IT WAS hardy diehards that turned out at the Dumfriesshire and Stewartry point-to-point at Overton on Sunday where a bitterly cold day and sleety drizzle left the going soft and conditions testing.
Although the entries were down there were some exciting finishes, no more so than in the Aga ladies open where Andrea Taylor recorded her first win. Six set off with the favourite Sotovik and, winner of this race two years ago, Jouer D'Estruval, ridden by Siobhan Doolan, are way out in front of the rest of the pack. Four from home Sotovik took up the lead from Jouer D'Estruva and while the rest of the field pulled up, the two greys battled it out.
Jouer D'Estruva jumped the last fence superbly to land in front and belied his 16 years as they approached the finishing line togther. But, with only a few strides to the line Sotovik pricked his ears and surged forward to win by a short neck.
Sotovik had previously been trained by Alistair Whillans before Andrea and her mother Anne bought the 12-year-old gelding privately in August after winning a handicap chase at Perth in July. Andrea works as an insurance broker with Lycetts in Edinburgh and returns home to Lockerbie at the weekend to ride out for Victor Thomson and Tristan Davidson.
The horse is trained by Diana Carter at Lockerbie and this is Andrea's fourth season point-to-pointing.
"I haven't had a chance to properly school him, he's we've been showjumping and hurdling," said Andrea, whose family own Lockerbie Abattoir and Border Meats.
In the opening Hayton Removals four, five, six and seven-year-old maiden Wacket Willie, ridden by Jamie Hamilton, led from the front from the start and was never headed, jumping fluently and increasing his lead at every fence.
The seven-year-old by Supreme Sound was bred by Willie Hodge near Lockerbie and was three lengths clear with two fences to jump. The Mike Smith-trained Sullivans Hill (Callum Bewley) was the nearest challenger but Wacket Willie almost lived up to its name when getting the last fence completely wrong and jumping it sideways. Both horse and jockey looked momentarily shockled before picking up and winning for five lengths.
Trainer James Cooskon said: "His last piece of schooling was over a stone dyke, it was easier than opening the gate! Last season we decided the ground was getting too fast for him and he was turned away. He's came back bigger and stronger and I think he'll run on any ground."
Jockey Jamie (18) is from Hawick and is based with Richard Faheys at Malton, said: "He was a bit unlucky last season. Today he was very keen and had a good rhythm, he was getting two or three lengths over every fence, although he got into the bottom of the last."
The Knight Frank restricted race was another close finish when Joey Richards and Accordingtotheboss caught the early leader Cherry's Bay on the line.
"He's a sweet, quiet horse at home. He's only little, but jumps well. I'll look for an easy ladies open or a maiden hunter chase for him on good ground," said Joey.
Gunner Jack justified being sent off the 5/4 favourite when lifting the mens' open under Ed Wrigley by five lengths. The 12-year-old, trained by Clive Storey, put up an early lead going into the final circuit. Great Ocean Road was handily placed lying second and breathing down Gunner Jack's neck and kept up the pace for second. A triple winner in the 2012 season, Ed reported the gelding needed the run and next goes to Corbridge for the Tynedale three mile five furlong men's open.
It was a family affair in the Roucan Loch Crematorium open maiden when Chris Dawson's Miss Chatterbox went one better than runner up at Witton Castle the previous weekend. The eight-year-old mare was bred by the Dawson family, and is by Dapper and out of a Lord Americo mare and, was ridden by their godson Chris Dawson.
The concluding Turcan Connell Northern Area members race was won by Ocarina, ridden by Kit Alexander. Previously in training with his father Nick, this was the 11-year-old's first run for 14 months after field mastering with the Buccleuch with Ian Stark.
Ocarina was an early leader but Andrew Richardson and Cool Star moved to the front five out. Ocarino clawed back the distance in the final turn with Cool Star still in front, but two from home Cool Star jumped low and fast and missed putting them out of contention.
"He's quite cautious and lost his way a bit under rules but after a spell field mastering he seems to be finding his confidence again," said Nick.
Hayton Removals four, five, six and seven-year-old maiden – 1, Wacket Willie, J Hamilton, 4-1; 2, Sullivans Hill, C Bewley, 2-1; 3, Homebre De Hierro, R Day, 12-1. 5l, 5l. 8 ran. J Cookson, Morpeth. Knight Frank restricted – 1, Accordingtotheboss, Miss J Richards, 11-10; 2, Cherry's Bay, E Wrigley, 3-1; 3, Chosen Keys, T Davidson, 13-2. neck, 7l. 7 ran. Miss J Richards, Cumberland Farmers. Aga ladies open – 1, Sotovik, Miss A Taylor, 4/6; 2, Joueur D'Estruval, S Doolan, 9/2. sht head, only 2 finished. 6 ran. Mrs A Taylor and Miss A Taylor, Cumberland Farmers. Bonhams men's open – 1, Gunner Jack, E Wrigley, 5/4; 2, Great Ocean Road, R Smith, 5/1. 5l, dist. 8 ran. N Wrigley, CV&NN. Roucan Loch Crematorium open maide n – 1, Miss Chatterbox, R Smith, 7/4; 2, Raifteiri, N Orpwood, 8/11; 3, Polobury, E Dunkley, 6/1. 3l, 5l. 10 ran. C Dawson, South Durham. Turcan Connell Northern Area club members – 1, Ocarina, C Alexander, 8/1; 2, Senor Alco, T Dvaidson, 3/1; 3, Go West, J Hamilton, 7/4. 20l, 20l. 7 ran. N Alexander, Fife.