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25 April 2012 Scene & Heard: Braes of Derwent - Corbridge

by Carolyn Tanner

SEA SCOUT (far side): Threw his hat into the ring for the Heart Of All England Hunter Chase with a commanding win at Corbridge
photo: Grace Beresford

Sea Scout has the Northern area's coveted Heart Of All England Hunter Chase in his sights after justifying favouritism in the Ladies' Open under Claire Metcalfe.

"We went quick enough early doors for the ground," reported Claire, whose mount had had a seven week lay-off while waiting for the going to come in his favour again. "At last we've learned that he needs it soft - we ran him on fast ground as a youngster," she added.

Trainer Russell Ross has been using Howard Johnson's all-weather gallop to keep his stable star ticking over. "He's a happy horse who enjoys his work, so he's quite easy to keep fit," he smiled.

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"We're all reformed alcoholics. Mind you, we won't be reformed by 11 o'clock tonight." A grinning John Aken, one of Sea Scout's delighted owners, had no qualms about speaking for his partners.

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Russell's pair in the three-runner Hunt race had earlier filled the first two places. "I thought I'd better run two to make it a contest," he laughed. It was a repeat performance by Hubble Bubble, who had scored 12 months earlier, while the runner-up Boher Storm had landed the spoils in the two previous years.

Winning rider Charlie Johnston, who was recording his third successive victory in the race, is in his third year of veterinary studies at Glasgow University. He has exams coming up in three weeks' time and had delayed his return to academia in order to ride here. "This [Point-to-Pointing] is a nice hobby to have between the studying," he said. During his holidays Charlie rides out at home for his trainer father Mark Johnston.

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Completing in his own time in third place was Nick Barratt-Atkin on Loaded Dice, who was a good half circuit behind as his two rivals crossed the line. Nick, who epitomised the spirit of Members' races, received the biggest cheer of the day as he entered the unsaddling enclosure, standing up in his stirrups and whip aloft!

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The mud-loving See You There, despite some less than fluent jumping in the early stages, ran out an easy winner of the Men's Open in the hands of Craig Nichol, amateur with Lucinda Russell.

See You There is trained for John Adam by Lucinda's assistant head lad Mark Ellwood, who will not be tempted to race his charge again too soon. "He takes a bit of time to recover, and didn't run too quickly from Lucinda's," he explained of the 13-year-old, who was switched to Pointing when he became too high in the handicap under Rules.

It was a third success for Craig, 18, who like many from the Scottish Borders participated regularly in the Common Ridings. He has been based at the Russell stable for two years, and in the summer will be spending some time at Jim Bolger's Irish yard.

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The only cool thing about the Restricted winner Cool Star would appear to be his name. "He's a worrier, and he just takes off," commented rider Andrew Richardson, who does all the work with David Carr's £1,800 Doncaster purchase. In one of his out-of-control moments Cool Star had demolished Andrew's open ditch at home.

After failing to get the trip when campaigned over hurdles last year, Cool Star has strengthened up and now stays well, said Andrew. The probable target is a novice Hunters' Chase at Perth in mid May.

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Rapidolyte de Ladalka (Kelly Bryson) took advantage of the departure of the favourite Glen Lord, whose rider Gillon Crow had been confident of victory until his partner slipped up on the final bend, to win the Intermediate.

Rapidolyte de Ladalka, known at home as ‘Puzzle,' was bought in France as a three-year-old by Philippa Shirley-Beavan. "We went to buy two foals and came back with him as well," she smiled. "He'll probably go under Rules now, as these fences are really too small for him - he jumps beautifully and stays for ever."

Kelly was delighted at the way Puzzle had battled up the hill, as she felt that he had previously been saving a bit for himself.

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There was standing water on the course right from the opening race, with the original official "good to soft, with a few soft patches" strongly refuted by more than one experienced jockey. Persistent rain for much of the meeting rendered the ground extremely testing, and Puzzle would not have wanted the ground any softer, but for Open Maiden winner Skybull the wetter the better, stressed owner-rider Simon Hunter, for whom it was an initial success [see Landmarks - First Winners].

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Another one who appreciated the soft underfoot conditions was Flying Exit, who won the first division of the young horse Maiden. "We thought she'd like it," said owner Sheila Sunter, who bought her as a foal at Doncaster. "She just grew and grew," added Sheila, who sent her as a two-year-old to be broken in by Guy and Freya Brewer.

Sheila has a permit which she will be relinquishing in September when her husband Jeffery retires from their rented farm. "We won't have any facilities to train, so we'll probably just keep one with Chris Grant," she explained. Whether or not that one will be Flying Exit has not yet been decided.

The Sunters are still likely to be regulars on the racing scene, as they have purchased a house next to Sedgefield racecourse.

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Flying Exit was due to have been ridden by Richard Smith, but as he had commitments at Easingwold he put Colm McCormack in for the ride. Colm, who has been working for Keith Reveley for four years, was booked less than a week ago but had been and schooled the mare a few days prior to the race.

And happily for Richard, he did not leave the Yorkshire track empty-handed, as he won the young horse Maiden on the Mary Sowersby-trained Max My Boy.

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Division Two went to Elizabeth Brockbank's home-bred Nickwillis, trained by her son Tim, a joint-Master of the Cumberland, and ridden by her grandson Will. "He was struggling to get his feet out of the ground, and he needs to go the other way round," said Will, referring to his partner's inclination to jump left-handed, the result of having torn a ligament off the top of his pelvis.

Nickwillis, who has also had a tie-back to help his breathing, is named after Tim's nephew. "Nick was with us when we were having a drink at home and looking at the mare and foal out of the window," Elizabeth elaborated. "I said we needed a name for it, and he suggested Nickwillis!"

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"Stupid name!" A straight-faced Will gives his opinion!

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