The 2011 Northern Area point-to-point season drew to a close with Sunday's Border fixture at a windswept Hexham Racecourse, where a seven race card attracted 59 runners, including 18 Yorkshire raiders, on near perfect going.
Bafana Boy (left) rounded off a memorable campaign for his Belsay-based owner/rider, Drew Holmes with a third win from four starts in the Par Petroleum NPPA Club Members Race.
He was still a couple of lengths behind Temple Green going to the last, but found another gear to hit the front half way up the run-in and then just did enough to repel Marfleet's late challenge by a head. Holmes said of his charge: "He jumped and travelled well and has a high cruising speed. The response was immediate when I asked him to quicken after jumping the last."
This was a 10th career success, including 7 under Rules, for Bafana Boy, a former 126 rated chaser, and he has made a remarkable recovery after being found to be suffering from a stress fracture of the pelvis when bought privately out of Sophie Leech's yard in November 2009.
Maura My Love made a bold bid for glory in the Tower Inn & Stable Bar Restricted Race after being sent on a mile from home by Tristan Davidson, but could find no extra on the flat as course winner, Desperate Bob (right) answered every call from Andrew Richardson and asserted in the last fifty yards to secure a half length verdict. The favourite, Brompton Brow never threatened the leading pair, but stayed on gamely to finish a further 5 lengths away in third.
Minstalad led from the outset under Lucy Sutcliffe in the Rural Taxis Ladies Open Race but had nothing more to give after being headed two out by the odds-on favourite, Narciso (left). The latter settled the issue in a matter of strides and cruised home 5 lengths clear under Jacqueline Coward, looking as though he could have gone round again. The 11 year old has now won 16 times betwen the flags, including 4 at Hexham, and Coward remarked: "He stays all day and loves it round here."
Former champion National Hunt amateur jockey, Tom Greenall took time off from running his father, Peter's, Green's Restaurant in London to partner the David Easterby-trained gelding, My Old Piano (right) to an impressive 6th victory of the season in the Newbridge Street Bedding Centre Men's Open Race. Given a supremely confident ride, his mount gradually reeled in the leader, Dix Villez down the back straight before joining issue two out. Eased into the lead at the last, Greenall didn't have to move a muscle as the 9 year old pulled 5 lengths clear.
Lord Daresbury said of his son: "He actually fractured his shoulder in a fall at the beginning of April but carried on riding until he got it x-rayed a few weeks later. After being sidelined for a month, he returned with a winner on Sea Senor at Garthorpe last Sunday."
Few horses can match the strike rate of Tom Bannister's charge who has won 14 of his 19 starts between the flags since being bought for £8000 at Doncaster Sales in May 2008 out of Jonjo O'Neill's yard.
Barachois Silver (left) swept past the long time leader, Buckshaw at the second last in the Ward Hadaway Open Maiden Race before staying on strongly to score by 7 lengths, with their trailing rivals in another parish. The winner was bought by Gorebridge farmer, Jim Pate for £2500 at Ascot Sales in December 2007 as an unraced 3 year old, and jockey, Gillon Crow said of her: "She is still a bit green but is a really nice prospect for next season."
Newmarket-based rider, Michael Ennis took his seasonal tally to a career-best 12, including 5 under Rules, by steering Hathamore (right, at the last) to an easy 12 lengths success over Its Bobkat in the two and a half mile Carrs Billington (Wooler) Open Maiden Race. Home-bred by Ailie Tullie, the 7 year old mare had been given plenty of time to recover after injuring shoulder muscles in a fall at Friars Haugh eight weeks ago. She is now set for a summer jumping campaign with Penrith trainer, Dianne Sayer.
Definite Appeal (left) rounded off proceedings by supplementing his recent Haydon win in the Bill Aitchison Border Hunt Members Race in the hands of 17 year old Jamie Corbett. Brushing aside a 4lb penalty, he led throughout the final circuit and had 10 lengths to spare over Nimbu at the line, with the latter's stable companion, Evermillie, partnered by riding debutante, Krystina Erskine, completing in her own time for third.
There was a special presentation to Clive Storey, 50, who announced his retirement from the saddle after finishing unplaced on Weeumba in the Restricted Race. In a career spanning more than 25 years, he partnered 141 Pointing winners as well as 50 under Rules.
Before the concluding Members Race, spectators around the winners enclosure were greeted by the sight of Tristan Davidson having all his hair shaved off by trainer, John Leadbetter. However, this was all in a good cause with the sponsorship monies and bucket collection raising over £1700, and the proceeds being shared between the Injured Jockeys Fund and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Tristan Davidson retained the Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship and posted a career-best seasonal tally of 17 winners. Catherine Walton, 23, carried off the Ladies Championship for the first time and completed her season in style with a first winner under Rules on Dystonia's Revenge in a Cartmel Maiden Hunters' Chase on Bank Holiday Monday. Kit Alexander landed the Area Novice Riders Championship in a record breaking campaign which saw 16 up and coming pilots get off the mark.
Badger Foot was a worthy winner of the £500 prize for the Champion Area Horse, while the Jedforest took the Hunt Awards title.
The 16 Northern Area meetings attracted 1862 entries, the lowest figure since the 1991 season, with a total of 956 runners and a healthy average of 8.24 per race.