The popularity of the Downhills course near Corbridge as a point-to-point venue was shown again on Sunday with 72 runners,
including 18 Yorkshire raiders on an eight race card at the Braes of Derwent fixture.
Conditions became increasingly testing on an afternoon of incessant rain showers,
however punters weren't complaining after a near clean sweep with seven winning favourites.
Iveston near Consett trainer, Russell Ross remains on schedule for one of his best ever seasons after Hubble Bubble (left) and Sea Scout provided him with a double. The former easily repeated last year's victory in the Douglas Chapman Memorial Braes of Derwent Members Race, forging clear from three out to beat stable companion, Boher Storm by a distance. This 8 year old Giant's Causeway gelding, once thought good enough to hold an entry for the Epsom Derby, was a welcome first winner of the campaign for Charlie Johnston, a 3rd year Glasgow University veterinary student.
Merry Minster set a strong pace from the third in the 15 runner Tyne Valley Plastics Restricted Race but had nothing more to give in the closing stages after being headed two out by the favourite, Cool Star (left). The latter was a couple of lengths up at the final fence and maintained that advantage to the line over Barachois Silver. Andrew Richardson said of the winner: ''He has strengthened up a lot since running over hurdles last year and is still improving. He was just idling in front a bit today.
Sea Scout (right) might be small in stature but has the heart of a lion and gradually ground his rivals into submission in the Dr Syntax Inn Ladies Open Race to become the first horse in the Northern Area to win 4 times this season. Always prominent, Claire Metcalfe's mount finally shook off Newyearsresolution going to the last and stayed on well to score by 5 lengths. Provided the ground remains on the soft side, he could run again at Balcormo Mains on Saturday with the Heart Of All England Maiden Hunters' Chase at Hexham on May 12 also on tha agenda,
Scotch Corner farmer, Simon Hunter, 23, epitomises the true amateur spirit of hunt racing and got off the mark on only his third career ride on Skybull (right) in the Tow Law Open Maiden Race. Always in the leading trio, the 6 year old took it up from Harbour Way after two out and had the prize sewn up at the last. Hunter said of his charge: ''He appreciated the soft ground after finding it too quick at Dalston last time but almost slipped up on the home turn.''
The former Lucinda Russell-trained chaser, See You There (left) relished the testing underfoot conditions in the Northern Plastic Surgery Men's Open Race, staying on strongly from three out in the hands of Craig Nichol to beat Kildonnan by 10 lengths. This was a first training success for Russell's assistant head lad, Mark Ellwood.
After getting up on the line at Tranwell a fortnight ago, Rapidolyte De Ladalka (right) produced a repeat performance when collaring Senor Alco in the dying strides of the Baileys Horse Feeds Intermediate Race. The 7 year old secured a head verdict and Kelly Bryson said of him: ''He stays forever and always just seems to do enough.''
Flying Exit (left) fulfilled the promise shown when third at Whitwell-on-the-Hill earlier in the month by opening her account in the first division of the USL Group Open Maiden Race. Colm McCormack's mount took it up from Lucky Lane at the last and kept on well to score by 6 lengths. This 5 year old Exit To Nowhere mare, trained by Aycliffe farmer, Jeffrey Sunter, was bought as a foal at Doncaster Sales.
Elizabeth Brockbank's home-bred gelding, Nickwillis (right) landed the second division of the USL Group Open Maiden Race.The 7 year old gamely made virtually every yard of the running in the hands of grandson, William Brockbank to beat Silent Snow by 20 lengths. William said: ''He was hanging badly and jumping out to the left but will be much better on a left handed track,'' while the winner's trainer, Aspatria farmer and Cumberland Hunt Joint Master, Tim Brockbank remarked: ''He has had a wind operation as well as sustaining a torn ligament in his pelvis and will most likely reappear at his home meeting at Aspatria on Saturday May 12.''