The weather relented in the nick of time to allow the Cambridgeshire Harriers Hunt Club Point-To-Point to go ahead at Cottenham on Monday.
The recent cold snap dumped five inches of snow on the course. And, although most of this had disappeared before race day, shovels were required to dispose of drifts that had accumulated to depths of 18 inches around the fences in the home straight.
That, however, was not the last of the weather worries for course officials. A frost came down just hours before the action was set to start, meaning that the first of seven races was put back by an hour to allow the sun to melt it away.
After all this drama, a healthy crowd was treated to more thrills at the end of this curtain-raising event as the hot favourite, Buckinghamshire trained Start Royal, held off the late thrust of Where’s My Baby by the minimum margin – a short head.Where’s My Baby was a first ride for his trainer, David Kemp, from Kilverstone near Thetford, since he broke both his cheekbones in a fall back in March.
The highlight from an East Anglian perspective came in the Novice Riders’ Race as 17-year-old Jack Quinlan, from Newmarket, landed his first ever steeplechasing success aboard The Railway Man.
Quinlan, whose uncle Mick Quinlan is a Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, earned his spurs in pony racing, where he partnered a total of 11 winners.
But The Railway Man, who is trained by his mother, Jo, was his initial ride over obstacles. “It’s a bit more exhilarating than riding ponies,” an excited Quinlan announced afterwards.
Otherwise, the closest that the East Anglians came to having a winner on a card dominated by foreign invaders was in the feature race, the Men’s Open, which is part of the Brightwells Insurance Order of Excellence.
Forget The Ref, who is trained not far from Where’s My Baby at Wretham in Norfolk by Robert Abrey, produced a career best to overcome some hairy jumping and fill the runner’s up spot.
But she still found the Worcestershire-trained, Cedrus Libani, who made all the running and himself survived a scare at the second last fence, four lengths too strong.
The man happiest that racing was able to beat the weather was Stratford-Upon-Avon handler Michael Gates. He was barely able to keep a lid on his exultation after Crack At Dawn and Mr Johnson had doubled his career tally as a trainer by landing both Maiden races.
The Ladies Open, like the Men’s equivalent an hour earlier, saw a repeat of the December 6 meeting here with Big Moment coming out on top.
Trained in Hampshire by Jenny Gordon, he was given a tough battle by Petit Lord but eventually prevailed by a length and a half.
Philip York, from Surrey, partnered a winner at the previous Cottenham fixture and maintained his good early-season form when High Toby overcame some stuttering leaps to take the Restricted Race.