Point-to-Point racing returns to north Northumberland this weekend as the West Percy fixture takes place.
The first of the seven races sets off at noon on Sunday at the Ratcheugh Farm course, near Alnwick, with free entry once again on offer to all race-goers.
NPPA Club Members Race: Winning Irish pointer, Master Butcher, was quite impressive when scoring by five lengths on his first start for Nick Alexander’s yard in the Ratcheugh Racing Club Restricted and a follow-up is on the cards under son Kit in the NPPA Club Members Race. The form of that Alnwick contest was franked when Fureys Bar, who was beaten by around 25 lengths in third, won at Sheriff Hutton last Sunday. The pick of the other eight entries are Royal Mackintosh, Sea Scout and Special Portrait, who have already recorded more than 30 career successes between them. The veteran Royal Mackintosh has notched up all five wins under Rules at Carlisle although he was pulled up there on his last outing in November. Course winner, Sea Scout kept on well when 15 lengths fifth to Darsi Dancer on his reappearance at Alnwick in December, while Special Portrait is well treated by the race conditions and escapes a penalty having not won since May 2013.
Open Maiden Race: The Alexander team might also strike gold with Afterclass in the two-and-a-half mile Open Maiden Race. Previously placed over hurdles in Ireland, he hinted that his winning turn was not far away when nine lengths third to Ardenlee Lad on his first outing for the yard over course and distance last month. The form was further boosted when the runner-up that day, Darlington County, went one better at Sheriff Hutton. Any runners from Sarah Easterby’s Great Habton stable merit respect and Banderitos, who is also entered in the Open Maiden, is one to follow despite finishing a remote seventh over hurdles on his last appearance at Sedgefield three months ago. Of the others, the former Jamie Snowden-trained 105-rated hurdler, Comedinewithme, is now with Ian Mason and should be in the shake-up if reproducing the form which saw her twice finish runner-up to Spirit Oscar in November and December 2013, beaten a maximum of nine lengths, while Scottish raider Iona Rose finished runner-up in two of his nine pointing starts in Ireland.
Men’s Open Race: The Men’s Open Race has 14 entries and features a clash between The Falklander and Cave Hunter. The former is unbeaten in two visits to Alnwick and was particularly impressive when beating subsequent Sheriff Hutton scorer, Cottage Oak, by six lengths on his seasonal debut in December, while the progressive Cave Hunter graduated from Restricted to Open company in 2014, winning five of his seven starts in the process. Pyjama Game, who is also entered in the Members’ Race, won four chases for Rose Dobbin’s yard in 2013, but was pulled up on his last outing at Wetherby on October 31. Chasing Cars, a 126-rated chaser, has not been seen since pulling up in the La Touche Cup at Punchestown in April 2012, while the remaining entries include the Sarah Easterby duo, Be There In Five and Zitenka, along with course winners, Page One Two Nine and Tommysteel.
Ladies’ Open Race: Last season’s Northern Area Novice Champion jockey Gemma Cochrane holds the key to the Ladies’ Open Race with a choice of rides on stable companions, Keeverfield and Tipsy Dara. The latter won two of her last three starts in Ladies company in 2014, while the evergreen Keeverfield, who only joined her Fife yard in mid-April last year, has won at least once in each of the last six seasons. Cherry Coward’s new recruit, the dual Irish point-winner, Fernhurst Lad, has drawn a blank since landing a Clonmel Maiden Hurdle in February 2011. Poppy Day is another raider from the White Rose county, while Beggar’s Velvet and Sharivarry are the pick of the local challengers.
Restricted Race: Crazy Diamond made a successful hunt racing debut at Alnwick in December and can strike again in the Restricted Race. Nick Orpwood’s mount was left out on his own that day when Mickey Miller, who was disputing the lead at the time, fell two out. Of the other 14 entries, Ashtonmore finished 15 lengths second to Master Butcher in December, with Bafana Choice a further 10 lengths away in fourth, and both of them should come on a lot for the run. Call The Doctor landed a gamble for her previous connections when making all in a Mares’ Maiden at Hackwood Park last April, Milano Magic should appreciate the drop in class after being placed in nine of her 20 starts under Rules, while Blue Bertie and Hardy Oscar also merit consideration.
Open Maiden Race: The Open Maiden Race has 14 entries and provides Whatsthestoryman with an ideal opportunity to open his account. He caught the eye at Alnwick last month when leading from the 10th until falling four out in Crazy Diamond’s race. The main threat may come from Rathsallagh, who finished six lengths third to Kalastar on his reappearance at Friars Haugh last January. The aforementioned Banderitos enters calculations if bypassing the shorter Maiden on the card, while Ballycarbery, Heckley Herbert and King Of The Dark will also have their supporters.
West Percy and Percy Members Race: The concluding West Percy and Percy Members Race has five entries, including Bafana Choice and Pyjama Game. Ex-chaser Ballyvesey won two opens last season for Drew Holmes and should be competitive in this grade, while course-winner Monogram has the benefit of an outing at Cottenham in November in his favour. The track has been reinstated since the December meeting with all bends moved to fresh ground.