A marathon Cambridge University Draghounds Point-To-Point meeting at Cottenham on Saturday lasted four and a half hours and nine races. Fortunately, the quality of the sport on offer was much better than the weather – visibility varied from gloomy to grotesque and spectactors needed thermal clothing as well as sharp eyes.
The racing did its best to warm up the crowd with thrills and spills aplenty throughout the afternoon. No contest was more exciting than the first, where the headstrong Sirius Storm saw his big early lead evaporate, then battled back past Duke Of Stradone at the final fence only to wander badly on the run-in and get caight by the same rival in the the last few strides.
Trained near Bishops Stortford by Lauren Michelli and well ridden by her boyfriend, Andrew Braithwaite, Duke of Stradone has been seeing out his races much better since he was equipped with a tongue tie.
The only other East Anglian victory on a card dominated by visitors from outside the region was Fousltons Ruler, trained at Raydon, near Hadleigh, by George Cooper and a chance ride for Alex Vaughan-Jones, from Wells next the Sea in North Norfolk.
His regular partner, Rupert Stearn, was in attendance but still recovering from a broken collar bone sustained at Higham two weeks ago.
Off the course since suffering a leg injury in a fall at this venue last March, Foulstons Rulercame home eight lengths clear of Jonlahy in the second division of the older horse Maiden.
Cooper, who also bred the winner, used to ride against Vaughan-Jones’s father, Ollie, and remembers benefitting from a similar situation 25 years ago when Vaughan-Jones senior was convalescing following a broken pelvis and passed on to Cooper the winning ride on General Rule at Marks Tey.
“He’s finally paid back that debt today,” Ollie quipped, after watching his son emerge triumphant from the murk.
Another local rider laid up with a bust collar bone is trainer Fleur Hawes, from Bressingham, and her yard has been suffering more than its share of ill fortune since Star Double andPouilly almost gave them a famous double at Higham last month.
Here Hawes had fancied contenders in both Open races. But the heavily-backed Bantry Berecame a cropper at the fifth last when travelling strongly in the Mens Open while Scotland Yard was bang in contention when brought down by an uncharacteristic fall from one of his main rivals, the dual recent course winner, Big Moment, in the Ladies’ equivalent.
Beneficiaries were the Sussex-trained Merry Vic, who returnd from a long absence to make it five wins in a row in the Mens, and Gloucestershire raider Olival, who brought to an end a frustrating sequence of near misses when making it to the top step of the podium in the Ladies.Two further Gloucestershire victories came in the Intermediate Race, where Mic Aubin took advantage of the first fence departure of hot favourite, Lotta Presents, and the Restricted Race, where Goscar Rock replicated the front-running success he enjoyed here two months ago.
Mad Jack Duncan, trained in Berkshire by Alan Hill, gained compensation for his narrow defeat at the previous Cottenham meeting when lifting the other older horse Maiden, while the youngsters Maidens went to Pocket Park, trained in Bedforshire by Michael Kehoe and completing a double for Surrey-based jockey Philip York, and the promising debutant, Canticle, who had made the journey from Antonia Bealby’s stable in Lincolnshire.