02 May 2011 Scene & Heard: "Heart of All England" Hunter Chase - April 30th
by Carolyn Tanner
This is the contest which all the Northern area trainers covet, but this year it turned into an Easterby benefit, with David Easterby saddling the winner Bitter Blue and the third home Mr Gossip, and his brother-in-law and sister, Ian and Susan Mason, being responsible for the runner-up Impact Zone, with daughter Jo on board.
"Unfortunately I shall have to say congratulations to you!" laughed Susan as she gave her brother a hug.
Bitter Blue is owned by Lord Daresbury who, as Peter Greenall, was placed in the race as a rider on a few occasions but had never got closer than second. "Not a bad substitute," commented David, referring to the fact that Bitter Blue was ridden by Oliver Greenall in the place of his elder brother. Thomas had partnered his father's six-year-old to his three victories between the flags but was not 100% fit so was unavailable on this occasion.
The success was Oliver's 75th under Rules and he has therefore lost his claim when competing against professionals. He is the reigning amateur National Hunt champion but will be handing over the crown at the end of the month, with Ryan Mahon in pole position to inherit the title.
Bitter Blue's jumping was far from fluent on occasion, so he probably benefited as much as any of his rivals from the fact that, due to low sun, six of the 19 fences were omitted. Running under Rules is one possibility for the progressive youngster, who will in any case be going to the August sales unless, said David, anyone comes forward with the right offer in the meantime.
"He could have waited another year." Jo's response to David's "This race has evaded him [Lord Daresbury] all his life."
It was the second successive season that the Masons had lost out in the Heart by just a head, Poppy Day having been beaten by Special Portrait in 2010. To add insult to injury, Jo was given a two day ban for excessive use of the whip.
Lord Daresbury, though, might have felt there was no justice had Impact Zone obliged, as it was he who gave him to the Masons!
Richard Smith also got two days, his mount Beau Dandy having been deemed responsible for some interference on the final bend, and there was generally no lack of incident during the race. Having decanted Daryl Millar at the first, Triggers Sun harried the field as he ran loose and eventually caused Definite Appeal to unseat Jamie Corbett, who was having his first ride under Rules, after the seventh.