A pleasant sunny day heralded the start of the point-to-point season in Yorkshire. The Yorkshire Area Point-To-Point Club fixture was every bit as successful as in 2008 and, although the trip took some getting in the soft and holding ground, there were plenty of runners, even if finishers were at a premium. The course was at its full extent, with the winning post up a chute that had been waterlogged last year. The proceeds of the meeting are destined for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, such an important resource, and the division of the maiden on the day caused a funding headache that was swiftly forgotten due to the generosity of bookmakers, racegoers and several other parties who dipped into their pockets to provide significantly more than the sum required.
The Novice Riders contest attracted 17 hopefuls and wasn’t short of incident. Always to the fore throughout and largely out of any potential trouble, the odds-on favourite Sonevafushi sauntered up the home straight under Jake Greenall to score with consummate ease. With all four Greenall brothers in action during the afternoon, Jake performed like an old hand to gain the day and chalk up his first winner at this game, following a successful stint in pony racing. Sonevafushi’s point record suggested that this shouldn’t be too difficult a task for him, but he confirmed that he retains much of his ability. Caramia stayed on strongly for Samantha Klug to grab second in the closing stages. When the emphasis is on stamina, Caramia can make his presence felt as he was relentlessly making up ground from a midfield position from halfway. Optimistic Harry was legless on the run-in, but he was the only horse to threaten to make a race of it with Sonevafushi in the last half mile. Sam Drake’s mount gave plenty of encouragement for the future in third. He was quite lightly raced under Rules with Richard Ford due to reported leg trouble in the latter part of his career and, if he can stay healthy, should find a race. Widemouth Bay just pipped Allborn Lad for fourth. Widemouth Bay ran well on this card a year ago and ought to be able to hold his own again. Allborn Lad travelled sweetly for most of the way and should make an impact with the run under his belt. West Coaster and Beauchamp Oracle are others likely to come on for the outing. Glenelly Gale was lying third, but looking held having been prominent since flagfall, when he fell at the third last.
A dozen horses lined up for the Restricted and Quotica De Poyans under Kelly Bryson created a favourable impression in collecting with the minimum of fuss. That made it two out of two for the five-year-old following an equally taking victory in a Cottenham maiden in December. It is worth noting that his division of that Cottenham 2m4f maiden was seven seconds quicker than that won by the much vaunted Gentleman Anshan, who has also followed up in a restricted. Quotica De Poyans’s jockey sent him to the front approaching the second fence on this occasion, after which he was never headed. Quotica De Poyans could tot up a sequence and is no doubt going to be heard about for some time to come. Eliza Doalott, with Guy Brewer on top, had no chance with the victor in the home straight, but was still a clear second. Her career in bumpers and hurdles didn’t really take off under some indifferent handling, but she had been impressive enough in scoring on her sole start in maiden point-to-point company at Whitwell-on-the-Hill in 2007 to exhibit significant ability. Likely to strip fitter when next seen, it will be a huge surprise if she doesn’t pick up at least a race or two between the flags. In third, Quinta De Lobo (Tom Greenall) did OK. He was very unlucky not to bag one of these last season and will go close again. Whinny Bank in fourth was never any nearer than midfield. Once Before was to the head of the chasing group for about two and a half miles until he appeared to blow up and should last out in future. Quite a gamble on him went astray.
The Mens Open featured nine runners and was a strong event of its type. Left at the head of affairs at the end of the back straight, having been there or thereabouts throughout, Always Right made the best of his way home from there. It was another scintillating effort from the brilliant chestnut and without question a career best. It is difficult to envisage how Always Right could have done it any better. This progressive sort had picked up his maiden here a year ago before running up a four timer. He had signed off for 2008 by putting in a sparkling performance in a Perth hunter chase. A young horse of amazing potential, who knows how far he will go. In truth, runner-up Ile De Paris didn’t ever look like catching Always Right, but it was no mean feat to finish in this war of attrition, albeit at a respectful distance. He won’t be so unlucky as to meet an opponent of this calibre every time. Buckby Lane and Sam Waley-Cohen were a country mile back in third. Having mixed it up front from the off, Buckby Lane could find no more from the fourth last and it seemed that he would be pulled up on the home turn. However, he kept going to be the final horse to complete. Holy Joe chased the leading trio until heading to six out, after which he was quickly fighting a losing battle and was sensibly soon pulled up. He will be better off for this. Karatchi ensured that there was no hanging around and made every yard to the 11th. Given a breather on the slight downhill stretch away from the enclosures, he was again disputing the lead and couldn’t be ruled out any means when sadly suffering a fatal fall five from home. The 2009 campaign of this exciting fellow had been every bit as eagerly anticipated as that of Always Right, but it was unfortunately not to be, such are the fine margins of the game.
