This coming season sees an even earlier start than in previous years as Cottenham, our traditional curtain raiser, moves two weeks forward to regain its position as the nationwide season opener. As ever, there has been much discussion about the increasingly early start to the season, particularly as East Anglia then has to wait five weeks for its next meeting, but Cottenham invariably attracts runners from all around the country and provides competitive racing to kick off the season.

We are sure to see runners from some the country’s leading trainers at Cottenham; Tom Ellis, Alan Hill and Philip Rowley rarely let a meeting at this track pass without saddling a winner. Francesca Nimmo also struck early at the corresponding meeting last year. Hopefully, we can see some local trainers hit form early too; Andrew Pennock will have a strong new bunch of maidens to go to war with and will be looking to get a winner on the board. We will have to wait and see who will be partnering the Pennock runners this season after the retirement of Men’s area champion, Richard Collinson.

A jockey to follow in the area this season could be Alex Chadwick who will be looking to back up what was a really strong first season based in East Anglia last year. He says he will be aiming to better last season’s tally and be competitive in the area championship As well as the support of his boss, James Owen, Chadwick will be looking to continue his partnerships with John Whyte, Brian Dowling and David Kemp who all provided him with winners last season.  Harmony Row of David Kemp’s is one he is particularly looking forward to getting back on board.

Looking further ahead in to the season James Owen has a strong team of horses. He is particularly looking forward to Silvergrove, who has changed ownership. The horse took a while to come to hand last season but he is qualified for Aintree which will be his target and Owen will be in no rush with him.  He also has the high class Midnight Cowboy, another qualified for the Liverpool Foxhunters, who with a rating of 135 should soon be scoring in points if he can be brought back to his best. Owen has given Fiddler of Dooney as his horse to follow for the season.  He is a 6 year old by Yeats who has been unlucky not to have already gotten his head in front, he has been running in Ireland and has placed form in Hunter Chases.

Owen is clearly passionate about Point to Pointing in East Anglia and in a move which he hopes will give a boost to the area he is setting up an East Anglian syndicate which will involve Fiddler of Dooney to start with. Owen hopes to add to the syndicate season by season so anyone interested should get in touch.  Syndication looks to play an important role for point to pointing in gaining new owners and retaining old ones and hopefully more East Anglian trainers will follow suit.

As the season unfolds, the whole of East Anglia will have a close eye on the David Kemp trained Caryto Des Brosses who went agonisingly close to winning the Mixed Open Final at Cheltenham last season, just thwarted on the line by the Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Hazel Hill. He again found one a neck too good in the Horse and Hound Cup at Stratford but he is still only an 8 year old and he looks to still be on the up.  Owned by East Anglian stalwart John Ridge, it would be an amazing feat for the area if we could see Caryto Des Brosses storming up the Cheltenham hill come March. . . .