Racegoers enjoyed some top-class action on a very mild afternoon at the Ratcheugh Farm course, near Alnwick, on Sunday, where 53 runners faced the starter on a six-race card hosted by the West Percy Hunt.
Almost six years to the day since making his racecourse debut in a Chepstow Bumper, Winged Crusader took his career tally under all codes to eight in the Lycetts Ladies' Open. Amie Waugh's mount was lying twenty lengths third behind Iron Chancellor (Jess Bedi) with a circuit to go but had reduced the gap to two lengths approaching four out. Iron Chancellor still had the call at the final fence, but Winged Crusader rallied gamely on the flat to edge in front inside the last fifty yards and score by three-quarters of a length, with Abbeyview a further four lengths away in third.
Amie said: "They went very quick and, although he has a high cruising speed, he was out of his comfort zone. Iron Chancellor was more fluent at the last but Winged Crusader responded well for me on the run-in," while her father Simon, who owns the 11-year-old, added: "A visor has sharpened him up again and he seems in better form than ever this season. He is likely to run next in a Hunters' Chase at Musselburgh or Wetherby on Saturday 2nd February."
The odds-on favourite Monte Alban provided Joe Wright with a 25th career winner between the flags in the Northumberland Pellet Company Restricted. However, it was not all plain sailing and the six-year-old had a prolonged duel down the home straight with Oakham raider Templepoint (Rory Bevin) before asserting close home to secure a half-length verdict.
Middleham-based trainer Justin Landy said: "He'll appreciate more cut in the ground and a longer trip but is heading the right way and still learning the game. The main target this season is the Buccleuch Cup Maiden Hunters' Chase at Kelso on Monday 8th April."
Nick Orpwood extended his lead in the Albert Bartlett (Airdrie) Ltd Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship with a third win of the season, on the Tony Dobbin-trained mare Worcester Pearmain in the Carrs Billington West Percy Hunt Members' race. In a slowly run affair, the nine-year-old was never headed and cruised home twelve lengths ahead of her solitary rival, Frankies Fire (Charlotte Tailford).
Gran Paradiso caused an upset in the Joiners Arms Men's Open under a positive ride from Ross Wilson. Always travelling well, the seven-year-old went on three out and turned the closing stages into a procession. Warwickshire raider Ardkilly Witness (Will Thirlby) kept on well to finish eight lengths second, with long-time leader, Boa Island (Tom Greenwood) a further eight lengths away in third.
This Galileo gelding started his career with two runs on the Flat from Aidan O'Brien's yard, carrying the colours of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs John Magnier. Subsequently, his only success in 11 starts under Rules from Micky Hammond's yard came in a 2m4f Sedgefield Novices' Hurdle in August 2016. He was bought out of Dan Skelton's yard for only £800 at Doncaster Sales last May by Sanquhar-based owner/trainer Norman Sanderson.
Five-time National Ladies' Champion jockey Gina Andrews took her career tally under all codes to 270, comprising 208 between the flags and 62 under Rules, with a double on Donnie Brasco and Kalabaloo, both trained by her husband, Tom Ellis.
Donnie Brasco looked a class act on his debut in the Hazelrigg Racing Open Maiden and had things under control after hitting the front four out. Despite almost walking through the last, the six-year-old recovered well and galloped all the way to the line to beat Sommervieu (Philip Armson) by four lengths, with the promising Costly Dream a further length away in third. The winner is now likely to head straight to the Sales.
Kalabaloo recorded a very popular victory in the concluding ROR Retraining of Racehorses Conditions race carrying the colours of Shona Westrope, whose sister lives near Alnwick. As expected, Relax soon established a big lead but began to tire after five out before being headed up the hill after the next. Gina's mount led over three out and, in receipt of 10lb from Matts Commission (Jack Teal), kept that rival at bay down the home straight to score by two-and-a-half lengths, with Lord Usher (Kate Leckenby) a further six lengths away in third.
This was a 50th career training success for Tom Ellis, who is based near Rugby. His in-form yard has sent out five winners and had six placings from 15 runners this term, and another trip north to Sheriff Hutton is on the agenda next Sunday.
The next Northern Area fixture is the Jedforest at Friars Haugh, Kelso, on Sunday 27th January.