moor Red) last week he was always handy and won with some authority for Tristan Davidson. The Clark/Thomson horses are all running really well this season and seem to have clicked for Tristan Davidson, they should be followed in coming weeks.

Seaview Lass ran another sound race to be second, her cause not helped by a blunder at the last. She must have good prospects in a Mares maiden at least. Solway Shell ran a great race for the Harrison team on her pointing debut and again should find compensation before too long – particularly if targeted at a Mares race. Very little got really competitive and behind the first three Kasilia was one paced and might be hard to win with while Oh Really was prominent on his debut and jumped well before fading. The Rooken did reasonably well but needs to improve while Mystically was never in with a chance, always held up off the pace and not jumping particularly fluently before pulling up.

Next stop Overton Farm next Saturday for the Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire & Eglinton Point to Point.

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