Despite attracting only 73 entries, the lowest figure for a Northumbrian meeting in more than 20 years, the College Valley & North Northumberland Hunt still managed to stage a successful seven race card at the Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick on Sunday. On perfect going, a total of 47 runners faced the starter on one of the warmest March afternoons that anyone could remember.
Tristan Davidson, 33 the following day, enjoyed an early birthday present with a treble on the Victor Thompson-trained geldings, Senor Alco, Sharivarry and Gin Cobbler.
Senor Alco (right,at the last) initiated the treble and at the same time provided Davidson with his 75th career winner between the flags in the Bedmax NPPA Club Members Race. Content to allow Silent Cliche and Best Profile to cut out most of the running, Davidson's mount was delivered with a perfectly timed challenge to hit the front three out before going on to score by four lengths. Davidson said of the 6 year old winner: ''He jumped a bit flat at his fences but has got a great engine.''
Master Sebastian (left,at the last) secured a first success since February 2008 on his 45th career outing in the Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members Race for Novice Riders. The evergreen 13 year old was never headed on the final circuit and had ten lengths to spare at the line over Marfleet, with course winner, Farriers Flight a further four lengths away in third on his belated seasonal debut. Carrying the well known colours of Peter Russell, the winner was well ridden by his trainer, Rachael McDonald, who said: ''He was brilliant and all he does is stay.''
Master Sebastian's career stretches back to November 2003 when he finished runner-up in an Ayr National Hunt Flat Race on his debut. All six wins prior to Sunday, comprising five handicap chases and a novices hurdle, had been gained on soft or heavy going.
Sharivarry (right,on run to the line) enhanced his reputation with a second course and distance victory in the Dickinson Dees Restricted Race. Given another patient ride, he gradually pegged back last week's Charm Park scorer, Beau D'Argent from three out before taking it up after the last and winning by a length.
Catherine Walton lifted her seasonal tally to a new personal best of 7 on New Alco (left, at the last) in the UBS Ladies Open Race, her only ride of the day. She didn't have an anxious moment on the 11 year old gelding, who led all the way and strolled home ten lengths ahead of Kisha King, looking as though he could have gone round again. Trainer, Tory Hayter said of her charge: ''He is gaining in confidence every time he runs and ideally I would like to give Catherine another pointing win or two before possibly going for the AGA Ladies Final at Cheltenham in May.''
Walton is in her 3rd season working for trainer, Ferdy Murphy, at whose yard she rides out Charingworth and will be going down to see him run at this week's Cheltenham Festival.''
Hawick trainer, Alastair Bell made it four winners from four runners this year, with Buckstruther (right, at the last) justifying odds-on favouritism in the Bonhams Sporting Men's Open Race. His charge had eight lengths to spare over ex-chaser, See You There. However, the 10 year old didn't have things all his own way, as jockey, Jamie Hamilton explained: ''He sulked a bit coming up the hill from four out and I had to work a bit harder than expected to get back in front of See You There at the second last.''
Gin Cobbler's success (left at the last) in the first division of the R K Harrison Insurance Brokers Ltd Open Maiden Race provided Davidson and Thompson with their 7th winner of the season. The 6 year old made smooth headway from four out to lead at the next and forged clear down the home straight to beat Who'slaughingnow by a distance. The youngster was one of a quartet bought privately in September from former Crook trainer, Howard Johnson and all of them have won in the last two months. Thompson said: ''He took off with Tristan on his last run at Alnwick but settled and travelled much better today.''
After steering Talkin Thomas to victory over hurdles at Newcastle five days earlier, Joey Richards rounded off a good week by landing the second division of the Collingwood Arms Open Maiden Race on Accordingtotheboss (right, at the last). Always going well, her mount was sent on two out and stayed on strongly to account for Dust Packer by five lengths. Joey's father, Nicky remarked: ''I bought him at Fairyhouse as an unraced 3 year old but he didn't show much over hurdles and this is more his level. He'll probably have a new owner next season but it certainly won't be JP McManus!''
For the record, this season's four meetings at the Ratcheugh Farm course have attracted a total of 260 runners, and the excellent racing racing surface is a credit to Clerk of the Course, Tom Oates and his team.