Bottomless underfoot conditions more akin to early February than early May meant that the Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace Point-To-Point fixture was all but washed out at Northaw yesterday on Monday.
The stewards were close to abandoning the meeting after a slow motion finish to the second race and by the end of the card only ten, rather than the scheduled 18 fences, were being jumped on safety grounds.
The stewards’ decision to continue was justified as the weather improved markedly – torrential rain being replaced by bright sunshine – but the most overworked men at the venue were the tractor drivers towing vehicles off the course after the last race.
Jockey Tony Williams and trainer Henry Hill, from Great Gidding near Peterborough, were mighty relieved that the meeting was completed as they landed a rare double – in Williams’ case his first ever.
Ballad has proved to be a shrewd autumn purchase by Hill as his victory in the Men’s Open was his third of the campaign. Making much of the running under Williams, he drew 20 lengths clear of True Chimes with the favourite, Dunrig, trailing home last of the three runners.
Williams had been distraught when A Fine Story blundered him from the saddle when in possession of a winning lead at Fakenham nine days earlier. But the grimace was replaced by a smile as A Fine Story finally broke her duck at the tenth attempt in the Maiden.
A Fine Story runs in the ‘brown with yellow spots’ colours of Brod Munro-Wilson, who has concentrated his equine efforts on polo in recent years but, going back to 1982, won the Cheltenham Foxhunters in these silks aboard the unforgettably-named The Drunken Duck.
Alex Merriam, from Eye in Suffolk, took his seasonal total to eight with a very lucky spare ride aboard Ical in the Members Race. Merriam was booked to partner the runner-up, King Of The Sea, but had to cry off when his parents’ horse, Tod’s Brother, was scheduled to run in Kent, only for conditions in Kent to go against the family charge.
This came too late to get back aboard King Of The Sea, but he turned up at the course anyway, and was immediately snapped up by Ical’s Luton trainer, Simon Andrews.
Zoe Turner, from Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, wrapped up the East Anglian Lady Riders’ title when bringing Spring Gale with a perfectly-timed challenge to lift the Ladies’ Open by two lengths. This capped a great weekend for Turner, as she won the Ladies’ Open at Peper Harrow in Surrey on Saturday aboard The Wiley Kalmuck.
Harry Fowler, from Newmarket, was rewarded for an attacking ride on Polo Ridge, who handled the desperate conditions 15 lengths better than his rivals in the Confined Race. The outsider of the field at 8-1, Polo Ridge was a first winner of the season for trainer Martin Ward, from Sutton near Ely.
Market Harborough owner-trainer-rider Patrick Millington was beaten by one of his own horses for the second successive East Anglian meeting when Buckland Bobby, ridden by Andrew Sansome, beat Gunner Be True by ten lengths in the Restricted Race with Millington’s mount, Society Scandal, five lengths back in third.
Race One (Members’ Race):
1 Miss C Rogers’ Ical (Cambs with Enfield Chace) (A Merriam),
2 Sarah L Simmons’ King of the Sea (Miss E Bell).
Also: General Confusion (ur), Groovejet (pu). 15 lengths. 7.53. W £4.70. DF £5.90. SP 4-1 (General Confusion 2-5 fav).
Race Two (Confined Hunts Race):
1 M Ward and G Glenister’s Polo Ridge (Granta Harriers) (H Fowler),
2 Mr C Freeney’s Oran Bay (Puckeridge) (owner),
3 Mr J M Turner’s Leatherback (Suffolk) (J Owen).
Also: Jim’s Belief (pu), Owenabuc Valley (pu). 15 lengths, half a length. 7.54. W £13.60. DF£3.80. SP 8-1 (Jim’s Belief 5-4 fav).
Race Three (Men’s Open Race):
1 Mr H Hill’s Ballad (Cambs Univ Drag) (A Williams),
2 Mrs E Cardew’s True Chimeas (Bicester with Whaddon Chase) (A Sansome),
3 Mr J M Turner’s Dunrig (J Owen).
20 lengths, three lengths. 8.01. W £3.30. DF £7.10. SP 7-4 (Dunrig 4-6 fav).
Race Four (Ladies’ Open Race):
1 Mr J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
2 Mr D Marriott’s Borrow Mine (Cambs Univ) (Miss D Marriott),
3 Mr A Howland Jackson’s Village Copper (Suffolk) (Miss H Crissell).
Also: General Confusion (ro). Two lengths, distance. 7.45. W £1.80. DF£12.80. SP 4-9 fav.
Race Five (Restricted Race):
1 Mr P J Millington’s Buckland Bobby (Cottesmore) (A Sansome),
2 Mr S Andrews and Mrs J Lewin’s Gunner Be True (Aldenham Harriers) (A Corbett),
3 Mr P J Millington’s Society Scandal (Fernie) (owner).
Also: Ardnut (pu), Federal Case (pu), Lone Star (pu), Stick or Bust (ur), Tellaporky (pu). 10 lengths, five lengths. 7.53. W £16.70. DF £7.70 (winner with any). SP 14-1 (Federal Case 7-4 fav).
Race Six (Open Maiden Race):
1 Mr B G Munro-Wilson’s A Fine Story (Cambs Univ Drag) (A Williams),
2 Mr G I Cooper’s Another Leader (Cambs Univ Drag) (owner),
3 Mrs J Hulse’s Lightening Fork (West Norfolk) (M Mackley).
Also: On the Day (4), Green Leader (ur), Inching Brook (pu), Mr Know What (pu), Namche Bazaar (pu), Pernickety King (pu), Granny Dick (pu). Three lengths, neck. 7.44. W £4.80. DF £28.80. SP 9-2 (On the Day 5-4 fav).