MIDDLEHAM Park Racing landed their first point-to-point winner with their first runner as the versatile Junior kicked off the Yorkshire Area Point-to-Point season in style on Sunday.
Last seen when running over rules at Ascot for David Pipe in March, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival winner Junior dug deep for victory in the weekend’s Browns Department Store Men’s Open at Sheriff Hutton.
While owners Middleham Park Racing have enjoyed a plethora of success over rules, Junior’s triumph was the group’s first victory between the flags, at the first attempt.
Ridden by Richard Smith and trained by Nigel Tinkler, Junior was always to the fore and pulled two lengths clear of Woodview Prince and Tom David with Welsh raider Bobs Law back in third for Peter Bryant.
Young Hurricane was fourth for Richard Tierney but the remarkable Junior, who fell in the 2012 Grand National, has now experienced victory in both codes of British horse racing – flat and National Hunt – as well as in point to point.
Trainer Tinkler says there are no firm plans or targets for Junior, other than to keep the 12-year-old “happy and sweet.”
“He’s come out of the race well,’ said a jubilant Tinkler.
“We haven’t got any long-term plans for him, the main aim is to keep him sweet and happy and we will look for another race in the next three to four weeks. I’ll probably take him hunting before he runs again.”
Sunday’s card helped raise funds for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance with the meeting starting with two divisions of the Chris Hoggard Memorial Point-to-Point Club Conditions Race.
With 18 runners declared, the race had to be split, leading to an eight-race card to complete before darkness set in.
But there was no hanging about from Fureys Bar and jockey Jack Teal who got up to pip Joanna Mason and Sportingfriendship by a short head.
The front-running Mister Splodge and Chris Dawson were third.
Division Two of the race went to the Gillon Crow-ridden Cottage Oak, who formed the first part of a double for Cheshire-based keeper Joe O’Shea. Minella For Streak was 12 lengths further back in second under Tommie O’Brien with Raydini and Jane Williams in third.
O’Shea’s double was completed with Missing The Babe in the Coniston Hotel Restricted Race.
Also partnered by Crow, the pair obliged by two lengths from According to Dan and John Dawson in second with Drivehomeregardles third under Leo Mahon.
Another popular winner on the card was Ockey De Neulliac who repeated his fine victory of last year for Neil Mechie and jockey Catherine Walton in the Coral Bookmakers sponsored Ladies Open. Ockey De Neulliac’s splendid jumping proved a valuable asset but he was kept up to his work by Carlton Ryan and Joanna Mason, who was contesting open grade for the first time.
But there was no denying last year’s winner a repeat triumph by two and a half lengths with a further 15 lengths back to Ben’s Folly in third for Lorna Brooke.
Gansey was fourth under Jacqueline Coward who went three places better in Division Two of the club race, won by Banny’s Lad for new mother Stephanie Easterby.
The pair beat O’Shea’s fast finishing Best Served Cold under Gillon Crow by a head with Royal Deal half a length back in third under Joanna Mason.
Railway Dillon was fourth under Emma Todd on his pointing debut for the meeting’s secretary Christine Drury.
John Dawson made a winning return to the amateur ranks by taking the Crombie Wilkinson Open Maiden on Darlington County. Trained by Caroline Dennis, Darlington County took a strong hold to get into an early lead but was restrained and returned to the head of affairs as the field went out for their final circuit. He eventually beat Norton Grove and William Easterby by two lengths with Dido back in third for Dale Peters and the only other horse to finish.
An exciting season’s opener was then concluded by Jack Jordan riding his first winner on The Manager, owned by his mother.
The pair beat the maximum field of 15 other rivals in the four-, five-, six- and seven year old Open Maiden race sponsored by Cundalls and run over the shorter distance of 2m 4f.
Four horses jumped the final fence almost in unison but the Tinkler-trained Morianour fell and brought down Part And Parcel. It was left to Lebanna and William Easterby to give chase a head away in second.
The Yorkshire Area Point-to-Point season continues on Sunday, February 1 with the South Durham Hunt Farmers Club meeting in Mordon.