Following a string of placed rides this season, there was finally a richly deserved first winner for 19-year-old Emma Brown on the veteran Azure Fly in the Rathbones PPORA Conditions Race on Saturday's Fife card at Overton Farm...
After being headed four out by Nine Altars (Charlotte Dun), her mount conjured up a renewed effort to regain the initiative at the last before drawing two lengths clear up the run-in for a tenth career win on his 62nd start under all codes more than ten years after making his debut between the flags at Bangor-on-Dee.
Brown, who also owns and trains Azure Fly, is the great granddaughter of the late Ken Oliver and leads both the Young’s RPS Northern Area Ladies Championship (by 7pts from Lucy Brown and Joanna Walton) and NPPA Novice Riders' Championship (by 1pt from Jack Holliday) with only next month's Haydon meeting at Hexham remaining. Currently on a gap year, she is going to Newcastle University in September to study Business and Economics.
It was also a red-letter day for 21-year-old Jack Holliday who secured the first double of his career on Gripper and Cooking Fat. Despite not jumping fluently in the 2m4f Ledingham Chalmers Riders Conditions Race, Gripper was always up with the pace before taking it up from odds-on favourite So Satisfied (Emma Brown) five out. The 7-year-old found another gear turning into the home straight and brushed aside a 7lb penalty as he stayed on strongly to score by eight lengths.
Holliday, who works full-time for Selkirk trainer Stuart Coltherd, said of Wassels Young's winning hurdler: ''He is gradually getting his confidence back and was electric on the flat between his fences before meeting the last two on a perfect stride to seal victory.''
He doubled up on Cooking Fat, who made it four wins from his last 6 starts in the Ineos Grenadier Mixed Open Race. Jack Clark's rejuvenated 11-year-old gelding dictated the pace and was left in splendid isolation when solitary rival Racing Pulse was pulled up after Holly Algeo lost her irons following a bad mistake five out. The winner is now 2pts ahead of Thyne For Gold in the George F White Champion Horse Award standings.
Emma Brown's older sister Lucy, a 2nd year student at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, made it an extra-special day for the family by steering Okey Dokey to a belated first success on his 32nd career start under all codes in the Turcan Connell NPPA Conditions Race. She gave the 11-year-old a well-judged tactical ride from the front, setting a modest pace before quickening up after three out and her mount just did enough to hold off the late challenge of Dream Over (Nick Orpwood) by a short head.
This was a first winner since 2005 for Melrose-based owner/trainer Jacqui Irvine Lang, a housekeeper at the Carfraemill Hotel near Lauder, who brought her full team of three horses to Overton. She said: ''He hated the ground at Tranwell last time and this suited him much better.''
Ardbruce followed up last month's course win with another impressive pillar to post success under Abby Robertson in the Lindores Abbey Restricted Race. Once again, the 9-year-old maintained a relentless gallop at the head of affairs to score by two lengths from Astute Boy (Ben Smith) in the best time of the day and leads Feel The Breeze by 4pts in the Northern Area Novice Horse Championship standings. Kate Leckenby's recent ex-Irish recruit Mourne Supreme provided Joe Wright with his 50th career winner between the flags in the concluding 2m4f Shepherds Maiden Race. After being sent on a mile from home, the 5-year-old quickened up nicely down the back straight and survived a mistake at the last to beat the promising Watch Law (Nick Orpwood) by half a length.
The main action was preceded by 2 pony races sponsored by the Kingdom Blazers. The 148cm Novice Race resulted in a first winner for 14-year-old Bastian Thompson on Bubblesdevere from Lucky June (William Hamilton) and Tulip Three (Nicolas Gerber). In contrast, 17-year-old Scarlett Frank and Judge Fox teamed up for their fifth win in seven outings this year in the 148cm Open Race with the minor placings filled by The Cork Man (Cara Tuke) and Our Jeremy (Alex Goldie).
The 2021/22 Northern Area season concludes with the Haydon fixture at Hexham Racecourse on Saturday 14th May.