Cave Hunter (left) is the one they all have to beat in the Men's Open Race which has 15 entries. Tom Hamilton's mount has won 9 of his last 13 starts and signed off last term by landing hunters' chases at Hexham and Kelso in great style. Course winners, Mister Splodge and Sea Scout usually go well fresh. Sarah Easterby's yard is likely to be represented by ex-chaser, Camden or Monsieur Jourdain. The latter has won the last three renewals of the Grimthorpe Gold Cup but is yet to score first time out. The locally trained Crazy Diamond is unbeaten in 4 Pointing starts, including 3 at Alnwick, graduating with ease from Maiden to Open company last term. Subsequently, after finishing a half length 2nd in a slowly run Buccleuch Cup, he trailed in a disappointing 9th in the 'Heart' at Hexham.
The 2015/16 Northern Area point-to-point season gets under way on Sunday 13th December with the Ratcheugh Racing Club fixture at the Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick.
It has attracted a total of 92 entries, including 11 from Victor Thompson's Newton-by-the-Sea yard, on a six race card which starts at 12 noon.
The 12 entries for the opening NPPA Club Members Race include course winners, Dun Faw Good (right), Sea Scout and Stoney, as well as Durban Gold and the former Martin Todhunter-trained chaser, Allanard. Dun Faw Good landed an Alnwick Maiden and Friars Haugh Restricted in March before posting a career best effort when finishing one and a quarter lengths 3rd to Cave Hunter in the Heart Of All England Maiden Hunters' Chase at Hexham. Prolific winner, Sea Scout has a good record first time out, while Durban Gold has 24lb more to carry than she did when successful in Ladies Open contests at Corbridge and Dalston last term. Allanard's last three chase wins were all on soft or heavy going and so Gemma Anderson's new inmate should find conditions to his liking.
The two and a half mile Open Maiden Race for 4,5 & 6 year olds has 20 entries and it is worth noting that Will Easterby partnered Ballymartin King and Ardenlee Lad to victory in the 2013 and 2014 renewals. He relies on the lightly raced Freddy Coole this time, with his mount gaining valuable experience in 2 bumpers and 1 outing over hurdles earlier this year. Of the others, Boost The Power, For Yes, Mafate Fortin and The Queens Posse were all placed in this grade last time out. 92-rated hurdler, Just Chilly finished a close 5th at Wetherby in January and should appreciate the drop in class, while 4 year old Summoned should have a fitness advantage over most of his rivals after three starts between the flags in Ireland in October.
The 13 Ladies Open entries are headed by Emma Todd's mount, Nowurhurlin, who accounted for Darsi Dancer and Cappa Bleu when landing a Kelso Hunters' Chase in January and was also placed in 5 of his other 6 starts. The aforementioned Dun Faw Good will have 14lb less to carry if tackling Ladies Open company for the first time rather than the Club Members. Beggar's Velvet, Damiens Dilemma and Whiteabbey (left) all won at least 3 times last season and merit serious consideration along with Jacqueline Coward's new recruit, Frontier Spirit. The latter, who was once a 135-rated chaser, recorded 5 of his 6 wins under Rules on soft or heavy going. 16 year old Abbie McCain finished 2nd on her first ride under Rules on Danceintothelight at Ludlow a month ago and could make her debut between the flags on Dunowen Point or Mattara. Experienced campaigner Dunowen Point recorded the last of his 6 wins under Rules almost 3 years ago, while Mattara won the Oldcastle Winner Of One contest under Jamie Codd on his last outing in April.
The Open Maiden Race has 18 entries and, on paper, the one to beat is 110-rated hurdler, Greensalt. Placed 9 times from 10 starts under Rules, he was only beaten four lengths when last seen at Hexham in April. Catchamat (right, yellow and red colours) improved with every run last season and found only Chandos too good at Mosshouses in May. Danehills Well finished runner-up over hurdles at Hexham in June, while Cheshire raider, Way Over (also entered at Larkhill on Sunday) was beaten twenty five lengths when runner-up to Crazy Diamond in the corresponding race last year and hasn't run since.
The ex-Irish hurdler and chaser, Lilbitluso (also entered at Larkhill on Sunday) landed a gamble for connections when scoring impressively under Gillon Crow at Cottenham a fortnight ago and the concluding Restricted Race should be a penalty kick if trainer, Joe O'Shea decides to head north. Of the other 13 entries, According To Dan was only beaten a couple of lengths by the useful Missing The Babe on his reappearance at Sheriff Hutton in January; Mickey Miller was upsides Crazy Diamond when falling two out in the 3 mile Maiden on last year's card, while 98-rated hurdler, Uppercut de L'Orne, who has been off the track for 21 months, and Hardy Oscar (right, grey) also enter calculations.