Highlights of the last three decades of the Essex Farmers & Union
by Mike Ashby

2010- 2012    Date:      Going:  Good        Races: 6   Runners:  536th March 2011

A truly memorable day for Norfolk based duo, jockey Stuart Higgins and trainer Tina Hayward, who both landed their first ever double triumph, at a meeting. Their first success came with THE PIPER’S SON in the Confined and although being off the course for over a year, ran on strongly to win by seven lengths. MILL FIVE ACRE was more hard pressed when taking the Restricted race by just a neck from Humphrey Bee, to complete the double.

CAVEMAN and George Greenock won the Men’s Open and KING DU BERLAIS and Louise Allan defeated the favourite Va Vavoom, in the Ladies’ equivalent.

The maiden race saw fifteen runners go to post and the outcome of an eventful race saw Bridget Andrews and ARGENTATO be rewarded for some consistent performances, to see the gelding eventually lose his maiden tag.

2000-2009  Date: Going: Good ( G to F ) Races: 7  Runners:  5428th March 2005

A busy afternoon for Nigel Bloom, who had two winners and was runner-up in two other races.

Nigel’s winners came by the way of GOOD VINTAGE in the Men’s Open, who arrived with a well-timed challenge to take the lead on the flat from the favourite, My Best Buddy and Rowan Cope. Nigel had employed similar tactics in the opening Maiden race timing his challenge, to perfection, on MON ESPRIT to jump ahead of Epop and Rupert Stearn at the final obstacle.

Nigel had to settle for second best on Second Thoughts to the Lucinda Barrett-Nobbs ridden TARTAR SABRE in the Restricted whilst his mount Ardkilly Warrior failed to overhaul NO PENALTY and Andrew Braithwaite, who led all the way in the Intermediate.

FIND ME ANOTHER and Amy Stennett justified favouritism in the Ladies’ Open, taking command of the race two out, to win by fifteen lengths, from Celtic Duke and Zoe Turner. The Ampton stable did produce the winner of the Confined, however, when KING PLATO and James Owen saw off their five rivals by ten lengths.

1990-1999    Date: 10th May 1991   Going: Good to Firm   Races: 6   Runners:  31

This meeting held on a Friday evening and the first four races were won by the favourites with FORT HALL the overall star of the show, turning out in the Ladies’ Open. Partnered by Tanya Bracegirdle, the gelding won unchallenged to record the ninth of ten consecutive point-to-point wins during the 1991 season, which the partnership enjoyed.

Numerically it was ‘tens’ all the way when BARTON BENDISH and Nigel Bloom took the Open Maiden, the concluding race of the night. The victors were returned at 10-1 SP, they won by 10 lengths and there were 10 runners that went to post!  The winners task was made easier when Half a Sov fell three out, when going well and looking the winner.

Nicola Bulgin and SPARTAN FLASHBACK were popular winners of the opening Hunt race being ten lengths to the good over Trust To Luck, who didn’t appreciate the firm conditions.

1980-1989    Date: 14th May 1988    Going: Firm        Races:  6   Runners: 38

A double for David Turner, with contrasting outcomes at the finish. CUMBERLAND BASIN was left clear two out and comfortably won the Adjacent Hunt’s race by a ten length margin, from the favourite Lord Leighton. In the Men’s Open David’s mount BIT OF A DANDY was ten lengths down when the favourite Needwood Nomad fell two fences from home which then left them a fence clear of any rival at the finish.

Only two ran in the Ladies Open but a mere neck separated the two runners at the finish with Kent raider GAY FISH and Miss Gladders, rallying in the last 50 yards to beat their only opponent, El Padre.

Simon Andrews and UNKNOWN MARTYR took the concluding Maiden, which saw ten runners, the biggest field of the day, take their chance.

2010- 2011        21st MARCH 2010
Caveman and RYDAL PARK fought a classic duel over the final mile of the Mens Open and it was left to the judge to decide that the latter had prevailed. This was a reverse of the result a fortnight earlier at Ampton when Caveman was the beneficiary of the verdict. 

More exciting and close finishes were witnessed during the afternoon. In the Restricted, EVENING ECHO and Andrew Braithwaite just overhauled Crosby and Gina Andrews, by a neck. The Ladies’ Open saw three horses in a blanket finish. MID DIV AND CREEP just beating Inaro and King Du Berlais, with only a length and a half covering all three.

The opening division of the Maiden saw trainer/rider Andrew Pennock ride his third winner of the season on CAVANQUARTER whilst Gina Andrews and COLERAINE were never headed to land Division Two.

2000-2009     26th FEBRUARY 2000
DRY HIGHLINE andChristian Ward-Thomas land the Confined race, unchallenged, leaving their rivals spread all over the Essex countryside. SPRING GALE and Zoe Turner finish five lengths to the good over Cache Fleur and Gi d’Angibau in the Ladies Open but the Mens equivalent went to the out-of-area participants COPPER THISTLE and Richard Hunnisett, who were never troubled to land the long odds-on.

MONTY’S TAG and Simon Andrews won the Restricted but Simon had to settle for third place in Division Two of the Maiden on Nigel Padfield’s Senior Partner behind winners BALLAD and Alex Harvey. Alex was deputising for joint trainer Toby Bulgin, who cracked a bone in his left arm at Higham, the previous weekend. Division One of the Maiden went to LE CABRO D’OR and Simon Sporborg, who was seen at his best to steer his mount home. The gelding having run off the course on his previous start.

1990-1999          17th FEBRUARY 1996
Dictating the pace on a stayers’ track like Marks Tey requires a certain skill. However this was demonstrated to perfection by both Nigel Bloom and Paul Hacking, when adopting these tactics at this meeting. Hacking, from the South-east area, rode CELTIC SPARK to victory in the Mens Open, although the pairing were only a length up at the finish ahead of Brown Windsor, a first runner at the track for Caroline Saunders.

Nigel Bloom’s successes came on THE ARTFUL DODGER for Malcolm Kemp, in the Confined and HIGHLAND RALLY in Division One of the Maiden.

PENDIL’S PLEASURE and William Wales displayed their liking for the Essex track when winning Division Two of the Restricted race. The pairing had won their Maiden, here, at the equivalent meeting twelve months earlier.  

1980-1989          10th MARCH 1984
The Essex Union meeting saw David Turner ride a treble on COURTNEIGH (Adjacent), HILL POINT (Mens Open) and BARSTICK (Restricted). Ollie Vaughan-Jones and Kalkashanndi were about to give Courtneigh a race when falling at the second last, leaving Ollie with a badly broken wrist.

MARCUS BOY and Alistair Templeton won Division One of the Maiden whilst Will Barber rode SUSPENDED SENTENCE to victory in Division Two, wearing his mother’s colours.

The biggest shock of the day came in the Ladies’ Open. The ‘dead’ going appeared to inconvenience the favourite Reliable Robert, who could only finish fifth. The race honours went to RIVER SAINT and Jackie Hodge, returned at 33/1 with the bookmakers but paid a remarkable £159.90 on the Tote. Those were the days !