THE earliest ever start to a Northern Area Point-to-Point season sees the Border card get under way at Hexham Racecourse on Sunday, December 1, followed by the Ratcheugh Racing Club fixture at Alnwick, a fortnight later.

Last season’s national champion horse, Winged Crusader, is on target for his reappearance next month under Amie Waugh, and could run at both Hexham and Alnwick as long as the ground is not too soft.

As usual, more than a quarter of the area’s 14 meetings will take place at Alnwick. The fences will all be moved after the West Percy on Saturday, January 11, providing fresh ground for the Percy and College Valley, and North Northumberland cards. Point-to-Point flat races will conclude the action at both North Northumberland and West Percy meetings.

The Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire, and Eglinton Men’s Open at Overton Farm on Saturday, March 21, will be the Northern Area feature race for the first time.

More than 23 per cent of the area’s entries and runners came from Yorkshire last season, and some good fixture planning means only four of the 14 meetings in the 2019/20 campaign will clash with those in Yorkshire this time around.

In a further boost, 75 of the season’s scheduled 90 races are open to horses from all areas.

For the first time, a brace of two-and-a-half mile contests (conditions and open maiden) will be held at the Lanark & Renfrew, Fife and Haydon fixtures, the latter which will take place at Hexham Racecourse on Saturday, May 16.

Two of the North’s most experienced amateur riders, Will Ramsay (50), and Jamie Alexander (54), look set for another fruitful campaign. Ramsay’s stable stars are Mr Mercurial and Kilcrea Vale. The former was a dual hunters’ chase scorer at Perth last term, while former 142-rated chaser, Kilcrea Vale was bought for £37,000 out of Nicky Henderson’s yard at Ascot Sales in June.

Alexander will again be partnering his own geldings, More Madness and Racing Pulse, both trained by his brother, Nick.

Although More Madness hasn’t won for a some time, the 12-year-old proved that he still retains plenty of ability by finishing runner-up on his last two starts at Tranwell and Balcormo Mains.

Former 139-rated chaser, Racing Pulse lost his form in Ireland but was a revelation after joining Nick Kinneston’s yard in March.

Pony racing remains as popular as ever and will feature at seven of the 14 Northern Area meetings, including the Tynedale at Corbridge, on Sunday, February 23, and the Haydon, at Hexham on May 16.