Competitive racing and close finishes were the order of the day on near perfect going in the well supported Tynedale Hunt Point-to-Point fixture at Downhills, Corbridge on Sunday. A bumper total of 72 runners faced the starter on the seven race card, a figure not surpassed in the Northern Area since the corresponding card in March 2014.
After steering Douglas Julian to victory at Kelso Races the previous day, Tom Hamilton, 19, completed a great weekend with a short-priced double on Wayupinthesky and The Gotfor Man.
Wayupinthesky (below left, grey) was highly rated in Ireland and duly delivered the goods on his first outing for Gavin Hamilton's Denholm yard in the Brewin Dolphin Men's Open Race over three miles and five furlongs. Proven stayer, Sea Scout was in the leading trio from the outset under Ross Chapman, with the favourite confidently held up in rear before making his move on the final circuit. Hamilton's mount eased past Sea Scout after two out but had to be kept up to his work on the run-in to keep his rival at bay by a neck.
Joint owner, Alison Hamilton said of the 8 year old: ''We bought him privately five weeks ago and he's been used to running on much softer ground in Ireland. He's a bit quirky at home and tends to idle in front and I told Tom to be brave and wait until the last possible moment before sending him on. He might run next in a Carlisle Hunters' Chase on March 15.''
Following a couple of near misses last term and being brought down four out when going well on his reappearance at Friars Haugh in January, The Gotfor Man (below right) deservedly got off the mark in the Metnor Property Group Open Maiden Race. Produced with a well-timed challenge to hit the front two out, the 8 year old quickly asserted and had eight lengths to spare at the line over Wave Breaker.
Annie Aces (left) defied a 14lb penalty to provide 16 year old Sam Coltherd with his second winner of the campaign in the Bond Dickinson South Northumberland Hunts Club Members Race. After being sent on with Fozy Moss from two out, Annie Aces just led over the last and held on gamely up the run-in to secure a neck verdict, with Border Flora a further length away in third.
Carrying the colours of The Pretty In Pink Partnership, the 9 year old's Melrose-based trainer, Jo Luton said: ''She was bought privately over the phone in August. I've done a lot of schooling and showjumping with her. She has really come to herself in the last couple of weeks and loved this better ground.''
Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer, Peter Beaumont was on hand to see grandson, Henry Morshead land the sixteen runner Mick Watson Memorial Open Maiden Race, which was sponsored by The Northumberland Tea Company, Strikemore Baits and Clickeminn Gun Dogs, on his home-bred 6 year old Shannon Silver (left). After disputing the lead with Whatsthestoryman from three out, Morshead's mount drew two lengths clear at the last and had enough in hand to hold off his rival's late rally to score by half a length.
This was a second career success for Morshead, 17, who is studying for his A-levels at Cheltenham College and was heading back there on the train after the meeting. He said of the youngster: ''He stays well and we came to Corbridge as we thought he would be ideally suited by the stiff uphill finish.''
Stoney completed his hat-trick in the Knight Frank NPPA Club Members Race after being given a peach of a ride by the in-form Kit Alexander (right). Victor Thompson's charge was still only fifth turning for home but picked off his rivals one by one up the home straight. Left in front when the tiring leader, Nickwillis, who was about two lengths up at the time, fell at the last, Stoney dug deep in the last fifty yards to repel Royal Mackintosh's challenge by a head.
Alexander said: ''I thought they went a bit too quick early on and Stoney was flat out all the way.''
Durban Gold (left) fulfilled the promise shown when third at Alnwick a fortnight ago by snatching the Bedmax Ladies Open Race from Radharc Na Mara. In a stamina-sapping contest run over the extended trip of three miles and five furlongs, Joanna Walton's mount was still three lengths down at the last but met it perfectly, landed running and finally overhauled the leader in the shadow of the post to win by a neck, with Sharivarry five lengths away in third. Bonchester Bridge-based owner/trainer, Di Walton said of the 8 year old: ''She has done plenty of hunting since we got her in November but is very idle at home. She is a big, strapping mare and must have enjoyed carrying only 10st 7lb here.''
The unfancied Boy In Bangkok (right, red and green), who was bred to be a sprinter, gave Ganton-based handler, Venetia Wrigley a winner with her first runner in the fifteen runner Askham Bryan College Restricted Race. Sharpened up by cheekpieces and appreciating better ground, the 9 year old kept finding more when the chips were down to beat Mister D by a couple of lengths in the hands of son, Ed. ''That was totally unexpected,'' commented owner, Nicholas Wrigley, who had decided to leave his prolific winner, Gunner Jack in the horsebox as the ground was not soft enough for his intended seasonal debut in the preceding Men's Open contest.
The main point-to-point action was preceded by three pony races, all sponsored by Eastmoor House Livery and Equestrian Services. The opening event for ponies 138cm and under resulted in another easy win for Little Anne (below left) ridden by 14 year old Charlie Todd. Tigga (Marnie Green) finished runner-up with Clonross Star (Nick Barratt-Aitkin) in third.
The first division of the 148cm and under contest went to 13 year old Connor Murtagh on Pick Pocket (below middle), with The Mumbler (Ella McCain) in second and Lyle Rio (Finnley Green) in third place.
The second division of the 148cm and under contest went to 11 year old Archie George Frank on Judge Fox (below right), with Little Bull (Abbie McCain) in second and Perfect Place (Bruce Lynn) in third spot.