The Northern Area Point-to-Point season finally gets up and running on Sunday with the Ratcheugh Racing Club fixture at the Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick.
It has attracted a total of 111 entries (a new record for this meeting which was first staged in December 2009) and the seven race card starts at 12.00pm.
The opening Chatton Trout Fishery NPPA Conditions Race has 19 entries. Last season's dual Perth Hunters' Chase scorer, Mr Mercurial is top rated but has to carry a 10lb penalty. Will Ramsay's stable star, who is also entered later on the card in the Men's
Open and Conditions Races, has shown his best form on a sound surface. Former 164-rated chaser, Foxrock is well treated by the race conditions as he doesn't have to carry a penalty. Alex Duncan's mount made most of the running until headed on the flat when
runner-up in the 2019 renewal of the Grimthorpe Gold Cup and this looks an easier assignment.
Of the others, course winner, Worcester Pearmain (right, pink) completed an early season hat-trick last term and will be a first ride between the flags for Ben Smoult. Proven stayer, Wayupinthesky rarely finishes out of the first four; Monte Alban was unbeaten in three
starts up to Intermediate level last season; Costly Dream is progressing nicely and scored twice at Friars Haugh last term, while Son of Suzie is an interesting new recruit for Amie Waugh. The latter, successful three times under Rules from Fergal O'Brien's
yard between December 2013 and June 2016, landed a Howick Conditions Race first time out in February from Anne Rimell's yard.
The PJR Blewitt Ladies Open Race promises to be a high quality affair with half of the 20 entries boasting a three-figure rating. Irish Anthem (left) was unbeaten in three starts last season and Nantwich trainer, Joe O'Shea is sure to have his charge primed to
make a winning reappearance. Buck Dancing, Nine Altars and Winged Crusader have produced their best form on a sound surface. Buck Dancing won 4 of his 5 Points last season under Jess Bedi, clocking some impressive speed figures in the process, before scoring
under Rules at Southwell and Perth. Nine Altars was restricted to a couple of outings in May and ran a blinder when two lengths 2nd to Racing Pulse in a valuable 3m2f Kelso Hunters' Chase. Last season's National Champion Horse, Winged Crusader has won on all four previous visits to Alnwick.
The ultra consistent Abbeyview won four times last term under Laura Fenwick and should again be in the mix. Kelso specialist, Landecker and the former Sue Smith-trained gelding, Dartford Warbler merit respect in this grade, while The Dellercheckout once
changed hands for a considerable six-figure sum.
The British Racecourse Bookmakers Association Men's Open Race has 12 entries and the one they all have to beat is Warwickshire raider, Don Poli. This dual Cheltenham Festival winner also landed the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December 2015 off
a career high mark of 167. He finished 3rd to Don Cossack in the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup and will be the first horse to line up at Alnwick on the back of outings in the Grand National and at the Punchestown Festival.
Dark Mahler won Opens at Askham Bryan (2) and Witton Castle earlier this year, while stable companion, Point The Way was a 117-rated chaser for Brian Ellison. The latter won 5 of his 17 starts under Rules but has been off the track for twenty one months.
Jess Bedi's new recruit, Eagle Lion has very few miles on the clock for a nine-year-old, however this 128-rated winning hurdler has an eighteen month lay-off to overcome. Proven stayers, One Conemara (left, green) and Things Change rarely finish out of the frame, while
Sambremont earned an Irish Pointing rating of 105 when landing Opens at Portrush and Loughbrickland in May 2018 and April 2019 respectively.
The aforementioned quintet of Foxrock, Mr Mercurial (10lb penalty), Son of Suzie (3lb penalty), Wayupinthesky (3lb penalty) and Worcester Pearmain (3lb penalty) figure among the 17 entries for the Geoff Allen Catering Conditions Race. Prolific Yorkshire
winner, Path To Freedom faces a stiff task under a 10lb penalty, while Killer Crow, Rushour Ryan (right) and Snow Castle also merit consideration. Rushour Ryan galloped his rivals into submission at Tranwell last time out and has scope for further improvement. Killer
Crow has been working well at home for his new owner/trainer, Jack Clark. Snow Catle hasn't finished out of the first two in eight starts since joining Guy Brewer's yard and posted a career-best effort when two lengths 2nd to Hafajay in the Heart Of All England
Maiden Hunters' Chase at Hexham in May.
The first division of The Cook and Barker Inn Open Maiden Race has 14 entries. Olly Pimlott's youngster, Classic Lady receives weight from virtually all of her rivals and also has a fitness advantage after finishing eleven lengths 3rd to
Gale At Sea in a Toomebridge Maiden contest ten weeks ago. Solstice Twilight was beaten seven and a half lengths when 4th of 8 over this trip in a Class 4
Plumpton Handicap Hurdle in February. Dream Over (left) caught the eye when two lengths 5th to Raleagh Mountain in a 2m4f Morpeth
Maiden on her first outing over fences. The well known colours of owner/trainer, Victor Thompson make a welcome return to hunt racing with Bow Street Runner,
a 4 year old full brother to winning hurdler, Pc Dixon. Liar's Dice finished 3rd in this grade at
Curraghmore in April 2018 and is sure to be fully tuned up on his first start for Courtney Tinkler's yard.
The second division of The Cook and Barker Inn Open Maiden Race also has 14 entries. Ultimate Getaway finished runner-up on debut in February at Tinahely and is much better than subsequent form figures of 5PFP might suggest.
Al Le Gone (right) finished four lengths 6th to the aforementioned Raleagh Mountain at Tranwell and again ran well when sixteen lengths 4th to Hafajay in the 'Heart' at Hexham.
Bite The Biscuit shaped well when placed on both starts two seasons ago but has been off the track since March 2018. Of
the others, Rio Des Echanault showed promise when finishing in the first four on all three career starts to date in Ireland in a four week spell at the end of last season.
The concluding Northumbrian Print and Distribution Restricted Race (3.00pm) has 15 entries and the one that takes my eye is Serious Mood, trained by the in-form Justin Landy.
The gelding was always prominent when getting off the mark in a Belharbour Maiden in February.
That form has been franked by the runner-up, Generator City, who went one better next time out at Nenagh and has subsequently won twice under Rules.
Former eventer, Beyond Gold (left, white cap) made a belated winning debut between the flags at Corbridge in February.
Manitowoc County finished 3rd to the useful Rob The Getaway in a fast time at Sheriff Hutton in January but hasn't been seen since then.
Panthers Creek was a cosy four lengths winner of a Rathcannon Maiden contest in April before changing hands for £6,500 at Doncaster Sales the following month.
The other 11 entries include Fashionistaldy, Glassilaun and Robins Legend, who all opened their accounts in Maiden company last term.