The East Anglian Point–To–Point season got off to a hectic start in unexpected bright sunshine as Cottenham played host to an eight-race, 105-runner bonanza for the Cambridge University United Hunts Club fixture yesterday (Sunday).
With visitors from outside the area accounting for 90% of the entries it was hardly surprising that there were only two locally trained winners. Fittingly, one of those victories went to last term’s East Anglian Champion Jockey, Rupert Stearn, aboard the mare Forget The Ref in the second division of the Club Member’s Race.Trained at Wretham by Robert Abrey and owned by his near-neighbour, Ian Thurtle, Forget the Ref overcame several sticky jumps to draw 20 lengths clear of Sirius Storm, from the Bradfield St Clare yard of Alex Embiricos. “Fancy winning a race in December,” exclaimed a self-deprecating Abrey. “It usually takes us until May. We will never have a tougher horse – even when she’s only half fit she won’t stop.”
The other home triumph came when the promising four-year-old, Inner Steel, trained in Newmarket by his owner Don Cantillon, justified heavy support in the betting ring when swooping late in one of two short Maidens.
A third East Anglian success was narrowly denied in the finish of the day when Posh Dude got the better of a stirring duel with Lotta Presents, who is trained near Newmarket by John Ferguson and was given a determined front-running ride by James Owen.
Posh Dude is trained by the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Simon Sherwood, who began his riding career at Marks Tey near Colchester but now lives near Hereford. He was superbly ridden by Sherwood’s 17 year old son, Jack, who crept stealthily into the race and then showed great strength in the finish to touch off Lotta Presents by a head.
The Ladies’ Open saw a repeat of 2008 as the Hampshire-trained Big Moment was delivered with a perfectly-timed challenge at the last to beat the favourite, Petit Lord, by five lengths.Top class jockeyship was in evidence throughout the afternoon, including in the Men’s Open, where three-time National Champion Richard Burton made much of the running to score comfortably aboard Worcestershire raider Cedrus Libani.
And another former Champion, James Tudor, showcased his skills in the closing short Maiden aboard the Oxfordshire-trained Leader Blue
The day’s most impressive performance came in the three-mile Maiden when Goscar Rock justified the long trip from beside the Bristol Channel to gallop his rivals into submission under Philip York. He was a first winner as a trainer with his initial runner for Peter Hall and looks up to winning in much better company.
Finally, the Surrey-trained Lease Back proved much too strong for his rivals in the opening Club Member’s Race.