Best friends Nick Wright and John Ferguson shared a winner apiece as Point-To-Pointing beat the weather by staging an enjoyable Cambridge University United Hunts Club fixture at Cottenham on Sunday.
The meeting suffered a one-week postponement from its original date and then had to survive three inspections as, little more than ten miles down the road at Huntingdon, the National Hunt course’s biggest day of the year fell foul to the frost.
As is so often the case at this, the opening fixture of the East Anglian season, the early part of the six-race card was dominated by visitors from outside of the region – the third horse home in the opening race, Cuigny, had travelled all the way down from the snow-ravaged Scottish Borders, leaving home at 3.30am!
But pride was restored for the local contingent in the two closing Maiden Races as Stress gave his trainer,Wright, from Badlingham, near Newmarket, a dream first victory in the three-miler and then Bendecido, trained by Ferguson at nearby Cowlinge, took the two and a half mile equivalent.
Wright never managed a single triumph during an enthusiastic riding career so he was overjoyed when Stress, ridden with aplomb by Horseheath’s Michael Ennis – a recent recruit to the East Anglian weighing room – got the better of a great battle with the heavily-backed favourite, Aim For The Stars.
Afterwards an ecstatic Wright, surrounded by his wife Lucinda and sons Archie and Fergus, said: “It has always been my dream to train pointers so to win with my very first runner – I can’t believe it.” Very unusually for a Maiden race, Stress clocked the fastest time of the day.
Ferguson, who two hours earlier had seen his 21-year-old son, James, perform a rodeo act to survive a final fence blunder on third-placed Ballybough Jack on his debut ride in the Men’s Open, was the first to congratulate his great mate
And it was Ferguson’s turn 35 minutes later as Bendecido marked himself down as a young horse with a big future with a comprehensive five length success in the short Maiden.
Ferguson is better known in flat racing circles as the Bloodstock Adviser to Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai. But this victory clearly gave him enormous pleasure, especially since Bendecido is the first horse to be owned by his mother, Margaret, from Ousden, who was on hand to pick up the trophy.
Earlier, there had been drama in the Men’s Open race when the hot favourite, Cedrus Libani, lost all chance when forfeiting 50 lengths at the start, leaving the second favourite, Start Royal, to take his Cottenham record to a perfect four from four as he sauntered home in front of Mount Benger. Cedrus Libani is trained near Hereford by Angela Rucker, who enjoyed much better fortune in the following Ladies’ Open. This time Rucker herself was in the saddle as Kicks For Free, a top quality performer under rules who cost £31,500 last May, oozed class in beating Big Moment and Inaro by ten lengths.
Freddie Mitchell, 16, from Epsom in Surrey, completed an amazing double in the PPORA Club Race as, just two weeks after winning on his first ride on the flat, at Lingfield Park, he perfomed precisely the same feat over fences. He made all the running aboard his father’s Stroom Bank and held off Posh Dude by four lengths.
Finally, Divine Intavention got the better of the biggest field of the day – 14 – as a display of fast, accurate jumping brought victory for Oxfordshire owner-trainer, Sue Wilson, in the Restricted Race.