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2022 Race Preview

All roads lead to Hexham Racecourse on Saturday for the Haydon fixture, the grand finale of the Northern Area season. It has attracted 79 entries on a seven race card and starts at 2.00pm.

The former Tom George-trained gelding Black Op is the class act in the J S Hubbuck Ltd Men's Open Race for the Maling Trophy. He finished sixth in the 2020 renewal of the King George VI Chase and seventh in the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Minella Indo before joining Selby handler, Emma Clark earlier this year. The 11-year-old beat Monbeg Chit Chat by twenty five lengths at Corbridge last month on his first outing for her yard and cannot be opposed here off level weights. The pick of the other 7 entries are Cooking Fat and Frankies Fire, who have both shown their best form on a sound surface.

Oscar Wilde stayed on well in the closing stages at Corbridge to overhaul Vent D'Automne near the line and a repeat performance is on the cards when the pair meet again off level weights in the DJ & SJ Recycling Ladies Open Race which has 13 entries. Others to note are Game As A Pheasant and Ryans Fancy, who were both successful at the Border meeting in November, along with the veteran Purple Harry who rolled back the years when only beaten a head by Merrion Avenue in a Hexham Hunters' Chase on April 11.

Ballydonagh Boy has won four of his last six starts on ground varying from good to heavy. He had plenty in hand when beating Fairy Mix by three lengths at Corbridge on Easter Monday and can strike gold again in the Robson Contracting 8-years-old and over Conditions Race. Of the other 13 entries, Little Light is top-rated after winning a 2m4f Mixed Open at Eyton-on-Severn on May 2 but is also entered in three races at Tabley on Sunday. 2021 Haydon winner, Fivecardstud beat Roycano over a shorter trip at Charm Park last Sunday, while the ultra consistent Path To Freedom has won 11 and been placed 9 times from 22 careers starts between the flags for Cherry Coward's yard but is yet to run at Hexham.

The opening Lycetts Insurance Brokers Conditions Race promises to be a competitive affair with the majority of the 16 entries rated between 89 and 97. Although there is plenty of placed form on show, Istimraar (10lb penalty), Okey Dokey (3lb penalty), Roycano (3lb penalty) and Slievegar are the only ones to have visited the winners' enclosure this season.

Easter With Yeats heads the 13 entries for the 2m4f Graham Reader Motor Engineer Maiden Race. He caught the eye when staying on well from two out to finish one length 2nd to ex-hurdler Santon at Tranwell last month and, on paper, this looks a weaker affair. The pick of his rivals are Dressedtoimpress, Fly Awhile Johnny and Sweet Talking. The former showed promise in both Alnwick Flat Races and is sure to have been well schooled ahead of his debut over fences. The well regarded Fly Awhile Johnny is open to plenty of improvement after finishing fifth on debut at Mollington, while Sweet Talking receives plenty of weight from her rivals and will appreciate the drop in trip.

Last season's champion trainer, Tom Ellis has already sent out 58 winners this season and Young Rich can add to that impressive tally in the Insync Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Restricted Race. He won first time out in a 14-runner 3m Charing Maiden Race in March 2021 and only weakened on the flat when runner-up to Special Buddy over a shorter trip at Mollington last time. The other 8 entries include Astute Boy, Sergeant Brody and recent Witton Castle Maiden winner, Inviction.

The 6 entries for the Carr's Billington Maiden Conditions Race are headed by the aforementioned Easter With Yeats, who is unlikely to have any stamina issues over the regulation trip. Fellow Scottish raiders, Calibrator, Frenchpeps and Notnowbob have all finished in the first four on more than one occasion this term, while Susan Mason's home-bred mare Red Opium has finished runner-up in three of her eight starts.

The main action is preceded at 1.00pm by three pony races which have attracted a total of 14 entries, including prolific winners Judge Fox and The Gentle Touch.

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2021 Race Preview

After one of the most challenging seasons in the sport's history, the Haydon's efforts to keep the show on the road in the Northern Area have been rewarded with a total of 106 entries for their fixture at Hexham Racecourse on Saturday 15th May.

