EAST ESSEX, MARKS TEY, SATURDAY FEBRUARY 23
Going: Heavy (Soft in places)
by James Crispe
Arctic conditions greeted the return of Point-To-Pointing to Marks Tey on Saturday after an absence of almost two years. But a bitter wind and hail squalls failed to wipe the smile off the face of Christian Ward-Thomas, who took the riding honours at the East Essex meeting with a fine double.
Ward-Thomas appeared to have an easy task in the Men's Open Race, as his mount, Dry Highline, had just two rivals and was sent off the 3-1 on favourite.
But Dry Highline is something of a tearaway with a reputation for ignoring the obstacles and this was his first start since April 2000. Ward-Thomas managed to anchor him admirably and, despite one characteristic blunder, Dry Highline had the contest sewn up long before his last remaining opponent, Owenbwee, refused at the final fence.
Owned by Clare Villar, from Tostock, near Bury St Edmunds, Dry Highline is trained at Glemsford by Ruth Hayter. "I sing to him when I ride him at home to stop him from running away with me," Hayter admitted. "Jingle Bells is his favourite!"
Ward-Thomas completed his brace aboard another tricky customer, Tap The Father, who got the better of a good battle with Mossy Buck in the Restricted Race. Tap The Father took up the running approaching the last fence and, despite hanging away from the whip, held on by half a length.
Owner-trainer Fred Farrow, from Runcton Holme near Downham Market, was quick to praise his jockey. "Tap The Father has had his problems," he admitted, "but Christian has sorted him out."
George Cooper, who rode Mossy Buck, was left to rue the moment that he dropped his whip out in the country. But Cooper, from Raydon, near Hadleigh, had reason to celebrate earlier in the day after guiding Endeavour to a comfortable success in the Confined Race.
And there was champagne aplenty flowing in Cooper's horsebox come the end of the day as Glad All Over, who got a lift with Cooper but is trained, owned and was ridden by David Hays, from Higham, landed the second division of the Confined Maiden.
Hays, who at 56 is two years Cooper's junior, kept his mount a long way back from a suicidal early pace, set by Pharout and Tartan Shot. These tactics paid off handsomely, as Glad All Over hit the front two out and stayed on stoutly to beat Arctic Summer by 15 lengths.
The other Maiden was much closer (and much quicker) and witnessed a highly promising racecourse debut from Lord Valnic, who is trained in Newmarket by Tim Bryce. A first winner in the saddle for over seven years for another Newmarket resident, Gordon Johnson Houghton, Lord Valnic beat Kingfisher Star by a neck.
Nigel Bloom, who became a father for the third time two days earlier, may be thinking of calling his daughter 'Jean' after riding Royal Banker, who is trained at Eye by Jean Merriam, registered an easy victory in the Intermediate Race.
Andrew Ayers, who was on target at Higham the previous week, doubled his seasonal tally when Novatara slogged through the mud to lift the Members' Race, while the Ladies' Open went to Linlathen, ridden by Gemma Hutchinson and trained by her father at Theddingworth, near Market Harborough.
Race One (Hunt Race):
1 A Ayers' Novatara (East Essex) (owner),
2 A Chinery's Royal Action (East Essex) (P Chinery),
3 M Buchan's Neelisagin (East Essex) (owner).
Also: Wilkins (4), AR Aghaidh Abhaile (pu), Bens Gift (pu). Twenty lengths, a distance. 7m 47s. W £1.20. SP 2-5 fav.
Race Two (Confined Race):
1 D Clark's Endeavour (Essex and Suffolk) (G Cooper),
2 A Ayers' Native Status (East Essex) (owner),
3 W Tolhurst's Tarthooth (Essex and Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas).
Also: The Rural Dean (4), Bauble (ur), Kentish Bard (ur), Monyman (pu), Saleel (f). Seven lengths, half a length. 7m43s. W £2.80. SP 5-4 fav.
Race Three (Intermediate Race):
1 A W K Merriam's Royal Banker (Easton Harriers) (N Bloom),
2 C Carman's Rafter (North Norfolk Harriers) (only two finished).
Also: Double Express (f). A distance. 8m 00s. W £1.90. SP 1-3 fav.
Race Four (Men's Open Race):
1 Mrs C Villar's Dry Highline (Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas) (finished alone).
Also: Drumlin (pu), Owenbwee (ref). 7m 53s. W £1.10. SP 1-3 fav.
Race Five (Ladies Open Race):
1 Mrs P Hutchinson's Linlathen (Fernie) (Miss G Hutchinson),
2 Ms C Eagle's Senso (Jedburgh Forest) (owner),
3 M Ward's Mister Audi (Granta Harriers) (Miss R Barrow).
Also: Ballyea Boy (4), Foodbroker Star (5), Blayneys Privilege (pu), Celtic Duke (pu), The Secret Grey (pu), Uron V (pu), Valley's Choice. Seven lengths, two lengths. 7m 43s. W £11.10. SP 7-2 (Celtic Duke 2-1 fav).
Race Six (Restricted Race):
1 F Farrow and Ms H Goward's Tap The Father (West Norfolk) (C Ward-Thomas),
2 D Clark's Mossy Buck (Essex and Suffolk) (G Cooper),
3 B Dowling's Mackoy (Puckeridge) (T Lane).
Also: Dalligan (4), Claret And Blue (pu), Holmby Copse (pu), Pull On (pu), River Gala (pu), Royal Way (pu), Spittal Beck (pu), The Happy Client (pu), Wise Point (pu). Half a length, eight lengths. 7m 43s. W £2.30. SP 2-1 fav.
Race Seven (Confined Maiden Race - Division One):
1 Miss A Embiricos' Lord Valnic (Cambridge Univeristy Draghounds) (G Johnson Houghton),
2 D Morgan's Kingfisher Star (Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace) (T Lane),
3 P Jarvis and P Haslam's Brave The Waves (Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace) (P Jarvis).
Also: Artic Snip (pu), Bruan (pu), Buckley Downs (pu), Crown Rule (pu), Grey Fusilier (pu), Paleface Perhaps (ref), Thunderbird (f). Neck, six lengths. 7m 51s. W £9.30. SP 6-1 (Thunderbird 2-1 fav).
Race Eight (Confined Maiden Race - Division Two):
1 D Hays and Ms F Willis' Glad All Over (Essex Farmers and Union) (D Hays),
2 C Jarvis' Artic Summer (Suffolk) (owner) (only two finished).
Also: Lancaster Boy (pu), Le Garcon Gris (f), Paper Prince (pu), Pharout (pu), Supreme Craft (pu), Tartan Shot (pu), Tell Monty (ur). Fifteen lengths. 8m16s. W £3.40. SP 6-1 (Supreme Craft 7-4 fav).