The Tynedale Hunt celebrates 60 continuous years of point-to-point racing at the Downhills course near Corbridge on Sunday with 108 entries on a seven race card starting at 12.30pm.
As usual, the main action will be preceded by two pony races from 11.30am. The 138cm contest over four and a half furlongs has 6 entries and the 148cm contest over six furlongs has 10 entries.
The opening Riders Conditions Race has 20 entries and can go to Leavethelighton (right), ridden by the in-form John Dawson. The gelding earned an Irish Pointing rating of 104 after winning at Ballindenisk in December 2016 and, after changing hands last year, beat Cave Hunter by three quarters of a length on his second start for Dawson's yard in the recent Berwickshire Men's Open. Tom Hamilton's prospective mounts, the unbeaten Diamond Brig (a winner here last season) and the hat-trick seeking Pieceoftheaction are also entered in the NPPA Conditions Race, while Oscar Stanley, Settledoutofcourt and Viacometti also hold entries in the Ladies Open. All 3 of the latter's Pointing victories in 2017 came on good ground, Oscar Stanley's best form in recent years has also been on a sounder surface and the experienced ex-chaser, Settledoutofcourt is proving to be an ideal schoolmaster for Ailsa McClung, who leads the Northern Area Novice Riders Championship. The evergreen Forge Valley (also in the 3m5f Men's Open) was only headed near the finish when one and a half lengths 2nd to Solid Strike in last year's contest, while recent Berwickshire scorer, Pyjama Game and Scarlet Fire, who won five in a row in 2014, also merit consideration.
There are 11 entries in the Open Maiden Race for 4,5,6 and 7 year olds. Coomacarrea, owned by Ailsa and Ben Speke, caught the eye when fifth to the useful Sir Lonica on her debut at Sheriff Hutton last month and looks the one to beat. Better ground will suit Koala Keel (left) and Matthew Man, who have both been placed in this grade at Friars Haugh in 2018, Midnightmistress has changed hands since finishing fifteen lengths 2nd at Larkhill last April, while Slanemore Hill finished fifteen lengths 3rd to Worcester Pearmain on his second career start at Alnwick earlier this month.
The Ladies Open (18 entries) reverts back to three miles after being run over the extended three mile five furlong trip for more than 30 years. Knocklong is top rated and his jockey, Charlotte Crane will now be heading to Corbridge with Askham Bryan abandoned. Laura Fenwick's mount, Abbeyview, who finished a close 2nd to Knocklong at Alnwick last time, can defy a 7lb penalty. As well as the aforementioned quartet of Oscar Stanley, Scarlet Fire, Settledoutofcourt (right) and Viacometti, winning 2 mile hurdler, Nine Altars also warrants a mention after running well for a long way when 4th in a recent high class 3m2f Musselburgh Hunters' Chase
Proven stayers, One Conemara, Cave Hunter and Forge Valley head the 12 entries in the featured Men's Open Race for the coveted William Bell Gold Cup. John Dawson's mount, One Conemara won this race in 2016 and 2017 as well as the 4m1f Grimthorpe Gold Cup in the same years and looked as good as ever when making virtually all the running to beat Ardea at Sheriff Hutton last month. Prolific winner, Cave Hunter (left) (12 from 17 between the flags in Niel Manning's colours) scored over a shorter trip on both previous visits to Corbridge in March 2014 and April 2015, while Forge Valley, who finished three lengths 3rd to Leavethelighton at Friars Haugh on his seasonal debut, was runner-up in the 2014 renewal. The pick of the other 9 entries are Whats Left and ex-Irish chaser, Thomond.
There are 21 entries for the NPPA Conditions Race including the aforementioned Diamond Brig, Pieceoftheaction, Scarlet Fire, Thomond and Whats Left. Of the others, the useful Weston Flame (also entered at Askham Bryan) returned from a year on the sidelines to beat Dynamic Island at Alnwick earlier in the month; 128-rated chaser, Pass The Hat raced against the likes of Irish Cavalier and Cantlow in Ireland, while the progressive Glittering Love (right) is on a hat-trick following his recent Friars Haugh victories.
Chanceiton and Worcester Pearmain head the 14 entries for the Restricted Race. The former, best on a sound surface, got off the mark in a fast time at Alnwick in December before finding the going too soft when placed twice at Friars Haugh. After a couple of narrow defeats, Worcester Pearmain (left) deservedly got her head in front at Alnwick earlier in the month and should be ideally suited by this stayers track. Course winners, Lord Usher and Sorcier were placed last time out at Duncombe Park and Friars Haugh respectively, while the consistent Taylormade Boy could also be in the mix.
There are more letters than numbers in the recent form figures for most of the 12 entries in the concluding 8 year olds and over Open Maiden Race. One of the exceptions is Mr Pepperpot, who was only beaten a length by Snow Castle on his belated debut at Duncombe Park. Steel's Cotton was not beaten far when placed in three Mares Maidens in Ireland in 2015; Cheshire raider, Fair Exchange will appreciate better ground and needs a change of luck after being brought down on the first circuit at Bangor-on-Dee last Sunday, while Emory (right) was not disgraced when fifth in a stronger Maiden contest at Alnwick last time.
The course is situated 3 miles north of Corbridge,
with access off the B6318 and a separate exit road to the A68. For SatNav users,