ESSEX FARMERS & UNION, MARKS TEY, SATURDAY MAY 3 GOING: GOOD TO FIRM.
Bunratty's Sole served up a tasty victory which should prove to be just the hors d'oeuvre to a successful point-to-pointing career at the Essex Farmers & Union fixture at Marks Tey on Saturday.
Trained at Wymondham by Mike Bloom for local farmer Dick Fryer, Bunratty's Sole is only a five-year-old and his inexperience was there for all to see as he wandered about and ran green during the Confined Maiden Race.
But his talent shone through as he stayed on stoutly to beat the promising Arctic Snip by four lengths. The winner's intended pilot, Bloom's son Nigel, could only watch proceedings unfold as he has been sidelined since compressing a vertebra in a nasty fall at Garthorpe last month.
But his misfortune allowed Stuart Morris to notch the 22nd win of a best-ever season which sees him in second place in the National Riders' Championship.
Bunratty's Sole is so named because Fryer missed his plane home when jetting over to County Cork in Ireland to buy the horse last year. Forced to spend an unscheduled night away, he ended up eating at a famed fish restaurant in a village called Bunratty - and the hospitality was so good that the visiting Norfolk contingent was still in residence, singing, at 4.30am the next morning!
His success was the second leg of a double for the Bloom yard following Always On The Line's success in the Confined Race. A far from easy ride, Always On The Line has been well handled throughout a long season by 18-year-old Alex Merriam, from Eye in Suffolk.
So it was fitting that this three length defeat of Westfield John brought Merriam the award for Marks Tey's leading rider of the season.
Indeed, Merriam is very much in the running for a national award - the Wilkinson Sword for the leading under 21 rider who was winless at the start of the year. This success - his fifth - leaves him one adrift of Welshman Sam Thomas in that category.
A rather more seasoned jockey - 59-year-old George Cooper - took the three-runner Members race aboard Jims Belief. Trained at Raydon, near Hadleigh, by Cooper's partner, Cherie Cunningham, Jims Belief beat his stablemate, Rip Kirby, by two lengths after the favourite, Glad All Over, had unshipped his jockey, David Hays, at the third last.
Northamptonshire raider Linlathen followed up his Easter Monday success here with another comfortable victory under Gemma Hutchinson in the Ladies' Open.
The rest of the card belonged to Guildford trainer-jockey Phil York, who enhanced an already career-best campaign with a double aboard Peafield and Eastern Point - his very first rides at this venue.
Peafield proved that he has lost none of his zest at the age of 14 with a fourth 2003 win in the Men's Open while Eastern Point, who has turned over a new leaf since joining the York yard a couple of months ago, was not hard pressed to justify odds-on favouritsm in the Restricted Race.
Race One (Members Race):
1 T Buxton and Lady Jennifer Garden's Jims Belief (E Anglian Bloodhounds) (G Cooper),
2 G I Cooper's RIP Kirby (Essex Farmers and Union). Also: Glad All Over (ur).
Two lengths. 6m 58s. SP 5-2 (Glad All Over 5-4 fav).
Race Two (Confined Race):
1 A W K Merriam's Always On The Line (Dunston Harriers) (Alex Merriam),
2 J M Turner's Westfield John (Suffolk) (J Owen),
3 G L Lyster's Gawngadinn (Dunston Harriers) (A Sansome).
Also: Sir Williamwallace (4), Therewearethen (5), Treasure Dome (pu). Three lengths, three lengths. 6m 51s. SP 6-4 jt fav (Westfield John 6-4 jt fav).
Race Three (Ladies Open Race):
1 Mrs S Hutchinson's Linlathen (Fernie) (Miss G Hutchinson),
2 J M Turner's The Wiley Kalmuck (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
3 C and Mrs J Gordon's Dragon Lord (Mid Surrey) (Mrs J Gordon).
Also: Tom Cobbler (4), Village Copper (5), Thurles Pickpocket (pu). Ten lengths, 12 lengths. 6m 39s. SP 4-6 fav.
Race Four (Men's Open Race):
1 A Parrish's Peafield (Staff College) (P York),
2 A G Chinery's Royal Action (East Essex) (P Chinery),
3 D W Clark's Endeavour (Essex and Suffolk) (G Cooper).
Also: Hatcham Boy (4), Corston Joker (su). Ten lengths, distance. 6m 36s. SP 2-1. (Endeavour 4-5 fav).
Race Five (Restricted Race):
1 Mrs K York's Eastern Point (Grafton) (P York),
2 D J Harding-Jones' Pull On (Puckeridge) (S Morris),
3 R D Green's Stick Or Bust (Suffolk) (Miss A Stennett).
Also: River Gala (4), Mighty Missflighty (pu). Twenty lengths, 1½ lengths. 6m 49s. SP 8-11 fav.
Race Six (Confined Maiden Race):
1 Mr and Mrs R P Fryer's Bunratty Sole (Dunston Harriers) (S Morris),
2 J Buckle's Artic Snip (Essex and Suffolk) (N Moore),
3 Mrs C Villar, P Beaton-Brown and T Batterby's Golden Shred (Suffolk) (C Gordon).
Also: Ginger Bug (4), Granny Dick (5), Life Of A Star (6), Charlie Dene (pu), Cherokee Red (ur), Crown Rule (pu). Four lengths, 15 lengths. 6m 57s. SP 4-7 fav.