The new point-to-point season kicks off in the North with the Ratcheugh Racing Club meeting at Alnwick on Sunday December 16. It should attract a bumper crowd with free admission on offer to all racegoers.
The Braes of Derwent meeting at Corbridge on April 21 will again offer the best prizemoney in the Northern Area with a total of £2600 up for grabs, including a first prize of £350 in the featured Men's and Ladies' Open Races, while the Cumberland Farmers fixture has retained the prime Easter Monday slot. In a bold move, the Morpeth at Tranwell is one of only two meetings in the country on Grand National day (April 6), as well as being one of the five Northern Area venues to feature pony racing.
After a steady increase in Sunday racing in the last decade, the trend is reversed this season with only twenty of the thirty six fixtures across the North scheduled to take place on the Sabbath, a 20% decrease compared to last term.
Tristan Davidson, 33, is favourite to land the Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship for the fourth season in a row,
with an abundance of quality rides for Newton-by-the-Sea owner/trainer, Victor Thompson. Prolific winner, Indian Print makes a welcome return after missing the last campaign with a leg injury, while Senor Alco, Tommysteel, Monogram and Gin Cobbler recorded eleven successes between them in 2012. The latter duo should be spot on for Alnwick after finishing 2nd and 7th respectively on their seasonal debuts at Cottenham on November 25.
In addition, Two Stroke, Mr Stint, Anzinger, Have One For Me and Tommys Lad, who were purchased earlier this year at Doncaster Sales, have all been placed in Irish Points, while the former Dessie Hughes-trained maiden hurdler, Mr Shahady is another one to follow.
Thompson's son, Mark trains from an adjoining yard and also aims to keep the family flag flying with Victory Surge,
Heather Glen and Sir Tamburlane being possible mounts for his trainee accountant son, Dan.
The latter pair were placed under Rules before being bought privately from Bingley handler, Sue Smith and should have no trouble in losing their maiden tags between the flags.
It will be a major surprise if Catherine Walton, 25, doesn't land the Northern Area Ladies Championship for the third year in a row. Sure to enjoy plenty more successes on Coquet Head, Sacred Mountain and Highland Cathedral when they reappear in January, Walton is likely to kick off her title defence at Alnwick on the lightly raced mare, Retrace Your Steps and an unraced home-bred youngster.
It is always good to see young jockeys graduating from the pony racing ranks and, weather permitting, 16 year olds Ross Chapman and Harry Reed are set to make their riding debuts at Alnwick. Chapman is lined up to partner Boher Storm for his uncle, Russell Ross, while Sedbergh schoolboy, Reed is expected to ride Viking Rebel and Silent Snow.
Lockerbie-based amateur, Andrea Taylor must be a contender for the Northern Area Novice Riders Championship with the ultra-consistent
Kisha King and 124-rated chaser, Sotovik to partner in Ladies Open Races.
Four others to note from Scottish yards are Ocarina, Melua Maid, Tartan Snow and See You There. The former, a dual winner over fences at Hexham in 2010, has been off the track for twelve months but should appreciate the drop in class to pointing company and represents the in-form Alexander team. The former Sue Smith-trained mare, Melua Maid made all when scoring over fences at Sedgefield in April and this soft ground specialist could provide Langholm handler,Briony Ewart with her first training success.
John Adam's ex-chaser, See You There also likes plenty of cut and showed his liking for a stamina test when scoring impressively at Alnwick and Corbridge last season. Lesley Coltherd's 125-rated chaser, Tartan Snow has recorded four of his five career wins under Rules at Kelso and it will be interesting to see if he goes for the opening hunters' chase of the 2013 campaign at the aforementioned Borders track on Sunday January 13.
Preview of the 2012 / 2013 Northern Area Season
By Peter Burgon (Point-to-Point Correspondent for The Journal)