The recent spell of dry weather came to an abrupt end at the Downhills course near Corbridge on Sunday afternoon as temperatures dropped to three or four degrees above freezing on the back of a northerly wind and driving rain, just before the start of the well attended Braes of Derwent point-to-point meeting.
Boher Storm showed his liking for the track by repeating last year's win in the Douglas Chapman Memorial Braes of Derwent Members Race. After being sent on five out by Charlie Johnston, the ten year old kept on well up the home straight to beat the fast finishing Tiger Billy by four lengths. Johnston, 19, a second year veterinary student at Glasgow University, might well have ridden stable companion, Major Catch in the race but Sally Lyons had first choice and picked the wrong one as her mount could only finish 4th. The victory was a welcome boost for Iveston farrier, Russell Ross as it removed him from this season's cold trainers list.
Charlie, son of leading Flat trainer,Mark Johnston, said of the winner: '' That was the first time I'd sat on him this year and he was just idling a bit in the closing stages after being in front for so long. I am grateful to Russell for giving me so many rides in the last couple of seasons.''
Boher Storm and Charlie Johnston
Boher Storm's connections are presented with the trophy
Michael Ennis proved an able deputy for the injured Kelly Bryson by steering the odds-on favourite, Buckstruther (right) to a third win from four starts in the Baileys Horse Feeds Intermediate Race. The eight year old joined issue with Athoss four out before hitting the front after the next and forging clear to score by eight lengths. Hawick farmer, Alistair Bell is now considering a crack at the coveted Heart Of All England Maiden Hunters Chase at Hexham on Saturday May 1st with his in-form gelding.
Newton-by-the-Sea owner/trainer, Victor Thompson dedicated Indian Print's (left) fifth consecutive win this term in the Northern Plastic Surgery Associates Men's Open Race to his 17 year old granddaughter, Becky Hellmann who had died suddenly ten days before the meeting. Racegoers respectfully observed
a minute's silence in her memory before the opening Members Race.
Always prominent under Tristan Davidson, the six year old had a ding dong battle with ex-chaser, One Sniff from six out before asserting his superiority after the last to secure a two lengths verdict. This was a tenth winner of the campaign for Irthington-based, Davidson who is up at 3.20am every day, apart from Sundays, to deliver milk and newspapers as well as looking after two hundred sheep.
Moment Of Madness (left) and High Five (right) set a strong pace from the outset in the Dr Syntax Inn Ladies Open Race and had their rivals strung out like washing on a line after a mile. The former, ridden by Alison Pocklington, was still full of running and five lengths up when falling four out. His departure left High Five well clear and Amie Waugh's mount stayed on strongly to beat Lady Brig by ten lengths. Owned and trained by Amie's father, Simon, the ten year old is enjoying his best ever season with three consecutive wins in this grade as well as finishing a creditable 3rd behind Silver Sedge and Anshan Spirit in a Kelso Hunters Chase the previous Sunday.
Adam Nichol's decision to employ catch-me-if-you-can tactics on Frontier Lad (left) worked a treat in the Wm McIvor & Son Restricted Race. Their rivals were unable to make any impression for much of the contest and although Stark Raven tried hard to get on terms after the last, he was still a length down at the line. This was a first winner for Seahouses amateur, Nichol, 20, who is based at Rose Dobbin's South Hazelrigg yard near Chatton.
Successful in an Irish Maiden on heavy going in January 2009, the seven year old changed hands nine months later for £4200 at the Doncaster Sales and is now owned by the five strong Blue Foxes Club syndicate which includes Galston-based rider, Michael Smith and equestrian photographer, John Steven.
The Tow Law Open Maiden Race had to divided on the day with twenty one declarations and a course safety factor of eighteen. A field of eleven faced the starter in the first division and it looked as though Adam Waugh's mount, Pericam might lead all the way until he slipped up on the home turn with two to jump. Ex-hurdler, Giant's Rock was left in front but he weakened into third approaching the last behind Paint Me Silver and Dystonia's Revenge (left of picture). After being given a peach of a ride by Catherine Walton, the latter stayed on best of all up the run-in to score by three lengths on only his second career start.
Bought as an unbroken four year old for 5000 euros at Tattersalls Sales in Ireland last August, the Sheena Walton-trained gelding has the stamp of a chaser and may prove to be a shrewd investment for Wark owner, John Blacklock, who runs his own timber harvesting business.
With a couple of other horses slipping up, the stewards decided that conditions were no longer safe enough for racing to continue and so the rest of the card, comprising two open maidens plus two pony racing contests, was abandoned.
There are now only five Northern Area meetings left in this weather-ravaged season. Tristan Davidson looks certain to land the Albert Bartlett & Sons Airdrie Ltd Men's Championship for the first time as he holds a 32pts lead over Grant Cockburn, while Kelly Bryson is 21pts ahead of Amie Waugh in the Scottish Farmer Ladies Championship. Cockburn does have the consolation of leading the Lilburn Estates Novice Riders Championship by 16pts from Amie.
The Jedforest is 11pts in front of the Percy in the John Swan Ltd Hunt Awards, while Indian Print holds a slender one point advantage over Quinder Spring in the George F White Champion Horse title race which carries a first prize of £500 .