Brilliant sunshine greeted the start of the Point-To-Point season at Cottenham yesterday where a big crowd enjoyed a nine-race bonanza at the Cambridgeshire Harriers Hunt Club meeting.

Fair Exchange and Rural Dean were the only locally-trained winners as this popular fixture attracted its usual preponderance of runners from far and wide. For instance, trainer David Brace made his annual pilgrimage from Bridgend in Wales to saddle three runners and gained his just reward when First Tenor landed the finale.

Fair Exchange began to fulfil his abundant promise last season. Now eight-years-old, he is almost the finished article judged by a hard-fought success in the Club Members Race. Ridden by Paul Taiano and trained at Ashwell, near Royston, by Gurney and Josie Sheppard, he held off the persistent challenge of Bally Wirral to score by four lengths.

The emphasis throughout the day was on stamina and courage, thanks to the rain-soaked terrain which saw winning times over 30 seconds slower than the course record. Nigel Bloom, who had wryly described the ground as “very nice for falling off onto” following his opening race tumble from Sense of Adventure, made amends with a virtuoso display aboard The Rural Dean in the Intervet Intermediate Race.

Trained at Wymondham by Bloom’s father, Mike, The Rural Dean had gone in pursuit of the runaway leader, Secret Can’t Say, when he made an earth-shuddering blunder at the fourth last fence. Bloom somehow clung on and, once Lucy Pearce was ejected from Secret Can’t Say at the very next obstacle, Bloom coaxed his mount home to defeat Triple Eaves by three lengths. Bought for 5,000 guineas at the Ascot Sales by Bloom senior, The Rural Dean is owned by Stephen Howlett, a grain merchant from Rockland All Saints, near Attleborough, in partnership with his wife, Julia. “I can report that The Rural Dean is very much in favour of Sunday racing!,” Howlett joked afterwards.

The biggest event on the card, and East Anglia’s Prestige Race for the season, was the Brench Hays Construction Men’s Open. This provided a 20-1 winner in the shape of the Gloucestershire raider, Stormy Session, who got the better of a battle royal with runner-up Maitre de Musique to score by half a length with the red hot favourite, Secret Bay, only sixth. Stormy Session’s connections – owner-trainer Milton Harris and jockey Scott Joynes – piled further misery on the bookies when Quick Response, who had failed to complete the course in seven previous attempts yet was backed from 20-1 to 6-1, landed the second division of the three mile Maiden.

The Gerrard-sponsored Ladies’ Open witnessed a gallant front-running performance by the Leicestershire-trained Larry’s Lord. Ridden by Jill Wormall, he jumped superbly in beating Gill’mar by three lengths, repeating his success in the 1999 renewal of this contest. Only two finished in the Ladies’, and just five of the 17 runners got home in the Restricted Race. The three market leaders all came a cropper at the same fence, leaving a visitor from Oxfordshire, the 12-1 chance Romany Chat, to outstay Mister Kingston by a length.

Running On Super lived up to his name in the other three mile maiden, giving Marlborough trainer Cheryl Waller and jockey Godfrey Maundrell compensation for Bally Wirral’s earlier near miss, while Ludlow trainer Micky Wiggin made up for his narrow reverse with Gill’marwhen Gue A Loup took the opening two and a half mile maiden under Richard Burton.Some of the assembled multitude left before the last, but they missed out on a cracking race as First Tenor stayed on just too well for Greenwich after the pair had touched down simultaneously after the last. This provided a 201st career victory for the former national champion lady rider, Pip Jones.


Race One (Club Member’s Race):
1 Mrs M G Sheppard’s Fair Exchange (Cambridgeshire Fox Hounds) (P Taiand),
2 G Maundrell’s Bally Wirral (Avon Vale) (owner),
3 R P & Miss C Fryer’s Ann’s Ambition (Dunston Harriers) (Miss C Fryer).

Also: Fire On Ice (4), Borrow Mine (5), Buckman (pu), Double Tempo (pu), Gunner Boon (f), Sense Of Adventure (f).  Four lengths, a distance. 6.34. W £2.70. DF £4.80. SP 5-2 (Sense of Adventure 9-4fav).

Race Two (Restricted Race):

1 Ms R Gassen’s Romany Chat (Farmers Bloodhounds) (A Martin),

2 Mrs S Gee’s Mister Kingston (Pytchley) (R Cope),

3 Mrs M Dickinson’s Orient Bay (Bramham Moor) (R Tate).

Also: Just The Business (4), Imperial Mist (5), As You Like It (pu), Ballyquintet (pu), Bright Prospect (pu), Clashbridane (ur), Fortune Hunter (b/d), Labula Bay (b/d), Mackoy (pu), Plessey Rose Lee (pu), Premier First (pu), Pull On (f), Secret Streams (f), Zafan (f).  One length, four lengths. 6.36. W £12.40. DF £20.40. SP 12-1 (Secret Streams 7-4fav).

