General Assembly defied his lack of experience to run out the ready winner of the Men’s Open Race at the Cambridge University Draghounds Point-To-Point meeting at Cottenham yesterday (Sunday).
Ridden by Wymondham’s Nibby Bloom, General Assembly was having only his second start over fences. Yet he hit the front at the third last and powered away from Bishops Hall to score by ten lengths.
Diana Hall, who trains the eight-year-old at Hingham, near Attleborough, with her husband Peter and their daughters, Cicely and Harriet, was quick to praise Bloom for his immaculate ride. But the Hall family deserve much of the credit for his successful conversion from hurdling.
“A friend of ours in Hingham, Sue Barton, had General Assembly in training in Newmarket with George Margarson and offered him to us as an eventer,” Mrs Hall explained. “My husband took one look at him and said that pointing would be his game.”
“We used to have a few pointers, but have not had a runner for seven years because my daughters have been too involved in eventing.”
There was another family triumph in the Greig Middleton Ladies’ Open as Spring Gale gave the Turners, from Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, their first winner of the season.
Patiently ridden by Zoe Turner, Spring Gale jumped brilliantly and was not hard pressed to beat Stretchit by 15 lengths in the fastest time of the day.
Joe Turner, Zoe’s grandfather, revealed that the leading National Hunt trainer, Venetia Williams, had been unable to get to grips with this nine- year-old. “He is a bit delicate, and we let him please himself at home and don’t do too much work with him,” Joe admitted.
Zoe celebrated the victory (and winning her battle with the scales to ride at the allotted weight of 11 stone) by scoffing a Custard Cream!
The Sporborg family, from Bishop’s Stortford, had a day of ups and downs. They were devastated when Shake Five, who has won 12 times for them, suffered a potentially career-ending injury while finishing third in the Men’s Open.
Events took a turn for the better when Scarlett O’Hara, ridden as usual by Simon Sporborg, found a devastating late burst of speed to catch Jacob’s Wife in the Marsh UK / Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Race.
Scarlett O’Hara still had five lengths to make up approaching the last fence, but she flew up the run-in to score by three lengths and leave the runner-up’s jockey, Alastair Crow, to reflect on his 7lb of overweight.
The Sporborgs then provided the beaten favourites in two of the last three races. The Red Boywas comprehensively out jumped by the Shropshire raider, Rise To It, in the Restricted Race, but still finished a solid second and will surely improve with match practice (this was only his second career start).
But the eclipse of the other Sporborg favourite was more worrying, as Le Cabro d’Or, who has shown ability and temperament in equal measure, simply ran off the course in the closing two and a half mile Maiden, unshipping his pilot in the process.
Chief beneficiary was the Whepstead-based trainer-rider Neil King, who seems to have a nice prospect on his hands in the shape of the easy winner, Smurf. Named after one of his joint owners, Steven Murphy, who has kept him at home at Stanstead, near Long Melford, since he was a foal, Smurf came home a distance clear of Senior Partner.
The other Maiden went to Agassi’s Ace, who belied an uninspiring set of form figures to defeat the fast-finishing Manna Brave by three lengths. Trained near Luton by Katya Pilkington, Agassi’s Ace was ridden by Alex Harvey who, ironically, trained the runner-up until the end of last season.
Spring Wheat, trained at Duddenhoe End, near Saffron Walden, by Cathy Tuke, sauntered away from her rivals under Tim Lane in the Members Race. Tuke was thrilled, but was disappointed not to have been in the saddle as the Jockey Club are still in the process of renewing her riding licence after a bad fall 13 months ago.
The Intermediate Race was billed as a re-match between Dry Highline and Tom de Savoie. But both fell at the same obstacle, one on the first circuit and one on the last, leaving a second Shropshire raider, Lochnomore, to score an impressive victory under Richard Burton.
Race One (Member’s Race):
1 Miss C Tuke’s Spring Wheat (CUDH) (T Lane),
2 Miss K Williams’ and N Page’s Aughnacloy Rose (CUDH) (R Page),
3 Mrs M Sharland’s Classic MS (CUDH) (M Grange).
Also: Campbellhill (ur), Nuclear Beach (pu), Primrose Hill (r), Speedy Snaps Pride (pu), Wardy Hill (r). Distance, 5l. 6m 50s. W œ2.20. DF œ4. SP 6-4 fav.
