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2022 Race Report

After a week of unsettled weather with very strong winds, conditions changed just in time for the Haydon Point-to-Point at Hexham Racecourse on Saturday. On a warm and sunny afternoon, it attracted one of the biggest crowds since the fixture was first staged there in 1995.

It turned out to be day to remember for John Dawson who signed off the Northern Area season in style with the third 4-timer of his career on El Tornado, Ridelonglivelong, Red Opium and Black Op.

El Tornado set the ball rolling after producing his best jumping display of the campaign in the 2m4f Graham Reader Motor Engineer Maiden Race. Always prominent, the 8-year-old took it up with the circuit to go and did well to keep his rivals at bay considering that one of Dawson's stirrup irons snapped a mile from home. He was still a length up at the last from Teds Charley Roe (Lucy Brown) and found a bit extra on the flat to score by two and a half lengths.

The winner, who changed hands in his younger days for £72,000 and had two runs under Rules for JP McManus, was bought last year by Cassy Bell as an eventer after she saw him advertised for sale on Facebook but he didn't take to the show jumping element and her decision to switch codes finally came up trumps at the sixth time of asking. Dawson said: ''He settled much better today and seemed to enjoy being ridden more prominently.''

After being presented with the race at Charm Park last week by the late falls of the two leaders, there was no fluke about Ridelonglivelong's victory in the Insync Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Restricted Race. He headed Inviction (Nick Orpwood) two out before forging clear up the run-in to score by ten lengths. Winning trainer Cherry Coward said: ''He is a late maturer and the penny has just started to drop. He has turned out to be the best of the trio we bought unbroken on the same day at the Tattersalls Ireland Store Sales in 2019.''

After finishing runner-up three times earlier in the season, Susan Mason's home-bred mare Red Opium appreciated a stiffer test of stamina when getting off the mark in the 3m2f Carr's Billington Maiden Conditions Race. The 6-year-old stayed on strongly from two out to beat Notnowbob (Jack Holliday) by five lengths. Her dam, Poppy Day was a proven stayer between the flags and won the 2010 renewal of the 4m1f Grimthorpe Gold Cup in the hands of Mason's daughter, Joanna to complete a five-timer that season.

Former Grade One chaser Black Op outclassed his three rivals when following up last month's Corbridge success in the J S Hubbuck Ltd Men's Open Race. Always going well, the 11-year-old quickened eight lengths clear after three out before cruising home a distance in front of Cooking Fat (Jack Holliday) to round off a red letter for Dawson, 32, and give him a new seasonal best tally of 28.

For the record, his other four-timers came at Mordon in May 2012 and at Sheriff Hutton in April 2017, while the victories of El Tornado, Ridelonglivelong and Red Opium for Dalby trainer Cherry Coward lifted her seasonal tally to 22 which includes 12 winners at Northern Area meetings.

Black Op is owned by Holderness Hunt Joint Master, Charles Clark and trained by his mother Emma. Charles said: '' I thought at one stage that we weren't to get here in time after being held up for an hour on the A1 following an accident near Wetherby. He seems to be enjoying a change of scenery on our farm and I even took him for a ride through our local village of Wistow on Friday as a final warm-up.''

At the other end of the scale, first season rider Lily Frank teamed up with the former Willie Mullins-trained gelding Vent D'Automne for their fifth win since mid-January in the DJ & SJ Recycling Ladies Open Race. Always in the leading pair and jumping well, Frank's mount was more fluent at the last than Ryans Fancy (Immy Robinson) and stayed on well to score by two lengths.

The unfancied Paddling provided 25-year-old Ailsa McClung with her first winner, other than a walk-over in 2019, in the 9-runner Lycetts Insurance Brokers Conditions Race. Never far off the pace, he led or disputed from six out before a great jump at the last helped to secure a two and a half lengths verdict over Veauce De Sivola (Courtney Fox). The winner is trained by Lauder farrier John Threadgall, who said: ''At one stage I didn't think we would be here as he was lame on Friday night with a poisoned foot and couldn't put his near-fore on the ground. Fortunately, he was sound this morning.'' Ailsa added: ''What a boy! I was always happy with the way he was travelling and he relished this stamina test. He was up at the front a long time and I expected something to come past but nothing did.''

Following a couple of disappointing efforts in hunters' chases at Kelso, Frankies Fire bounced back to form under Lyall Hodgins when defying an 8lb penalty in the concluding Robson Contracting 8-years-old and over Conditions Race. Given a confident ride, Jimmy Walton's home-bred mare was always within three lengths of the leaders on the final circuit and recovered well from a mistake three out to sprint clear after the last to score by twelve lengths from Fivecardstud (Harry Carlisle) in the best time of the day.

Appropriately, the 9-year-old also won the first race of the season at Hexham in November and this latest success clinched the Hexham Racecourse-sponsored Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship for Hodgins.

The main action was preceded by 3 pony races sponsored by Shaw & Co Solicitors. The 148cm Novice Riders contest was won by Bubblesdevere (Bastian Thompson). Bridgend raider, The Gentle Touch (Bruce Vaughan) extended his winning sequence in the 138cm Open Race with 12-year-old Haydon Bridge rider Nancie Pigg in second on Spirit. The 148cm Open Race went to I'm Making It in the hands of Cara Tuke with prolific winner Judge Fox (Scarlett Frank) having to settle for second place.

Peter Burgon, 16th May 2022

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