The longest spell of wintry weather for 30 years has finally relented and the 2010 Northern Area point-to-point season will hopefully get back on track at Alnwick and Kelso.
Many people were sceptical over the decision to hold a December meeting at Alnwick but it was a resounding success with 76 runners on the seven race card - the highest total at a Northern Area fixture since March 2008.
Hexham-based amateur,Andrew Richardson aims to land the Men's Jockeys Championship for a record-breaking 4th season in a row.He has indicated that he might retire from race-riding to concentrate on training when he reaches 100 winners. Currently on a career total of 74, comprising 73 between the flags and 1 under Rules, he should attain the magical three figure mark during the 2011 campaign at his current strike rate.
Richardson will again be partnering the likes of Ardnaclancy
(right, winning at Mosshouses in 2009),
Risky Rhythm and Ha'penny Jo. Stable star, Ardnaclancy is
expected to reappear at the Jedforest fixture on February 6th
where he won first time out last season. David Carr has taken
out his training permit again and so has the option of running
the useful Coastley over hurdles and fences.
Wark handler, Sheena Walton will be campaigning the ultra-consistent Clintburn (left, winning at Friars Haugh in 2009 under Catherine Walton) along with four or five unraced youngsters. However, the yard's star, Dr Hellier is on the sidelines this year after breaking down in a Cartmel Hunter Chase last May.
A trio to follow from Clive Storey's Halterburnhead yard near Yetholm are Anotherbuck, Oh So Perky and Hasper. The former landed an Irish Maiden as well as finishing runner-up 3 times from 5 starts last term before changing hands for a five figure sum at the Doncaster May Sales. He was up with the leaders when unseating four out in My Final Bid's race at Alnwick in December.
Oh So Perky is reported well forward and worth an interest first time out, while the evergreen Hasper, a dual Hunter Chase scorer in 2009, might not reappear until the second half of February having only returned to Storey's yard on January 20th from his owner's farm at Haydon Bridge.
Iveston farrier, Russell Ross is the only trainer in the North to have sent out a 4 year old winner between the flags in each of the last three seasons. His team is spearheaded by
Sea Scout (seen below) who should be a force in Ladies Open contests with last year's arch rival,Minouchka now running under Rules.
Others to watch out for are Whittington scorer, Jerry Hamilton (right)
as well as the lightly raced, Paint Me Silver and Major Catch.
It is worth noting that the latter's three victories under Rules all
came on soft or heavy going.
Cumbrian amateur,Tristan Davidson needs only one more winner for his career half century (40 in Points and 9 under Rules to date) and has an exciting prospect in his yard in the shape of the ex-Irish pointer, Aikman who galloped the opposition into submission at Alnwick. Davidson will again be stable jockey for Victor Thompson's Newton-by-the-Sea stable which enjoyed a memorable 2009 campaign with 7 winners and a further 34 horses placed in the first four from a total of 84 runners. Five to follow this term are Anns Benefit, Salveo, Indian Print, Seaview Lass and Moor Red.
Dix Villez (right) is the flag-bearer for Simon Waugh's Mitford yard and the 11 year old looked the part when dead-heating with Lord Who in the December Men's Open at Alnwick. He could make his mark in Hunter Chases this Spring, while ex-hurdler, Grande Monsieur was noted finishing strongly when four lengths 2nd to Cat Six at Alnwick. Stable companions, High Five and Benny Boy should also go well for Amie and Simon Waugh respectively.
The Wendy Hamilton-trained gelding, Waterford looked in need of the run when 3rd to My Final Bid at Alnwick and should be spot on next time, while stablemate, Lady Brig will not be far away in Ladies Open company on any of the stayers tracks.
Tim Reed has high hopes for the promising Chester Ridge (left) who will come on a lot for his seasonal pipe-opener behind Nectar De Guye at Alnwick, while the former Nicky Henderson-trained Run For Moor
is much better than his Alnwick run might suggest.
A couple of others who caught my eye in the 2.5 mile Maiden Races at Alnwick were Dust Packer and Coole Murphy. The former, a 6 year Bach gelding trained by Jane Hollands, finished in the first four in all three Irish points in 2009 (within 5 lengths of the winner each time) and kept on well when 4th to Cat Six. The well related Coole Murphy, owned and trained by Longhorsley-based Clare Moore, was sent off second favourite on his debut in Ashtonmore's race and was not disgraced in finishing 5th with the likelihood of further improvement next time.