Northern Spotlight - by Gordon Brown

    Gordon Brown has all the news and gossip from the Northern circuit as well as a special focus on trainer Geoff Harker who has put together a list of horses to follow exclusively for readers of At The Races.

By Gordon Brown


DESPITE being a jump jockey of some stature, Geoff Harker only has two national hunt horses in training at his yard at Thirkleby, near Thirsk.

"It's just the ways thing go with the lack of jumpers but we do have some decent Flat horses in the stable," Harker said. "Wendy'sgreyhorse is a nice type for the future as she's been given time to come to hand. She's only run in a couple of bumpers and old Red Dynamite is our only jumper at the moment."

Here is a list of horses to follow Geoff has compiled exclusively for readers of

He initially cost a lot of money and used to be with Sir Mark Prescott and Jonjo O'Neill. He came to us last year and he was only beat four-lengths at Donny in October. We sent to away for the winter and he's come back looking tremendous, the woman we sent him to did a grand job. He's a lovely big stamp of a horse and he could go for the Cesarewitch again later on. He's dropped to a good mark and if he finds the form there is a nice race in him.

He's a lovely horse and we had him gelded during the winter. He's done well since and we should have cut him and put him away last year instead of persevering with him. The 7f at Redcar was too short last time and he will definitely improve and win races.

He's a lovely old horse and we bought for our stable apprentice Jordan Nason to ride. He represented the British junior show-jumping team and won a silver medal. He mad keen and can certainly ride. He could be a name to look our in the future.

He's been a great little servant over the years and we claimed him from David Evans as he claimed one off us! He want up 7lb for winning a handicap at Wolverhampton in February - it wasn't a great race and I think the handicapper has killed him. He's in good heart and is a genuine, sound little horse. We're looking at another handicap at Wolverhampton shortly.

He's a colt than can only improve on better ground. His best run last year was a close third in a Yarmouth nursery and he's from the same family as Regal Parade. He's ready to rock and roll.

She won a maiden and a nursery last summer and she's a good-looking filly. She never got the right conditions last year and then went off the boil. She's done really well over the winter and I'm quite excited about her. We'll go over 7f and she should be out in about a fortnight.

We tried him over 10f on his first run for us at Ripon and he came to us with a bit of a reputation. We've tried to sweeten him up and he might just be more than okay. Robert Winston was chuffed to bits with him and we may head for the Thirsk Hunt Cup next.

He's a grand old horse and he's be running in plating and claiming company. He wants fast ground and it was too soft for him at Catterick last time. He'll definitely win in his grade this season.


THERE was a decent crowd at Sedgefield for the third running of their Grand National week fixture and the first horse into the notebook was Wilde Pastures. He was well-backed before finished third in the opening amateur riders' hurdle. This was the second time he had been supported and he was in front until fading between the last two flights. A bumper winner on soft ground, he's a lightly-raced hurdler and an easier surface could see him justify confidence.

In the novices' hunter chase Montauk Highway was a six-length second to Trifollet but I'm upgrading this effort as, with the normal last fence omitted, there was a run-in of two and a half furlongs. Having come third in the Buccleuch Cup at Kelso, jumping is his strong point and he would have finished closer with the last fence in play and a short run-in to the line. He has the ability to land a race of this nature.

Kilkenny All Star fairly romped away with the 2m handicap chase as he bounced back to form with a vengeance. He jumped like a buck and always goes well at this track. Don't rule out a follow-up with the Sue Smith yard is such good nick.

Second-placed The Thirsty Bricky, saddled by David Thompson, also looked back to what he is capable of and was a lot closer at the line than he was at the top of the hill. If he can polish up on his jumping, he should be able to regain the winning thread for his Darlington trainer.

Barry Murtagh is enjoying a decent run and well-backed Stanley Bridge, who can be keen, brought home the money in style under Lucy Alexander in the 2m 1f handicap hurdle. This was his fourth win of the campaign and he's sure to face a hefty rise but Barry was telling me afterwards his owners are keen to have a go on the Flat. If he can transmit his hurdling form he would be a real blot but off his current mark of 30 the problem would be getting him in the races in the first place!

At Newcastle on Grand National day Oneofapear again produced a sound effort on his comeback in 10f handicap. He finished a close fourth and would have gone even closer had conditions not been quite so testing.

Miss Blink had a blinding season in 2011 and shot up in the weights as a result. She wasn't knocked about on this comeback and it leads me to believe Robin Bastiman feels there is more improvement in the locker.

In the 5f handicap Declan Carroll's Boucher Garcon was racing on the far side away from the main speed up the centre of the track so it was a fine effort to finish close up in second place. He's been a revelation since being gelded during the winter and don't be surprised to see him back in winning form soon.

Jupiter Fidius nearly struck on his first run since joining Karen Tutty from Kate Walton. He didn't take to hurdles but this was a fine effort to finish like a train into third spot. He did hit a flat spot but once he got into a stride nothing was going on stronger at the line and he would have won in another few yards.

Despite testing conditions I thoroughly enjoyed Ripon's opening card of the year and the feature race winner, Mark Johnston-trained Hajras, is certainly worth following. Well-backed before quickening away on his debut at Wolverhampton, he did it nicely in a competitive handicap - a race won two years ago by none other than Monterosso!

Second home Dance The Rain ran a blinder after her moderate last run of 2011. Only beaten half a length by the winner, she is clearly back to her best and won't always come up against such a smart performer.

You had to feel for the juveniles in the curtain-raiser and the first four home were all newcomers. The two to take out of the race are Fly Fisher (3rd) and Annie Gogh (4th). Richard Fahey's Fly Fisher is quite a late foal and is sure to improve for this debut while Annie Gogh was trying to give Tim Easterby his sixth win in the race in the past seven years. She should go even better next time with this experience to draw on.


I CAN reveal that Ripon's seasonal highlight, the William Hill Great St Wilfird, is to have a consolation race for the first time.

The 2012 renewal of the 6f handicap see horses eliminated drop into a secondary contest run on the same afternoon.

Ripon clerk James Hutchinson said: "The Great St Wilfrid is normally overscribed and hopefully the consolation race will prove a success. By being staged on the day it might just give some clues regarding the draw."

Fraser Perratt, the man who rode Len Lungo's first winner, got married recently to his finacee Aimee in Troon.

A farmer's son from East Kilbride, Fraser is also a part-time judge in the north for the BHA.

And in case you didn't know that first Lungo winner was Cumbrian Ceilidh at Musselburgh in January 1991!

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