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Ratcheugh Racing Club 14th December 2014 - By Peter Burgon
Pictures - www.p2pnorthernphotos.co.uk

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The course is located 3 miles NE of Alnwick, easily accessible from the A1 and signposted from there.
For those using Sat Nav, the post code is NE66 3AE.
The 2014/15 Northern Area point-to-point season gets under way on Sunday (December 14th) with the Ratcheugh Racing Club fixture at the Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick. It has attracted a healthy total of 99 entries, including 12 from Victor Thompson's Newton-by-the-Sea yard, on a six race card which starts at 12 noon. It deserves plenty of support with free entry on offer to all racegoers for the second year in a row.
The opening NPPA Club Members Race has 16 entries, with Tommys Lad, Two Stroke, Monogram and Sharivarry representing Thompson's stable. The latter duo should be sharper after their recent outings at Cottenham. Darsi Dancer (right) has scope for further improvement after winning his last two starts at Corbridge and Balcormo Mains in April, and the progressive Tambour Major is also eyeing a pointing hat-trick after wins at Corbridge and Hornby Castle last term.The diminutive Sea Scout usually goes well fresh but is more used to carrying 11st in Ladies Opens rather than the 12st 5lb he is set to shoulder here, while the Jimmy Walton-trained gelding, Saddle Pack also merits consideration.
The two and a half mile Open Maiden Race for 4, 5, 6 and 7 year olds has 20 entries. Afterclass is one of Nick Alexander's new recruits and must go close if reproducing the effort which saw him finish three lengths 2nd on his debut in a Galway Maiden Hurdle in October 2013. Ardenlee Lad finished runner-up in a Sedgefield Bumper in April; Darlington County finished 2nd in two of his three Maidens last term; the lightly raced Lady's Favourite is better than her form figures might suggest, while Scuderia finished a short head 2nd to the useful Patsys Castle back in January 2012.
The Ladies Open Race has 11 entries and should be a straightforward task for Ockey De Neulliac (right) in the hands of Catherine Walton. Neil Mechie's stable star won six of his nine starts last season, including pillar to post successes in hunter chases at Haydock Park and Cheltenham. He cannot be opposed here off level weights against the likes of Kelso winner, Beggars Velvet, Ocarina and Radharc Na Mara.
The aforementioned Afterclass and Ardenlee Lad are also listed in the 18 entries for the Open Maiden Race. Of the others, Filbert Fox finished in the first four in six of his seven outings in this grade two seasons ago; Heckley Herbert (right) showed plenty of promise when placed at Aspatria and Hexham in May; King Of The Dark should be spot on after a pipe-opener at Cottenham, while Joe O'Shea's Cheshire raider, Way Over also has a fitness advantage over most of his rivals after finishing 3rd at Cottenham.
There is plenty of quality among the 20 entries for the Men's Open Race, with the likes of course winners, Barachois Silver, Page One Two Nine (right), Sea Scout, The Falklander and Tommysteel along with ex-chasers, Camden, Junior, Runswick Relax, Cottage Oak and Douglas Julian. As well as finishing 3rd in the 2013 Cheltenham Foxhunters, Cottage Oak has won six times since joining Joe O'Shea and the 11 year old warmed up for Alnwick by finishing 2nd at Barbury Castle last Sunday. Camden was never headed when landing a 3m 2f Chase at Newton Abbot in April from Oliver Sherwood's yard; Runswick Relax will have been sharpened up by a spin over fences at Kelso two months ago, while former Cheltenham Festival winner, Junior, who finished seventh behind Long Run in the 2012 King George VI Chase, has seen his official rating plummet from a high of 158 to 136 but should still be a class act at this level if allowed to get his own way in front.
The concluding Restricted Race has 14 entries and could see Master Butcher strike gold on his first start for Nick Alexander. Always prominent when landing a Maiden in Ireland in April 2013, he was subsequently placed in three of his five starts under Rules for Rebecca Curtis. Of the others, Bafana Choice (right) scored at Alnwick on his reappearance in January; Ruby Bay finished runner-up in three of his last four outings under Rules for Tim Walford; Missing The Babe might have been off the track for twenty months since dead-heating for 2nd at Tabley but Joe O'Shea's charge is still expected to be in the shake up, while Iznt Getting Court also comes into the reckoning if reproducing the kind of form shown when scoring at Witton Castle in May 2012.