An eight race card, including two divisions of the 2m4f Maiden, starts at 2.00pm and the main action is preceded by two pony races (both with 10 entries) from 12.55pm.

The Lycetts NPPA Conditions Race has 7 entries. Lovely Job heads the ratings but is also entered in two other contests on the card. This former 138-rated chaser for Fergal O'Brien is now trained by ex-jockey, Brian Harding, who has sent out 2 winners from 3 runners between the flags this season. On his first start for two years, the gelding was weakening in third when unseating two out at Witton Castle. Mr Witmore provided Tara Stockwell with a memorable first winner at Sheriff Hutton on Easter Saturday and wasn't disgraced when 4th behind subsequent Cheltenham Hunters' Chase scorer, Monbeg Chit Chat in a fast time at the same venue a fortnight later.

Frankies Fire scored at Corbridge, Alnwick and Balcormo Mains in 2019. Subsequently campaigned under Rules, the 8-year-old produced her best effort since then when five lengths 3rd to Bavington Bob in a 2m4f Carlisle Handicap Hurdle two months ago.

Tony Hogarth's evergreen 16-year-old gelding, Molten Brown kept on well in the closing stages when ten lengths 4th to Pillowman at Witton Castle on his return from a 140-day break. At his peak in January 2018, the former Nicky Henderson-trained gelding, Jenkins landed a Grade 3 Ascot Hurdle off a mark of 143 and his six career victories have all been over sub-2m4f trips.

Denbigh raider, Gold Time beat Teescomponents Boy by a length in the best time of the day at Witton Castle. Ray Owen's progressive mare also holds an entry in the more competitive-looking Men's Open.

The 15 entries for the 2m4f DJ & SJ Recycling Maiden contest include a quintet of unraced youngsters. The pick of these is Carlo Storm who wasn't declared at Alnwick in December and comes from a yard that knows how to get one ready first time out. Coniston Spa finished one length 3rd to Master Thyne in a slowly run Witton Castle contest last time. Nicky Tinkler's promising youngster, Desjay was only beaten a length by Cotton Rock on debut at Sheriff Hutton before unseating four out at Hornby Castle when poised to challenge for the lead. The unraced 4-year-old Westerner gelding, Doctor Tom is a half brother to jumps winner, Democratic Oath, while the Tom Ellis-trained debutant, Vokolohs might run at Edgcote on Sunday. Ask To Dance is heading in the right direction and finished eight lengths 3rd to Feel Like De Baune on only his second start at Witton Castle.

There are also 15 entries for the 2m4f High Plains Maiden Race. Singasongsam finished a promising three lengths 3rd to How To Get Away on debut at Garthorpe three weeks ago and can step up on that effort by providing the in-form Jack Teal yard with another winner.

Dainty Doris, Millstone and Rolled In Gold should all appreciate the shorter trip. The former still held every chance three out in a three mile Edgcote contest on April 18 before weakening into sixth; Millstone also weakened three out over the regulation trip at Revesby Park and Edgcote, while Rolled In Gold faded quickly three out at Witton Castle. Thornton Le Clay finished runner-up in three mile contests at Hutton Rudby and Witton Castle so this shorter trip might not be in his favour. Of the others, the unraced Indigo Sea was a 22,000 euros purchase at the Tattersalls Ireland Store Sales in May 2019.

The 15 entries for the Robson Contracting Restricted Race are headed by the former Willie Mullins-trained gelding, Vent D'Automne. He made virtually all the running under Archie Frank until unseating two out in the Hurworth Members at Hutton Rudby on March 29 and must go close here with a clear round. Worthapunt and Sergeant Brody were beaten more than twenty lengths when 4th and 5th respectively behind Largy Mountain at Garthorpe last time out. Rossderrin got off the mark at Wadebridge in December before being placed in this grade at Sheriff Hutton and Witton Castle. Master Thyne deservedly opened his account at Witton Castle a fortnight ago, while Cool Desire and Cotton Rock landed their respective Maiden divisions at the Middleton meeting. The useful Matthew Man scored at Friars Haugh and Alnwick last season before finishing five lengths 2nd to Dream Over on his reappearance at Alnwick in December. He wasn't suited by the heavy ground when pulled up in the closing stages of last Saturday's Heart Of All England Maiden Hunters' Chase on the adjoining National Hunt track.

