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Northern Area 2011/12 Preview By Peter Burgon

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The new point-to-point season kicks off in the North with the inaugural Ratcheugh Racing Club meeting at Alnwick on Sunday December 11.
The Braes of Derwent fixture at Corbridge on April 22 will again offer the best prize money in the Northern Area with a record total of 2850 up for grabs, including a first prize of 350 in the featured Men's and Ladies' Open Races, while the popular Cumberland Farmers card has the prime Easter Monday slot for the first time.
Admission prices for the eighteen Northern Area meetings have been held at last season's levels and offer excellent value for money, at either 10 per person including a racecard or 8 per person, with racecards available for 2.
Pony racing is an added attraction at the Tynedale, Eglinton L&R, Morpeth, Cumberland Farmers, Lauderdale and Haydon fixtures.
Tristan Davidson, 32, (right) is favourite to land the Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship for the third season in a row, with plenty of quality rides for Newton-by-the-Sea owner/trainer, Victor Thompson.
Even though prolific winner, Indian Print is currently on the sidelines with a leg injury, Thompson has strengthened his hand with a quartet from Howard Johnson's yard, comprising Senor Alco, Monogram, Gin Cobbler and the unraced 4 year old gelding, Mandarin Sunset. The former has been placed in bumpers and over hurdles, while Monogram has notched up two wins and five placings from eight outings under Rules.
In addition, Chosen Keys, Tommysteel and Sharivarry, who were purchased earlier this year at Doncaster Sales, have several placings between them in Irish Points, while the former Dessie Hughes-trained maiden hurdler, Mr Shahady is another one to follow.
Thompson's son, Mark also aims to keep the family flag flying with Victory Surge, Vannin and Maura My Love being campaigned by him from an adjoining yard. The former, purchased at Cheltenham Sales for 6500 out of Jonjo O'Neill's yard, has winning form over hurdles and fences, while the lightly raced 5 year old gelding, Vannin finished runner-up in three bumpers before being placed over hurdles at Hexham in March 2010.

Belsay-based owner/rider, Drew Holmes enjoyed four wins last season on Bafana Boy (left) and Stark Raven, and further success should come his way with Silent Cliche, bought privately in May from Howard Johnson. This 124-rated chaser and 121-rated hurdler was placed in six of his ten starts under Rules and once finished 4th to Restless Harry at Cheltenham.
The reigning Northern Area Novice Riders' champion, Kit Alexander, 19, (right) will again be taking time off from his studies at Durham University to partner winning chaser, Commercial Express and Flaming Thistle. The latter finished out of the frame in all seven starts under Rules from Nicky Richards' yard but should appreciate a change of scenery and being dropped in class.
Kit's uncle, Jamie Alexander is also worth noting in hunter chases with Massini Man, who was purchased for 6500 at Doncaster Sales in August. The 10 year old scored over fences at Ffos Las and Fakenham in February having previously won three times between the flags.
Milnathort trainer, Lucinda Russell enjoyed a nap hand of pointing wins with ex-chaser, Badger Foot in 2011 and the less experienced Georges Street carries her hopes this time. Bought privately out of Tom Taaffe's yard in October, this 5 year old Kings Theatre gelding showed promise in bumpers, twice finishing 4th.

Kelly Bryson, 25, aiming to land the Northern Area Ladies Championship for the fourth time in five seasons, has a promising team of mainly French-bred youngsters to partner for Bonchester Bridge-based handler, Philippa Shirley-Beavan. Sorcier, a 5 year old half brother to former top chaser Natal, scored impressively on his hunt racing debut at Corbridge in March and has the scope to run up a sequence of wins this term. Others to note are Riz Au Lait and a couple of unraced geldings who were bought as foals in France. Philippa has a record second to none when it comes to producing a horse fit enough to score first time out and if she sends any runners to Alnwick in December the hint should be taken.