Race Two (Intermediate Race):
1 Mrs J Thornton’s Lochnomore (Wheatland) (R Burton),
2 C Hill’s and Mrs C Kendrick’s Courier’s Way (Essex) (P McAllister),
3 R P Fryer and Miss C Fryer’s Ann’s Ambition (Dunston Harriers) (Miss C Fryer).
Also: Nibble (4th), Neelisagin (5th), Barnadown (su), Dry Highline (ur), Generous Deal (pu), Lunar Dancer (ur), Sweet Talker (pu), Tell Tale (f), Tom De Savoie (f), Majestic Queen (pu). Distance, 1«l. 6m 22s. W œ3.90. DF œ1.70 (winner with any other). SP 3-1 (Tom De Savoie 11-10fav).
Race Three (Men’s Open Race):
1 P P Hall’s General Assembly (West Norfolk) (N Bloom),
2 G Samuel’s Bishops Hall (North Shrops) (A Crow),
3 Mrs C Sporborg’s Shake Five (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg).
Also: Torus Spa (4th), Ardshuil (5th), Cheryl’s Lad (ur), Spaceage Gold (pu), Still In Business (ur). 10l, 5l. 6m 29s. W œ3.10. DF œ3.20. SP 5-2 (Torus Spa 7-4 fav).
Race Four (Ladies’ Open Race):
1 J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
2 Miss T McCurrich and L McCurrich’s Stretchit (Worcs) (Miss T McCurrich),
3 Mrs E Coveney’s Native Venture (OSB and WK) (owner).
Also: Tighter Budget (4th), Hersilia (f), Let’s Twist Again (pu), Mighty Merc (f), Mill of the Rags (f), Paparazzo (pu), Peanuts Pet (f). 15l, 5l. 6m 19s. W œ4.60. DF œ11.70. SP 7-2 (Native Venture 13-8 fav).
Race Five (PPORA Mares Race): 1 C Sporborg’s Scarlett O’Hara (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg),
2 R French’s Jacob’s Wife (North Shrops) (A Crow),
3 M Trow, A and H Partners’ Moonstone (Worcs) (D Mansell).
Also: Ballyquintet (4th), Iberian (5th), Insulate (6th), Mai-Point (7th), La Kabyle (8th), Artic Pearl (pu), I Don’t Think So (r), Waisu (pu). 3l, 4l. 6m 27s. W œ1.50. DF œ2.30. SP evens fav.
Race Six (Restricted Race):
1 M J Parr’s Rise To It (North Shrops) (G Hanmer),
2 C Sporborg’s The Red Boy (Puckeridge) (K Edmonds),
3 N Pewter’s Premier First (Suffolk) (W Pewter).
Also: Al Jawwal (pu), Cill Chullinn (ur), Dorgan (pu), Grove Victor (ur), Mannagar (pu), Man of Antrim (pu), Miss Mouse (f), Nearly A Beau (pu), Oak House (pu), Rising Sap (f), Stormy Words (ur), Tommy O’Dwyer (pu), Warner For Sport (pu). 1«l, distance. 6m 29s. W œ8.80. DF œ8.60. SP 7-1 (The Red Boy 11-10 fav).
Race Seven (2 mile Maiden Race, Division One):
1 Mrs K Pilkington’s Agassi’s Ace (Enfield Chace) (A Harvey),
2 W J Tolhurst’s Manna Brave (Essex and Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas),
3 A G Chinery’s Cicero’s Law (E Essex) (P Chinery).
Also: County Derry (4th), Lady Nevada (5th), About Time (pu), Ali’s Lark (f), Golden Knight (pu), Miss Pink (pu), Sire De Brumetz (f), T’Nightsthenight (r). 3l, 1l. 5m 03s. W œ28.40. DF œ17.70 (winner with any other). SP 8-1 (T’Nightsthenight 5-2 fav).
Race Eight (2 mile Maiden Race, Division Two):
1 Mr and Mrs S Murphy’s, M Clarke’s and Mrs M Ruff’s Smurf (Suffolk) (N King),
2 N Padfield’s Senior Partner (Enfield Chace) (S Andrews),
3 E H Crow’s Fruit Crop (North Shrops) (B Foster).
Also: Sparebit (4th), Banteen (ur), Daydreamer (ur), Fine Times (pu), Intrepid Gal (pu), Le Carbro D’Or (r/o), Sidney Street (f).
Distance, distance. 5m 00s. W œ7. DF œ14.60. SP 8-1 (Le Cabro D’Or 4-6 fav).