The Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick was in great condition for Sunday's Percy fixture, with the official going of Good to Soft, Good in the home straight, probably the best ground seen anywhere in the North this year. It saw a total of 57 runners, including 14 Yorkshire raiders, contest the seven race card.
On an afternoon dominated by course specialists, Sea Scout (right) sailed in to extend his unbeaten record at the track to three in the Owen Pugh Ladies Open Race. The ten year old might be small in stature but on his day is a tough nut to crack and benefited from a positive front-running ride by Claire Metcalfe. After being sent clear a mile from home, he looked in trouble when joined four out by Newyearsresolution before sealing a three lengths victory with a slicker jump at the last.
Metcalfe, who opened her account on Admission at Alnwick in February 1996, has partnered Sea Scout to all nine career wins and said of him: ''He was suited by the strong pace and being able to dominate. After starting to idle in front, he picked up again as soon as Amie Waugh's horse came upsides four out.'' His next target is the Tynedale Ladies Open over three miles and five furlongs at Corbridge on Sunday March 3.
There was a poignant first career winner for Hamish McNeill, 17, on John Adam's evergreen ex-chaser, See You There (right, blue colours) in the Bonhams Men's Open Race. However, after heading Naiad Du Misselot two out, it took a miraculous recovery by McNeill to keep the partnership intact and his mount rallied again to score by a couple of lengths.
McNeill, cousin of the late Campbell Gillies, has been attached to Lucinda Russell's Milnathort yard for nine months and said: ''I thought I was going out the side door after that blunder. I lost a stirrup and had both legs on the same side for a while but fortunately he landed straight. He is a very honest horse and it's great to get the chance to ride such an experienced campaigner.''
Native Coll (right) brushed aside a 6lb penalty to record his third course win in the G A Smith Bulk Haulage NPPA Club Members Race in the capable hands of Kit Alexander. Bowling along in front from the off, he never put a foot wrong and forged clear from four out to beat Viking Rebel by a dozen lengths. In-form owner/trainer, Nick Alexander said of his 13 year old charge: ''That is probably as good as he has ever run in his life.''
There was an upset in the Warcup Law Firm Open Maiden Race when the unfancied Murphys Beau (right) finally broke his duck at the 34th attempt. After taking it up at the second fence on the final circuit, Chris Dawson's mount kept Filbert Fox at bay down the home straight to win by five lengths. The 11 year old, trained at East Witton by Susan Foster, had been placed eight times in the last two seasons, including twice at Alnwick, and gone well first time out previously.
Dawson said: ''Hopefully I will get the chance to ride him again. I still hadn't moved a muscle at the top of the hill before three out and couldn't believe we were as far in front. It's a relief to finally ride a winner at Alnwick after years of trying.''
Another East Witton trainer, Gillian Smith had earlier seen her only pointer, Know The Rules (right) land a second course success in the Jill Kelly and John Blades Restricted Race. Well ridden by son, Ian, the gelding never looked like being caught after engaging overdrive a mile from home, eventually crossing the line fifteen lengths in front of Tommys Lad.
Big Whitfield quickly established a big lead in the Ryecroft Glenton two and a half mile Open Maiden Race before weakening up the hill after four out and being headed at the next by Bafana Choice and Moscow Menace (right). The latter was more fluent at the final fence and stayed on strongly under Jamie Hamilton to win by two lengths. Bafana Choice was subsequently disqualified from second place for taking the wrong course before four out, with the promising Call Mrs Jones promoted from third. The Katie Scott-trained winner was bought for £2500 as an unbroken three year old at the Doncaster Spring Store Sales in May 2010, on the same day as stable companion, Raid Stane was picked up.
Newton-by-the-Sea owner/trainer, Victor Thompson and jockey, Tristan Davidson belatedly opened their 2013 accounts with Tommysteel in the North East Livestock Sales and Ward Hadaway Percy and West Percy Members Race. In a very slowly run affair, thirty seconds slower than the Open Maiden Race to be precise, Tommysteel led three out and kept on well in the closing stages to outpoint the favourite, Coquet Head by two and a half lengths. Davidson said: ''He was left in the horsebox at Crossford last week due to the testing conditions but was always going well here and needs better ground.''