There are 12 entries for the 'Hector & Jillian Golden Wedding Today' Conditions Race. Six A Side has been a model of consistency over the past seven years and recorded a 14th career Pointing victory at Witton Castle. Winged Crusader appreciates a sound surface and rarely runs a bad race. Amie Waugh's mount finished five lengths 3rd to Six A Side at Witton Castle and re-opposes on 3lb better terms. Monsun Storm seems to be running as well as ever this season and has finished in the first three on 17 of his 24 career starts. Wounded Warrior's best form this term came when beaten one a half lengths by Diplomate Sivola at Dingley on Easter Monday.

There is plenty of quality in the featured JS Hubbuck Ltd Men's Open Race for the Maling Trophy with 9 of the 14 entries rated 101 and above. The list includes the aforementioned quartet of Gold Time, Lovely Job, Monsun Storm and Six A Side. Monbeg Chit Chat followed up his Holderness success with an impressive win in a Cheltenham Hunters' Chase on April 30 and looks the one to beat here off level weights. 2019 winner, Game As A Pheasant appreciates a strongly run affair and has been in the mix on all four outings since Pointing resumed with form figures of 1242. Mr Snuffle finished two lengths 2nd to Blazing Tom in a Mollington Mixed Open last time, Rattle The Cage is better than recent form figures of 4P might suggest, while ex-chaser, Stellar Notion bounced back to form in last month's Bedale Open.

The Skinner's Ladies Open is a qualifier for a valuable Hunters' Chase Final at Stratford on Friday 28th May. The Tom Ellis-trained gelding, Blazing Tom (Natalya Irvine) is on a hat-trick but is more likely to run in the Novice Riders' Championship Final at Edgcote on Sunday. Denbigh raider, Thyne For Gold has produced career-best efforts on his last two outings in this grade under Immy Robinson at Hornby Castle and Witton Castle and goes best on a left handed track. The useful Ballinahow Bill has only run twice in the last two years and should come on a lot for his comeback outing at Garthorpe three weeks ago. Fortunes Hiding and Killer Crow are declared for a Perth Hunters' Chase on Wednesday evening, while the aforementioned Winged Crusader would carry 9lb less here than if taking up his other engagement in the Conditions Race.

The concluding 2m4f Insync Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Conditions Race has 13 entries. Ex-chaser, Show And Go had a bit in hand when beating Fivecardstud by a couple of lengths over this trip at Sheriff Hutton last month and was still going well when unseating seven out at Witton Castle. The in-form Christy Furness can choose between the hat-trick seeking Pillowman and Shantou Prince. Nine Altars can be forgiven his last outing when pulled up at Kelso after being off the track for 127 days. Crazy Jack's last two wins have both been over a shorter trip. He landed a 2m4f Stratford Hunters' Chase in June 2018 and a 2m5f Sandon Conditions contest last month. Warwickshire raider, For Rita landed an Aldington Restricted on April 16 before following up in a 2m4f Flete Park Conditions Race a fortnight ago. This shorter trip will suit the talented Benefaktor who was 5th in a 3m2f Cheltenham Hunters' Chase last time out. He might well take up an engagement nearer home this weekend.

As well as the race sponsors, the main event and winners' enclosure sponsor is Graham Reader Motor Engineer Ltd. The fence sponsors are Cabello Equestrian, Edward Furlong, Galbraith, NFU Mutual, Paxtons, Shotton Waste Services, youngsRPS, Mango Media PR & Will Crozier Farriery, and the Parade Ring is sponsored by Malton Marquees.

The winners' mementos are sponsored by Warrens Nothing Wasted, while co-sponsors of the Best Turned Out and Jockeys prizes are Belsay Horse trials, Cobbydog and Hexham & Northern Marts.

Please note that this fixture is taking place behind closed doors and operating with a Green Zone only. There will be no public admission. The live streaming will be presented by Andrew Thornton and Peter Burgon.

Written by Peter Burgon

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