LEADING trainers have hailed the new £125,000 Northern Lights Series a major boost for racing in the north after a fantastic first ever finals day at Carlisle. The finals, all boasting a £25,000 prize fund, saw five different owners and trainers claim victory on an enthralling day’s racing. The Northern Lights Series was launched by the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) to promote and support jumps racing in the north. And finals day – aimed at mid-tier class horses – certainly did not disappoint.
Trainers Stuart Crawford, Rose Dobbin, Ian Duncan, Susan Corbett and Lucinda Russell all saddled winners in Sunday’s, finals which were the culmination of many months of qualifying races, all held at tracks in the north.
Willie Mullins also trained his first winner at Carlisle. After six-year-old Our Valentina romped home in the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle, Northern Irish trainer Stuart Crawford said: “I’m absolutely delighted. We’ve had our eye on this race for quite some time and it’s worked out really well. I think the Northern Lights series is a great initiative. For the mid to lower grade horses it’s their Cheltenham and it’s been a great day. We’ve had some success here at Carlisle before and, once again, it’s proved to be a lucky track for us.”
Northumbria’s Rose Dobbin saddled 10/1 shot Monfass to a popular victory in the Handicap Hurdle. She added: “The (Northern Lights) series is amazing – what is there not to like about it? Of course, we will be aiming more horses at it next year!
“The series always needed a year to bed in and people will be more prepared for it, in terms of getting their horses qualified, next year. It’s great for northern racing, it offers fantastic prize money and this is what we need to attract more people to the sport.”
Northumberland trainer Susan Corbett, who was beaming after Ebony Rose claimed victory in the Handicap Hurdle, said: “We’ve had our eye on this one for quite a while. It’s the first time we’ve had two horses in the same race and the Northern Lights Series persuaded us it would be a good thing.
“The series is a great thing for racing in the north, there is a real base to build on for the coming years. The prize money is very good and this provides a real incentive for owners and trainers to get involved and get their horses qualified for finals day.”
Forest des Aigles plan comes off
Grand National winner Lucinda Russell had to wait until the final race of the day – the Distance Handicap Chase – to taste victory, but 5/4F Forest des Aigles was imperious as he showed true class to romp home from the final fence. He looks a possible candidate for the spring festivals including Cheltenham, so check out the latest Cheltenham betting tips.
Kinross-based Russell said: “I’m absolutely delighted. We really wanted to support this series, and this was absolutely the right horse to do so. When a plan comes off it is extra special, but you have to have the horse to do it and we did.
“The series covers so many kinds of horses. As well as Forest des Aigles, we had Catchthemoonlight in the mares’ race who went really well. She placed third in a Class 2 race, won £2,000, and her owners have had a great day at a big track like Carlisle.
“The Northern Lights is a fantastic series and we’re very lucky to have it here at Carlisle. They (the BHA) can really build on this for next year and we will certainly be aiming more horses at it in 2018.”
Geraldine McKay, general manager at Carlisle Racecourse, said: “The Northern Lights was brought about to not only promote jumps racing in the north but get more people involved in our wonderful sport.
“This is Year One and this series can only get bigger and better. We’ve had a cracking first finals meeting with some fantastic racing.
“I firmly believe this is the start of something really special, not only for Carlisle, but for racing across the north.”