The Northern Area season finally kicked off at Alnwick on Sunday, seven weeks later than scheduled, with 37 runners contesting a seven race card on testing ground at the rearranged West Percy fixture.
Every jockey dreams of riding a winner and Holly Harper's prayers were answered with victory on her debut on ex-hurdler, Mirage Dore (right) in the Carrs Billington West Percy and Percy Members Race. Left in front following Highland Cathedral's departure more than a mile from home, the ten year old jumped superbly and forged clear from three out to beat Senor Alco by ten lengths. Chatton trainer, Rose Dobbin said of her charge: ''He has recovered well after sustaining a fractured fetlock last summer and will now be sent back under Rules having dropped to a rating of 115''. A delighted Harper, 19, remarked: ''He looked after me during the race and was so full of running at the finish that he could have gone round again.''
Last season's Northern Area Ladies Champion jockey, Catherine Walton got the new campaign off to the best possible start with a short-priced double on Galant Nuit (right jumping the last) and Coquet Head. The former led throughout the final circuit of the Hazelrigg Racing Ladies Open Race and was not extended to score by half a dozen lengths from Newyearsresolution. This was a first training success for Rees Morgan Murphy, who said: ''Future plans remain fluid but another win in Open company would qualify him for next month's Cheltenham Foxhunters''.
Coquet Head (right) returned from a ten month break in a slowly run Northumbrian Leisure Limited Restricted Race, easily keeping his rivals at bay in the closing stages to register his first win over three miles.
Nine years after opening his account in Ireland, John Adam's veteran ex-chaser, See You There (right) proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with by scoring first time out at Alnwick for the second season in a row. Given a positive ride by Nick Orpwood in the Northern Structures Men's Open Race, the 14 year old quickened clear up the hill from four out and easily held off he fast-finishing Hennessy by three lengths. Now trained by Lucinda Russell's head lad, Mark Ellwood, this took the gelding's winning tally into double figures on his 45th career outing.
Native Coll (right, on the run to the last) repeated last year's win in the Thornton Hickey NPPA Club Members Race in the hands of Durham University maths student, Kit Alexander. After being out on his own three out, Alexander's mount began to tire from the next but had enough in hand to beat Viking Rebel by five lengths. Winning owner/trainer, Nick Alexander said of his 13 year old charge: ''This is his level and he just ploughs through the soft ground. We've been able to keep all our horses on the go despite having plenty of snow in Fife''.
Who'slaughingnow (the grey jumping the last) made virtually every yard of the running under Blair Campbell in the NFU Mutual two and a half mile Open Maiden Race but had to dig deep to repel a late challenge from Buywise by a head. This Portrait Gallery gelding was bought by his Fife trainer, Dan Ockenden as an unraced four year old for £2000 at Doncaster Sales in October 2011. Ockenden said of him: ''He was very weak and soft last year but is like a new horse since he has strengthened up''.
Raid Stane (right, green & white) fulfilled the promise shown at Sheriff Hutton three weeks ago by getting off the mark in the Stockdale & Reid Solicitors Open Maiden Race. Produced with a well-timed challenge by 17 year old Hawick High school pupil, Tom Hamilton, the gelding swept past Job For Eric on the run-in to win, going away, by three lengths. The seven year old was picked up for £5500 by his Galashiels trainer, Katie Scott at the Doncaster Spring Store Sales in May 2010.