Hazel Hill lives up to his star billing at the first Point to Point of the season

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Cheltenham Festival hero Hazel Hill lived up to his short odds and star billing at the opening meeting of the 2020 Yorkshire Area Point To Point season.

Hazel Hill justified 7-2 favouritism when winning the Foxhunters event at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and the 12-year-old gelding returned to Yorkshire last weekend for the Yorkshire Area Point To Point at Sheriff Hutton.

Hazel Hill is a previous winner at the track and has worked his way through the point to point ranks until it culminated in his career highlight in winning at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Taking in the Mens Open under usual partner Alex Edwards, Hazel Hill was sent off 4-11 favourite and eventually pulled away to win by 15 lengths with all roads likely leading to another bid for Festival glory in March.

The Philip Rowley-trained 12-year-old travelled strongly in behind the leaders as the Dale Peters trained and ridden Rocklander threw down the main challenge on his point to point debut.

But Rocklander had to settle for second with Path To Freedom a further 15 lengths back in third under John Dawson and the best of the Yorkshire contingent.

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Elsewhere on the seven race card, the Open Maiden saw Classic Lady bounce back to form and oblige under Tommie O’Brien for trainer Ollie Pimlott.

In doing so, she put a disappointing effort at Alnwick well behind her.

“She pulled up quickly two out at Alnwick where she struck into herself,” said Pimlott, who sends the five-year-old daughter of Flemensfirth to the Goffs sales at Doncaster next week.

“We changed tactics here and didn’t make as much use of her.

“We think she’s a better horse than Uptown Harry who we sold last season and went on to win over hurdles.”

The final 2m 4f Maiden, meanwhile, was won in easy fashion by Ripper Roo under James King from the Francessca Nimmo yard.

“He came to us 12 months ago from France,” said James King who is based with the Nimmo team.

“He is very professional and better ground along with going right handed will bring about further improvement in him.”

The Restricted race went to Omar Merreti who returned to the track at which he crashed out last season when holding every chance.

Trained and ridden by Dale Peters, the pair defeated Scarlett Peak under Joe Wright for Ian Mason whilst the Jack Teal ridden Robbins Legend was a long way back in third.

The opening race was divided on entries and division two saw the classy Cup Final edge out One Conemara up the run in.

Cup Final and Ross Wilson were joined after the last and it was a bob of the heads at the line that sealed it for the Sarah Dent trained runner. John Dawson partnered One Conemara back in second.

The first division of the Club Members race went to the Midlands based Smoke Man for the Chatfield Roberts family.

George Fernback finished second under jockey Ben Love who was having his first ride in point to points.

The Ladies Open, meanwhile, went to former Paul Nicholls inmate The Dellercheckout under Immy Robinson.

The pair had won in December at Barbury Castle and quickened away from last year’s winner and favourite Haymount under Gina Andrews. Pace setter Irish Anthem was held back in third.

The next Yorkshire Area Point To Point meeting will be the Sinnington Point to Point at Duncombe Park on Sunday, February 9.