There were 11 combatants for the Club Members restricted to horses that hadn’t won under Rules apart from hunter chases. There was a right royal scrap in the closing stages between Tom Greenall on Pristine Condition and Jacqueline Coward on Buy Onling, which the former narrowly got the better of. Pristine Condition had made his racecourse debut in this very race a year ago, certainly catching the eye by performing admirably against talented and more experienced foes. Although he was already a dual winner prior to today, he had twice been beaten into second when better might have been expected. However, he knuckled down to his job here and there was no knocking a willing attitude under a strong ride as he overcame a persistent rival. He can go on to better things. Buy Onling held his form extremely well in his inaugural season pointing and looks to have picked up where he left off in the spring. He battled all the way to the line and lost little in defeat. Gunner Royal, with Richard Smith in the plate, was back in third. Not a bad effort for the horse, following a spell with Howard Johnson. Nothing else got round. Ask Bobby the favourite was third and probably not yet done with when he fell at the penultimate obstacle. Tommy Two Toes, third to Massimo in the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham in 2008, was leading when he walked through the open ditch, fence six. Claire’s Nomad charted a wide course and is bound to have needed the run after a year off. The same remark applies to Johnny Venture, while Mister Bromley never got seriously involved.
Eight horses went to post for the Ladies Open and Reflected Glory and Immy Robinson gave a fine display to run out worthy winners. Once Reflected Glory set sail for the judge leaving the back straight, he couldn’t be pegged back. Traditionally one to merit close consideration on his seasonal reappearance, he goes so well fresh. The easy to back runner-up Narciso was held up in rear by Jacqueline Coward and had yet to make a forward move with three-quarters of mile to race. He made up ground quickly from four out, but the effort might have taken its toll in the gluey ground as he couldn’t reel in a steely opponent over the final two fences. Narciso will take all the beating in the future after deriving benefit from the outing. Welcome to Unos filled third in the hands of Serena Brotherton. A model of consistency last year, this will have tuned Welcome To Unos up nicely for Duncombe Park in February. Ask The Gatherer didn’t do too badly in fourth. Oscar The Boxer, formerly a fair hurdler with Malcolm Jefferson, should come on for the run.
The Open Maiden was split at declaration and a field of 13 came under orders for Division One. There was a resolute display from Areyacoddinmee, who was driven out by Richard Smith to record a solid triumph. Areyacoddinmee is another that hadn’t raced for two years and he appears to have returned considerably stronger from the enforced layoff than he was in his younger days. In second, Nectar De Guye (Mark Bennison), often a rather awkward customer, was on a going day and consented to put his best hoof forward. He has given hope like this before in attaining a creditable placed effort. There is undoubtedly talent there, but whether he will reproduce it next time must be open to question. Father Owen had every chance upsides Areyacoddinmee until a bad mistake at the final fence knocked the stuffing out of him. Guy Brewer kept him going for third and a maiden can come his way. Dreamaker was far from disgraced in fourth and had done sufficiently well in the professional game to make an impact in this field. To The Wind was probably held, but had stepped up on anything she had shown previously, when she came departed. Cassius Dio was in the van for a lengthy spell until dropping out and should improve. Winds And Dragons, the jolly, got tired and may do better.
Division Two of the Open Maiden saw 12 horses face the starter and was easily the quicker of the pair. The spoils were claimed by My Old Piano with Tom Greenall aboard, completing a double on the card for the rider. Once sent about his business as heads turned for home, My Old Piano was always doing enough to comfortably repel all challengers. My Old Piano was an 8000gns purchase out of Jonjo O’Neill’s yard in May 2008 at Doncaster Sales. He won’t be short of support when tackling a restricted. Poppy Day responded to Jo Mason’s urgings to get up for second spot. Sticking on steadily from the rear, she was putting in her best work at the death and seems to have the credentials to go one better. Never far away from the pace, Racing Ace was guided into third by Chris Dawson and performed with a good deal of merit. An Irish import, Racing Ace had exhibited a glimmer of ability on his lone start in points over there last spring. Fourth-placed Eurospoofer stayed to the outside and kept on from the rear without really threatening to reach the leaders. He shouldn’t be left out of calculations in the future. The Real Tom Eoin cut out a lot of the running until hitting a wall three out. A top heavy sort who had shown a heap of promise in a handful of appearances last year, he has grown more into himself over the summer and is sure to have found the outing beneficial. David Easterby’s runners aren’t particularly simple to assess for fitness in the paddock first time out, but Master Wolfe looked unusually burly for his debut for the trainer. Even so, he went off the uneasy favourite. The stable second string here on jockey bookings, his overall form over hurdles for Philip Hobbs isn’t all that convincing, but he is still certain to be a more potent force in the period ahead.