Race Three (Men’s Open Race):
1 M Harris’ Stormy Session (North Cotswold) (S Joynes),
2 Dr M Tate’s Maitre De Musique (Middleton) (owner),
3 Mr and Mrs A Howland-Jackson’s Hatcham Boy (Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas).

Also: Makin’ Doo (4), Fandango De Chassy (5), Secret Bay (6), Ardshuil (pu), Back Bar (pu), Comma Sarris (pu), Evan’s Collier Boy (ur), Floruceva (ur), General Assembly (pu), Just Flamenco (pu), Lunar Dancer (pu), Military Man (f), More Fun (pu).  Half a length, five lengths. 6.35. W £26.70. DF £81.40. SP 20-1 (Secret Bay 1-2fav).

Race Four (Intermediate Race):
1 Mr and Mrs S Howlett’s The Rural Dean (Dunston Harriers) (N Bloom),
2 R Makin’s Triple Eaves (York & Ainsty South) (C Mulhall),
3 J M Turner’s Persian Boy (Suffolk) (A Sansome).

Also: Irisheyesaresmilin (f), Kenny Davis (f), Oxendale (ur), Philtre (f), Rafter (pu), Secret Can’t Say (ur), Secret Truth (pu), Shoemaker (b/d).  Three lengths, 10 lengths. 6.46. W £6.20. DF £52.90. SP 9-1 (Philtre 2-1fav).

Race Five (Ladies’ Open Race):
1 Mrs R Wormall’s Larry’s Word (Atherstone) (Miss J Wormall),
2 Mr and Mrs M Wiggin’s Gill’mar (Ludlow) (Miss C Thomas).

Also: Danger Flynn (pu), Dawn’s Cognac (pu), Diwali Dancer (ur), King Of Clare (pu), Mr Dow Jones (pu), Thurles Pick Pocket (pu), Upham Lord (f).  Three lengths. 6.32. W £5.10. DF £50.30. SP 5-1 (Dawn Cognac 5-2fav).

Race Six (Maiden 8yo & upwards race Division One):
1 The Super Seven Club’s Running on Super (Berks & Bucks Draghounds) (G Maundrell),
2 Mrs V Ramm’s Celio Bravo (Cotswold) (J Pritchard),
3 Mr and Mrs W Warner’s Coole Chief (Pytchley) (S Morris).

Also: Annpoli (pu), Artic Knight (pu), Jambo Bwana (pu), Mighty Monarch (ur), Morning Mover (f), Star (pu), Time For Another (ur).  Ten lengths, 10 lengths. 6.58. W £5.50. DF £4.50. SP 7-1 (Celio Bravo and Morning Mover 3-1 jt/favs).

Race Seven (Maiden 8yo & upwards race Division Two):
1 Mr M Harris’ Quick Response (North Cotswold) (S Joynes),
2 Miss S Sheaker and D Hazelwood’s Early Morning Call (Blackford & Sparkford Vale) (Miss T Cave).

Also: Another Commanche (pu), Call The Tune (pu), Classic Model (pu), Mike’s Music (pu), Moon Rising (ref), Rising Dawn (f), Smiling Thru (pu), Sul Fosso (pu), Top Designer (pu).  A distance. 6.45. W £7.80. DF £15.30. SP 6-1 (Early Morning Call 5-2fav).

Race Eight (2½ Mile Maiden – Division One):
1 Mr and Mrs M Wiggin’s Gue Au Loup (Ludlow) (R Burton),
2 Mrs N Pollock’s Rain Delay (Fernie) (B Pollock),
3 K Hutsby and Mrs S Busby’s Alpha Romana (Warwickshire) (A Charles-Jones).

Also: Sparebit (4), Blue Monk (ur), Catechist (pu), Emperor Hill (pu), Great Survivor (pu), Open Invitation (pu), Three Spires (f), Whataboutit (pu).  Three lengths, head. 5.11. W £3.30. DF £29.60. SP 5-2fav.

Race Nine (2½ Mile Maiden – Division Two):
1 D Brace’s First Tenor (Llangeinor) (Miss P Jones),
2 Mrs J Powell and Mrs M Scudamore’s Greenwich (Cotswold) (S Joynes), 3 J Callow’s Yanto (AWH) (J Pritchard).

Also: Regal Bride (pu), Schisandra (f), Tynemine (f).  Three lengths, a distance. 5.01. W £3. DF £2.30. SP 13-8 (Greenwich 11-10fav).