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Duncombe Park
Saturday 28th February 2009
by Ian Marshall

photos by Jon Hodd

A pleasant afternoon in North Yorkshire saw this rearranged fixture take place on perfect ground and featured a Hunt Members race that was as good as you will find. As so often happens when a meeting is initially postponed, only a fraction of the 204 entries took part in proceedings.

Just eight of the 43 entries were declared for the opening Confined and the honours went to Ile De Paris, who fairly hacked up in the hands of Tom Greenall. Always moving sweetly, Ile De Paris loomed up at the final fence and pulled away on the climb to the line with the minimum of fuss. On the basis of this display, a follow up under a three pound penalty should be a formality. Runner-up Hardybuck made a bold bid, going to the front in the back straight on the last lap. Whilst he wasn’t able to shake off the favourite, he poached a decisive advantage over the remainder. Guy Brewer’s mount belied odds of 33-1 to suggest he will make his presence felt at this level. Del Trotter couldn’t find a change of gear in third for Laura Eddery, but performed admirably nonetheless. Dannymolone was back in fourth and did OK. Robber wasn’t disgraced returning from a two year absence. Celioso was close enough if good enough when he fell at the second last.

Ile De Paris (Tom Greenall) en route to winining the Confined

Ile De Paris (Tom Greenall) leaves Hardybuck (Guy Brewer) in his wake to win the Confined

A field of 15 was present for the Restricted and mares filled the first two positions. Eliza Doalott under Guy Brewer waltzed away with the prize at the expense of Amalfi Storm and Tom Greenall. Eliza Doalott was sent on six from home, appeared to blow up shortly after the second last, however she then found a second wind at the foot of the concluding incline before powering away impressively when encouraged by her jockey to go and win her race. Eliza Doalott’s slick jumping is a huge asset and she lost little in defeat against the potentially classy youngster Quotica De Poyans at Sheriff Hutton, a contest that has since seen the fourth Whinny Bank pick up a restricted. Versatile as regards ground, Eliza Doalott is bound to improve for the run and is therefore going to be tough to beat in an intermediate. Anchored in rear early, Amalfi Storm made steady headway on the final circuit, but wasn’t able to cope with the winner’s finishing burst. Her two previous attempts had been against her own sex, on the second of which she secured a Friars Haugh maiden. She would be unlucky to meet an opponent of this calibre again in a restricted. On his seasonal debut, Southern Classic probably posted a personal best to take third for Sarah Jane Townend. In the care of Cherry Coward in 2008, he’s not the quickest, but can hold his own if it isn’t too sharp a test. Fourth-placed Areyacoddinmee could only run on at the one pace. The Sheriff Hutton maiden that he bagged in January has since had the third that day take a maiden of its own. The Viking was none too fluent at his fences, but was upsides Eliza Doalott when he fluffed the last and immediately went out like a light. Presumably he was nowhere near peak fitness. Go Moss Go jinked and unshipped Steve Charlton on the run-in having made a satisfactory return. The fragile Oscar Octavius showed a bit back from another break, while Cnocan Aoibhinn is likely to be better off for the race.

Eliza Doalott (Guy Brewer) en route to winning the restricted

The four runner Mens Open was collected by Ask Bobby and Guy Brewer, giving the jockey a double on the day. Ask Bobby went off the odds-on favourite and was equipped with first-time cheek pieces. He looked to have matters completely under control, but idled on the run-in before finding more when the runner-up drew alongside for an official neck verdict. Ask Bobby seems not to like it too much when in isolation in front, but certainly doesn’t shirk a battle when there are horses around him. His nine victories have all been by relatively small margins. In second, Willywont He jumped abysmally for Steve Charlton. Held up well in arrears, Willywont He closed rapidly in the last half mile to make the market leader pull out all the stops. If he can brush up his fencing, Willywont He seems to have sufficient prowess to pick up an open. Black Smoke (Miles Seston) showed far more in third than he had done earlier in the season, but equally was readily left behind on the long run from the second last. The maiden Apollo Saturn Five had a fair sighter for a more suitable assignment.

Ask Bobby (Guy Brewer, near side) jumps alongside Black Smoke (Miles Seston) one the way to winining the Mens Open

Ask Bobby (Guy Brewer) fights off a late challenge from Willywont He (Steve Charlton) in the race to the line in the Mens Open to score a quick double

The Ladies Open had six participants and there was a typically gritty performance from Jimmys Duky, ably assisted by Lucy Bell. Hitting the front a long way from home, Jimmys Duky simply ground his rivals into submission one by one. He’d pluckily gone down to the smart Buy Onling at Witton Castle a week ago. This ultra consistent sort could well add to his tally in the future. Fairy Skin Maker and Jo Foster came second. The striking chestnut travelled like a dream and appeared a big danger at the last. However, he had no more to give in the final furlong. Stamina may have been an issue and he was also reported to have made a noise. On a less demanding course and with a tongue tie fitted, this fellow would be one to be interested in. Having got outpaced, Ask The Gatherer and Joanne Brown stayed on stoutly up the hill to snatch third. His two efforts in points suggest that testing tracks are going to suit him. West Coaster had no answers late on in fourth.

