Weather permitting, the Northern Area point-to-point season is set to continue with the re-arranged West Percy fixture at the Ratcheugh Farm course near Alnwick on Saturday 31st January. Free entry is once again on offer to all racegoers with the first of seven races off at 12.00pm.
The concluding West Percy and Percy Members Race has 5 entries, including Bafana Choice and Pyjama Game. Ex-chaser, Ballyvesey (left) won 2 Opens last season for Drew Holmes and should be competitive in this grade, while course winner, Monogram has the benefit of an outing at Cottenham in November in his favour.
The track has been reinstated since the December meeting with all bends moved to fresh ground.
Winning Irish pointer, Master Butcher (right) was quite impressive when scoring by fifteen lengths on his first start for Nick Alexander's yard in the Ratcheugh Racing Club Restricted and a follow up is on the cards under son, Kit in the NPPA Club Members Race. The form of that Alnwick contest was franked when Fureys Bar, who was beaten around twenty five lengths in 3rd, won at Sheriff Hutton three weeks ago. The pick of the other 8 entries are Royal Mackintosh, Sea Scout and Special Portrait, who have already recorded more than 30 career successes between them.
The veteran Royal Mackintosh has notched up all five wins under Rules at Carlisle although he was pulled up there on his last outing in November. Course winner, Sea Scout kept on well when fifteen lengths 5th to Darsi Dancer on his reappearance at Alnwick in December, while Special Portrait is well treated by the race conditions and escapes a penalty having not won since May 2013.
The Alexander team might also strike gold with Afterclass (left) in the two and a half mile Open Maiden Race. Previously placed over hurdles in Ireland, he hinted that his winning turn was not far away when nine lengths 3rd to Ardenlee Lad on his first outing for the yard over course and distance last month. The form was further boosted when the runner-up that day, Darlington County went one better at Sheriff Hutton. Any runners from Sarah Easterby's Great Habton stable merit respect and Banderitos, who is also entered in the Open Maiden, is one to follow despite finishing a remote seventh over hurdles on his last appearance at Sedgefield three months ago.
The Men's Open Race has 14 entries and The Falklander (right) looks the one they all have to beat. Nick Orpwood's mount is unbeaten in two visits to Alnwick and was particularly impressive when beating subsequent Sheriff Hutton scorer, Cottage Oak by six lengths on his seasonal debut in December. Pyjama Game, who is also entered in the Members Race, won four chases for Rose Dobbin's yard in 2013 (2 at Hexham and 2 at Sedgefield) but was pulled up on his last outing at Wetherby on October 31. Chasing Cars, a 126-rated chaser, has not been seen since pulling up in the La Touche Cup at Punchestown in April 2012, while the remaining entries include the Sarah Easterby duo, Be There In Five and Zitenka, along with course winners, Tommysteel.
Last season's Northern Area Novice Champion jockey, Gemma Cochrane must go close in the Ladies Open Race on Tipsy Dara (left), who won two of her last three starts in Ladies company in 2014. Cherry Coward's new recruit, the dual Irish point winner, Fernhurst Lad has drawn a blank since landing a Clonmel Maiden Hurdle in February 2011, Poppy Day is another raider from the White Rose county, while Beggar's Velvet and Sharivarry are the pick of the local challengers.
Crazy Diamond is no longer eligible for the Restricted Race having won at Friars Haugh last Sunday. Of the other 14 entries, Ashtonmore (right) finished fifteen lengths 2nd to Master Butcher in December, with Bafana Choice a further ten lengths away in 4th, and both of them should come on a lot for the run. Call The Doctor landed a gamble for her previous connections when making all in a Mares Maiden at Hackwood Park last April, while Blue Bertie and Hardy Oscar also merit consideration.
The Open Maiden Race has 14 entries and provides Whatsthestoryman with an ideal opportunity to open his account. He caught the eye at Alnwick last month when leading from the tenth until falling four out in Crazy Diamond's race. The main threat may come from Rathsallagh, who finished six lengths 3rd to Kalastar on his reappearance at Friars Haugh last January. The aforementioned Banderitos enters calculations if bypassing the shorter Maiden on the card, while Ballycarbery, Heckley Herbert (left) and King Of The Dark will also have their supporters.
The course is located 3 miles NE of Alnwick, easily accessible from the A1 and signposted from there. For those using a SatNav, the post code is NE66 3AE.