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South Durham
Saturday 16th May 2015
by Charlotte Russell

The Yorkshire point-to-point season finished in the same manner it started with competitive racing and plenty of runners as the South Durham hunt hosted the final meeting at Howe Hills, Mordon. Oaklands Bobby provided an early wedding present for Alice Petch, whose last ride in her maiden name was a winner, by taking the Hewitts Solicitors Ladies Open. Starting out as she meant to go on, Alice was in front from the start and never headed as Bobby, who relishes the downhill run was winning round this course for the seventh time in his career for local vet Graham Russ. The pair managed to repel the challenges of a fast finishing Pevensey for Cath Walton to hang on by a neck and Larkhall was 10 lengths further back in third. Alice has also landed the Cundalls leading novice lady title. Clearly the winning rider had celebrations on her mind when she said, "he's like a fine wine and just seems to get better with age! I'm very thankful to be able to ride such a gent." Alice marries fellow jockey John Dawson this weekend.

The Coward team got the day off to a good start with a winner in the first race, the four, five, six and seven year old Open Maiden race, sponsored by Hall Construction and run over the shorter distance of 2m4f. Bugler's Dream was in a challenging position when unseating close to home at Easingwold last week but made up for that by taking this in fine style for Russell Lyndsay to win by four lengths from Nortonthorpe Legend and William Easterby. Baile Atha Cliath and Jack Jordan were a further length and a half back in third.

William Easterby managed to gain compensation in the Latimer Hinks Mens Open race on course owner, John Wade's Newspage – a fitting win as the meeting was celebrating 25 years of racing at the Mordon track. Know The Rules who prefers a good test did his best to get the better of Newspage under Chris Dawson but were held by six lengths and Total Rebellion was 25 lengths further back for Jack Teal. This win also ensured that William would keep his position at the top of the league table for the Strutt & Parker Mens Open title.

The restricted race was sponsored by Nortonthorpe Industrial Park Ltd and was a fairy tale for retiring owner, trainer Gillian Lee who had the first two home. Rush House and Anddante had clearly read the script and it was the mare Rush House ridden by Jack Teal that got her head in front of her stable mate by a length. Leading from the outset with Anddante held up, the pair were never headed and although Chris Dawson tried to rally Anddante, he was just held. Chantry Melody finished 15 lengths further back in third for Andrew Bartlett. "I'm absolutely chuffed to bits and thrilled!" said Gillian, who admitted that the result was making her think twice about retirement. "Rush House will be entered for the mares' race at Hexham in a fortnight so we will probably go there with her," added Gillian.

Six horses went to post for the Paxtons Confined Hunt race. Kings Lodge made most of the running under William Easterby but it was Son of Flicka who finally got his head in front for Max Johnson. "He's finally decided he mentally wants to do it," said the winning jockey. "He was a different horse at Easingwold last week until falling three from home but he was at the races today and wanted to win," he added. Kings Lodge finished five lengths behind and Ballyboker Boy was a further 20 lengths back for Andrew Bartlett. Fourth place went to Andre Chenier and Chris Cundall who announced the retirement of both his horse and himself after the race.

The South Durham Hunt Members, Subscribers & Farmers race was sponsored by George F White, there were three horses in the race. Apache Blue, ridden by Chris Dawson was always at the head of affairs but had a tendency to jump left handed and this was the main cause of his defeat. The pressure of increased pace caused Apache Blue to run further down the two final downhill fences, allowing Stand Clear partnered by Emily Young, Chris' girlfriend to go on and win by half a length. Prince of Ivagh, finished in third for debutant jockey Lauren Belt who works for the Dawsons. "She's improved so much since we've had her," enthused the winning jockey. "She loves fast ground and she's a lovely little mare, I'm delighted!" She added.

Racing finished with the Par Petroleum Open Maiden Race, which was one of the most open races of the day. It eventually went to Go Teescomponents who had always been handy under Chris Dawson and asserted down the hill. Little But Nice finished eight lengths back in second for Ross Wilson with Blue Lodge and Naomi Spalding in third.

There will be an end of season bash on Sunday 7th June at Fieldhouse Farm, Kirklevington to celebrate the season and help raise funds for next year's fixture fee which will continue to be partially sponsored by Coniston Hotel. Tickets are available from Sarah Dent, Amanda or Jill Sunter.

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