On a gloomy, wet afternoon with poor visibility, the hardy point-to-point enthusiasts were still out in force for Sunday's West Percy fixture at the Ratcheugh Farm course, near Alnwick. A total of 65 horses faced the starter on the seven race card, and, on rain-softened ground, race times were 30-40 seconds slower than those recorded at the December meeting.
It was one-way traffic down the home straight in the Hazelrigg Racing NPPA Club Members Race as the favourite, Barachois Silver bolted up by eight lengths from Sharivarry after being sent clear by Steven Fox on the testing climb to three out. Jim Pate's mare had previously never won earlier in the season than May. Fox said of the 10 year old: ''She was always travelling well, jumped superbly and cruised home without being asked a question. Her next target is a Musselburgh Hunters' Chase on February 2.''
Central Flame (far right) shone brightly when getting off the mark on his second start between the flags in the Northumberland Arms & Running Fox Cafe two and a half mile Open Maiden Race sponsored by Keith Pattinson. After pulling himself to the front as the field headed out on the final circuit, the 6 year old comfortably kept his pursuers at bay in the closing stages to score by a length from Raynell under a fine tactical ride from the in-form Catherine Walton. The home-bred winner is held in high regard by Rothbury owner/trainer, Jimmy Walton, who said: ''He has matured a lot since running in three bumpers last season and I told Catherine that I didn't think anything would pass him once he got to the front.'' For the record, his dam, More Flair won 3 Points for the Waltons.
The Falklander upset more fancied rivals under a confident ride from Nick Orpwood in the Northern Structures Men's Open Race. Always close up, the 10 year old went away from Captain Americo on the extended run to the last and had three lengths in hand at the line. This was a first winner in the North for owner/trainer, Victoria (Tocky) McKie, who is based at Lanton, near Wooler. Her husband, Ian, who was National Point-to-Point champion jockey in the early 80's and is now in his eleventh season as Joint Master and Huntsman of the College Valley & North Northumberland Foxhounds, said of their charge: ''He had lost his way under Rules from Henry Daly's yard and gone a bit sour. We got him in September and after plenty of hunting had him spot on first time out.''
The same trainer/jockey combination completed a double an hour later when Sacred Mountain (far right) struck gold on his first outing for ten months in the AGA Ladies Open Race. Always going well just behind the leaders, the 13 year old was delivered with a perfectly timed challenge to collar Newyearsresolution on the run-in and secure a half length verdict, with the unfancied Non Dom a similar distance away in third. Kelly Bryson reported that the favourite, Douglas Julian blew up after the final ditch (five out) before finishing 4th. This was a 10th career success for Walton's evergreen veteran and he was full of praise for his step-daughters efforts in the saddle, adding: ''That's the best ride Catherine has ever given one of my horses.''
Tom Hamilton's decision to employ front-running tactics on Cave Hunter in the J H Greenwood & Company Restricted Race came up trumps as his mount maintained a relentless gallop to beat Skybull by a dozen lengths. Hamilton said: I thought he was tiring at the top of the hill as we turned for home but he got a second wind and went clear again from two out.'' The winner was bought by Moffat farmer, Niel Manning for £5700 at Doncaster Sales in August, three months after landing a Tattersalls Farm Maiden on firm ground.
Fife trainer, Nick Alexander was on hand to see his recent acquisition, Present Potential (noseband) deliver the goods in the sixteen runner Sintons LLP Open Maiden Race. Under a well-judged ride from son, Kit, the 7 year old finally overhauled Ballyanrahan inside the last fifty yards to score by half a length with Mr Shadady a neck away in third. Formerly trained by Mouse Morris, the winner ran seven times over fences in a two month spell last summer, twice being beaten under half a length. He cost £8000 at Doncaster Sales in August. Kit said:''He was brought to a stand still along with the runner-up and third by loose horses approaching three out but recovered well and will be even better on good ground.''
There was a popular conclusion to the card in the Carrs Billington West Percy and Percy Members Race with Bafana Choice, in the colours of meeting secretary and Alnwick land agent, George White, getting off the mark in the hands of Kate Rowntree. This 8 year old home-bred half brother to Bafana Boy outstayed Senor Alco down the home straight to score by a couple of lengths. The winner is trained at Newton Bewley by Susan Grant, who also sent out Bella Grappa to score on his debut at Alnwick in December.