Mild weather and some high quality racing made for a memorable day’s point-to-pointing at Cottenham on the outskirts of Cambridge on New Year’s Eve, where trainers John Ferguson and David Phelan stole the show together with young jockey Patrick Smith, who had never ridden a winner prior to this meeting but enjoyed a magnificent double.
John Ferguson, bloodstock advisor to Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed, has enjoyed a wonderful start to the season as a jumps permit trainer under rules from his base in Cowlinge near Newmarket and he maintained this stable form at Cottenham with two winners and four placed horses from his six runners on the day.
Having won a maiden at Dingley on his second start last season, Now Then Charlie showed considerable promise in a high class novice chase at Chepstow on his seasonal return in October and found the return to point-to-pointing far less taxing as he annihilated his 15 rivals in the Restricted by a facile 15 lengths. Bought as a 4yo store in Ireland by John Ferguson with advice from his close friend Nick Wright, who ironically trains the runner-up Stress, Now Then Charlie will remain in point-to-points for the moment, before probably heading back under rules next season. This was a first winner back for former multiple East Anglian champion James Owen, assistant trainer to John Ferguson, since his return to race-riding after suffering a bad foot injury in a fall at Horseheath earlier this year.
It was John’s son, James Ferguson, who enjoyed his first career winner and provided the double for the yard half an hour later as he steered Earth Dream to an impressive success in the Men’s Open. A recruit over the summer from the Paul Nicholls’ yard, Earth Dream jumped superbly and showed an impressive turn of foot off the home turn to power 25-lengths clear of impressive Black Forest Lodge winner Ravethebrave. Earth Dream looks sure to prove tough to beat in the foreseeable future, with John Ferguson already regarding the exciting eight year-old as a suitable mount next season for his 15 year-old son Alexander.
A treble would surely have been on the cards for the John Ferguson yard in the sixth race, the three-mile Open Maiden, had his charge Macklin not hung uncontrollably off the home bend when seeming to have the race in the bag. Despite James Owen’s valiant efforts, the recalcitrant Macklin refused to turn and presented the race to Oscar The Myth, before finally consenting to run on again into second. Oscar The Myth capped a memorable afternoon for Kent-based trainer David Phelan and his 17 year-old jockey Patrick Smith as they enjoyed a double together. Oscar The Myth had shown little under rules, but progressed from a promising sixth on his pointing debut at Whitfield to win here.
Ashford based David Phelan has a string of 15 point-to-pointers to train for this season and he clearly has them in fine fettle, as Flowersoftherarest showed when sprinting to a 20-length victory in the Members Race for Novice Riders, providing a first ever winner for Patrick Smith, who has worked for David Phelan for the past three years. Flowersoftherarest, who has now won six point-to-points, evidently prefers the gentle touch since he is ridden exclusively by girls at home, but he gelled well with Patrick Smith on the racecourse and should be able to progress through the pointing ranks. The Novice Riders race at Ampton on January 15th is next on the agenda.
The opening event on the card, the Club Members Conditions Race, looked a foregone conclusion throughout the final circuit as the smooth-travelling Timeshift fairly bolted up under a patient ride from Dave Mansell. This was a fifth point-to-point win from eight starts for the Zoe Hammond trained seven year-old, who was pulled up at the first Cottenham meeting when failing to act on the very quick ground. Zoe Hammond, from near Stourport-On-Severn in Worcestershire, added that Timeshift has been a different horse since she began steaming the hay that is fed to her horses in order to remove spores that seemed to be affecting his previous performances. A similar contest at Higham on January 29th is the next target.
The fast and furious pace throughout the Ladies’ Open took its toll on many of the 13 participants in the latter stages, most notably Spellchecker, who looked to have matters under control when kicked clear by Gina Andrews approaching the second last fence. However, a renewed effort from pointing debutant Leac An Scail under Samantha Drake proved too strong on the run-in. Samantha, who owns, trains and rides Leac An Scail, purchased the formerly smart under rules performer from Sue Smith, for whom she regularly rides out. The long journey from Guiseley near Leeds proved most worthwhile.
