by Geoff Handley

The pleasant late afternoon sunshine brought out the racegoers in their thousands for this annual event. The crowds are very enthusiastic, cheering every horse and thronging both sides of the course from the final fence to the winning post. The heavy rain in the morning meant the going was soft.

1. Open Maiden (Div 1)
This was dominated by the two market rivals, Fergalís Friend (Marc Goldstein) and Kupto (Paul Cowley), fighting out the finish. Fergals Friend looked to have sealed issues as they turned into the home straight but he was getting tired on the uphill finish and made a bad mistake at the last which Kupto took full advantage to get up close home. Iím not sure of the official distance, as the commentary volume was so low. The runner up is only a five year old & following his promising debut run at Bitterley, he looks to have a bright future. Another to run well in this seven-runner field was the debutante Froghole Flyer. The third favourite was always up with pace before weakening and pulling up in the home straight and looks as though he will come on for the run.

2. Confined 
Only six runners. The bookies couldnít split Carthago (Micky Harris) and Coolefind (Stuart Morris) who drifted from odds on to odds against. Despite drifting, Coolefind won well. Held up at the back, he made smooth headway on the final circuit and ran on strongly up the hill to beat his market rival by 2 Ĺ lengths. This six year old has now won four of his six points and is a likable individual well worth following.

3. Open Maiden (Div 2)
Victory at last to Northsprite who fully deserved this after being placed fourteen times. Always up with the pace, he was well ridden by Jon Trice-Rolph, merely having to push him out to win. This comes on the back of his encouraging second last time at Clifton-on-Dunsmore. Runner up and the only one to make a race of it was Sovereign Dove. This five year old ran a most promising run last time in the rain at Mollington & will have no difficulty winning a maiden for the Hutsby yard. The big disappointment was the favourite Greensleeves who was Polly Gundryís only ride of the day. She was always in the rear and pulled up at the end of the first circuit. Maybe this six-year-old grey mare simply didnít act on the going as her fair fourth at Upton-on-Severn last time was on good/firm.

4. Hunt Members
Fred Hutsby soon gained revenge for his last race defeat as he drove home the favourite Prate Box. This fourteen year old had a cracking season last time winning at Dunthrop and here at Ashorne. He also ran well behind County Derry at Uttoxeter. On his last run this season he was fourth in a Hunter Chase at Hereford and he simply had too much class for this field, beating market rival Stormy Pass by 5 lengths.

5. Mixed Open 
A disappointing turnout of just three runners from twenty-three enties. Victory went to Sir Dante giving jockey Fred Hutsby a double on the day. Always in the lead, he won easily from the only other finisher, the one paced Celtic Season and Stuart Morris. Rowan Cope was soon hard at work on the Caroline Bailey trained Red Rebel, but again like last week it was all to no avail as Red Rebel was tailed off eventually pulling up. He is one to leave alone.

6. South Midland Area Club Members (Novice Riders)
All five runners were lady ridden. The odds on favourite (2/5) was Aircon (Rebecca Hutsby) who won a poor Ladies Open last week at the Atherstone. This moderate ex chaser had run twenty six times without winning and was there to be taken on and was by Ela-Agapi-Mou and Dawn Ball. Third of four last time at Mollington, the two market rivals jumped the last together but Dawn Ball got the better of the tussle to win by 3 Ĺ lengths.

7. Restricted 
By the time of the finale (7.30pm), many of the big crowd had already departed. It was a very disappointing end to the evening with just three runners. The long odds on favourite was Alvero, the mount of Micky Harris. The only other two runners were Wonderful Remark (Gerry Maloney) & Romanybaan (Paul Ikin), both runners at the Atherstone last Sunday. Alvero tried to make all but the steady pace didnít seem to suit him and he jumped left at a number of fences. Wonderful Remark took advantage running on strongly to beat the favourite. A lucky winner last week, she will make a bold bid for a hat trick. Alvero is better than this and ended last season with an easy win in an average maiden at Chaddesley Corbett, he was a promising second last time at Upton.

The last five runnings of this event has seen an average of over seventy runners, this eveningís racing saw just forty one runners taking part which was slightly disappointing. Maybe it was down to the soft underfoot conditions? The eyecatchers were Fergalís Friend and Coolefind.