The North Staffordshire meeting took place on a gloriously sunny, but cool, day. The course had been watered overnight to produce good ground, and 37 runners went to post for the seven races.
The main highlight on the day was a double for trainer Joe O’Shea and his rider Henry Crow, courtesy of Irish Anthem in the Members and Willewonga in the Maiden. There were also first point-to-point wins for Toby Wynne on Crazy Jack in the Conditions race, and Jack Martin on Snowy Clouds in the concluding Bumper.
In the Members, the 13-year-old Irish Anthem was held up and easily picked off the long-time leader Sambremont before leaving the back straight and had eight lengths to spare at the line. In the Maiden, Willewonga took it up at the third last and fought off the late challenge of Ed Glassonbury aboard Forest Chimes, eventually winning by a neck. The five-year-old is owned by the stable’s Head Lass, Hannah Roach, and was bought privately from Will Kinsey about 18 months ago.
In the two-mile five-furlongs Conditions race, O’Shea and Crow had long odds-on favourite Behind Times to complete a treble, but the horse was never travelling and could only finish fourth. Toby Wynne took it up on the veteran Crazy Jack at the eighth and fought off the challenge of the maiden Go On Chez to win by half-a-length. The winner, whose last win was in a Stratford hunter chase in June 2018, is owned and trained by Ann Hewitt, who was represented here by Gillon Crow. The 18-year-old jockey, who is Oliver Greenall’s amateur rider, was having his first point winner in his third season, but he did win two hunter chases on Just A Par last year and looks to have a promising future.
The meetings first ever Flat race for younger horses had nine runners and it provided an exciting finish, with the judge unable to separate Jack Martin on Snowy Clouds and Ben Bromley on Another Brown Bear, resulting in a dead heat. This was a first winner for 22-year-old Martin, from Dundalk in Ireland, who works for Philip Hobbs and was persuaded by his cousin, champion jockey Brian Hughes, to come to the UK. The five-year-old Snowy Clouds is owned and trained by Brian Harding and his partner Kelly Gale at Blencow in Cumbria, and continued Harding’s 100% strike-rate in points having trained Senor Lombardy to win at Alnwick before Christmas. The trainer had broken the horse and then acquired him for £7,500 at Trevor Hemmings’ dispersal sale at Doncaster.
The joint winner Another Brown Bear, who was acquired by David Minton for George Barlow at the 2019 Spring Store Sales for £55,000, is trained by Phil Rowley. Both geldings look exciting prospects to follow moving forward.
Lorna Brooke enjoyed her first ride on the Ludlow hunter chase winner Garde Ville in the Mixed Open, beating solitary rival Sir Antony Brown by an easy seven lengths.
In the Intermediate, the Luke Price-trained French Piece had a facile win in beating Donjon by 10 lengths, with his only other rival Master Hide some 25 lengths back in third. The winner, who won a maiden and restricted in 2019 but missed last season, was a third success over the weekend for owner Jason Warner, who enjoyed a double the previous day at Higham courtesy of Thumb Stone Blues and Ahead Of The Game.
The older horse PPORA Conditions race saw Sausalito Sunrise take it up a mile out and win comfortably by four lengths from Optimised. The winner had not run since finishing down the field behind It Came To Pass in the 2020 Cheltenham Foxhunters. The veteran was ridden by John Smith-Maxwell for his mother, Katherine, and is trained by his sister Alexandra Dunn, who was saddling runners at Newton Abbot.