The final race on the card, the 2m4f Maiden restricted to horses aged between four and seven years old, was divided into two divisions, the first of which proved plain sailing for favourite Accessallareas under a canny front-running ride from the stylish Jeremy Mahot. Accessallareas is trained by Jeremy’s partner Sarah-Jayne Davies in Leominster in Herefordshire and was breaking his maiden in point-to-points at the eighth attempt, following a solid second on his seasonal debut at Barbury Castle at the beginning of December. Runner-up Colonel Iain from the John Ferguson yard could well prove to be a name to note for the future, as the good-looking grey five year-old ran a most promising race on his debut under a sympathetic ride.
Division Two produced a rousing finish with three horses jumping the last fence upsides. Another shoddy jump from the John Ferguson debutant Dr Harry Who eventually proved his undoing, although his multiple jumping errors had not prevented him from travelling strongly until he faded into third late on. Nick Wright had to settle for another second as his new recruit from Ireland It Was Me came up half a length short to pointing debutant Midnight King from the Julie Marles yard in Warwickshire. Two wind operations since leaving under rules trainer George Baker have worked the oracle for Midnight King, who may well be sent back under rules eventually by his owner Jo Mann. This was also a notable return win for Jo’s son Peter, who gave up race riding for eighteen months due to problems controlling his weight, but showed all his old enthusiasm in driving out Midnight King to the line.
Here are the results for the Cambridgeshire Harriers Hunt Club at Cottenham. The official going was good to firm. The weather, very mild with sunny periods. Not a massive crowd in attendance but much better than the previous meeting.
CHHC Members Conditions race
1 Timeshift – David Mansell 7/4f
2 High Five – Clare Wills
3 Defying Gravity – Richard Collinson
Time 5 mins 58 secs Dists: 10L, 4L 7 ran
1 Now Then Charlie – James Owen 4/1
2 Stress – Richard Collinson
3 Old Ironside – Ryan Potter
Time 5-50 Dists: 15L, Dist 16 ran The Recovery 2/1f (PU)
Mens Open Race
1 Earth Dream – James Ferguson 5/1
2 Ravethebrave – Joe Hill 11/10f
3 Pocket Park – Matt Smith
Time 5-49 Dists: 25L Hd 9 ran
CA Members Novice Riders Race
1 Flowersoftherarest – Patrick Smith 5/1
2 Spare Change – Brody Hampson
3 Tumbling Dice – James Ferguson 7/4f
Time 6-00 Dists:20L, 5L 9 ran
Ladies Open Race
1 Leac An Scail – Sam Drake 5/1
2 Spellchecker – Gina Andrews
3 Old Si – Louise Allen
Time 5-52 Dists: 1 1/2L. 20L 13 ran Mount Benger 6/4f (6th)
3 Mile Open Maiden
1 Oscar The Myth – Patrick Smith 5/1
2 Macklin – James Owen 4/5f
3 Mr Maybe – Will Hickman
Time 6-02 Dists: 7L, 4L 15 ran
4,5,6 & 7 YO Maiden 2 miles 4 furlongs Div One
1 Accessallareas – Jeremy Mahot 7/4f
2 Colonel Iain – James Owen
3 Following Dreams – Liam Payter
Time 4-36 Dists: 4L 15L 10 ran
4,5,6 & 7 YO Maiden 2 miles 4 furlongs Div Two
1 Midnight King – Peter Mann 3/1
2 It Was Me – Richard Collinson
3 Dr Harry Who – James Owen
Time 4-36 Dists: 1/2L, 10L 10 ran Tomstar 2/1f (5th)
A very good days racing with John Ferguson having a training double and a riding double for Patrick Smith, these being his first career wins.