Eventual winner Jimmys Duky (Lucy Bell) sets the early pace ahead of West Coaster (Joanna Mason) in the ladies open

Division One of the Maiden had 13 runners. Toby Greenall pushed out the former Lucinda Russell trained Scrappie for victory. His strong point is his stamina and Scrappie has a decent engine that stood him in good stead here. He had an aptitude for novice chasing and, due to his placed efforts in that sphere, it is surprising he didn’t eventually carry off one of those races in his days at the professional game. Scrappie had only succumbed narrowly to Ardnaclancy at Friars Haugh a month ago and that one later scored in a restricted. In second, the patiently ridden Its Teescomponents (Colm McCormack) never quite got there. Its Teescomponents had some reasonable form under Rules, although it does appear that she is going to have to be played late in points. Even so, it will be no surprise to see her go one better. Mark Walford guided Calapocus into third. Calapocus had no extra for the climax, but kept on nonetheless. This was a step up for him from Sheriff Hutton and with normal progression again a similar heat ought to be within his reach. Whilst not beaten too far, Forge Valley in fourth could well find an easier three miles right up his street. Just behind, Phenix Mag gave a glimmer of hope for the time ahead and Lewesdon Duchess made much of the running before falling in a heap approaching the last, where she was pulled up. The lack of a recent run took its toll and she is one to keep in mind for the future. The five-year-old Tabloid should improve for the experience.

Scrappie (Toby Greenall) en route to wininng Div 1 of the Maiden

A dozen horses came under orders for Division Two of the Maiden and the well backed favourite Aldea gained the day under Tom Greenall. The rider needed to be at his best to get Aldea home. Clearly plenty was expected of Aldea as he embarked on pointing on his first outing since April 2007, following a spell with Sue Smith. This made it a double for Tom Greenall on the card, but trainer Cherry Coward maintained her hot streak by posting a treble following Ile De Paris and Scrappie earlier. Runner-up Eurospoofer ran his conqueror close, trying hard for Chris Dawson. He has now been fourth, third and second in Britain and who is to say that he won’t continue to the next rung of the sequence. In an all too eye-catching third came Snake Rave. Beaten three and a half lengths and a stable companion of the winner, he never quite reached the leaders. Quietly restrained towards the back of the field in a bid to improve his shaky jumping, he didn’t make a forward move until nearing the final bend and finished like a train. Snake Rave looks a sure fire future scorer and is likely to be a very short price until he does so. Fourth came Desperate Bob and he deserves some credit as this was slightly better than his Witton Castle debut last week. Chapel House held every chance when he failed to successfully negotiate the home turn and ran out. It is hard to say where he would have finished, but he wouldn’t have been far away.

Aldea gives jockey Tom Greenall) another brace of victories by taking Div 2 of the Open Maiden

Seven horses went to post for the Hunt Members and those racegoers that stayed to the end saw Cop Howe account for the David Easterby trained duo of Network Oscar and Lord Gee. Freya Hartley upped the tempo on the 11-year-old on the final circuit and had plenty left in reserve for the closing stages. Cop Howe gives his all broke his rivals’ resolve before asserting in the last 150 yards. Cop Howe had taken this same contest 12 months ago and he can win again. After an inauspicious start to his career, a wind operation and Jacqueline Coward’s handling have seemed to be the making of him. She may have missed out on riding a winner, but the highlight of the afternoon was that Jacqueline Coward was in attendance following her release from hospital after a horror fall at Catterick earlier in the week. Although it may be a while before she is back in the saddle, the vital importance of the air ambulance was never more apparent than on that afternoon. The rapid response may well significantly aide her recovery. Runner-up Network Oscar came there full of running for Jake Greenall at the last, but Cop Howe ran on the stronger up the hill. Whilst he will no doubt add to his tally of five pointing successes later in the season, he didn’t seem to have any excuses. In third, Lord Gee (Tom Greenall) had been in a prominent position from flagfall, but was shrugged aside on the run to the final fence. He might not be the most straightforward, however he was left behind so quickly that he must have found the outing of benefit. That honourable campaigner Iron Express, who has a Grimthorpe Gold Cup to his name, was putting in his best work at the death to grab fourth on the line. At 13, staying is definitely now his forte. Danteco planted himself at the start.

Cop Howe (Freya Hartley) powers to a fine win in a hot Members race

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