Point-To-Pointing beat the weather and fans were able to enjoy some glorious winter sunshine at the Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace meeting at Horseheath on Saturday – but it was a close run thing!
An overnight frost and dusting of snow meant that the track, although in perfect condition, was only just raceable, with a crusty surface but plenty of give underneath. Numerous trainers and owners walked the course and decided not to risk their charges, although there was no questioning the decision to allow proceedings to go ahead and the equine turnout was a perfectly respectable 39 runners in seven races.
Sixteeen-year-old Bridget Andrews must have breathed a sigh of relief once the action got under way as it allowed her long-awaited debut in the saddle which had been delayed by a month because of the snow.
Andrews, from Lilley in Hertfordshire, finished third on her first ride but went two better aboard Inishturk an hour later and there is a little doubt that she has the potential to rival the achievements of her older sister, Gina, who is already a two-time East Anglian champion.
Inishturk, owned by David Gibbon from Great Bentley near Colchester, jumped impeccably and was most determined in holding off Jewel Song by a length in the Novice Riders’ Race.
For a few moments as he bore down on the two leaders approaching the final fence, it looked as if Bridget’s first public mount, Good Vintage, would lift the Club Members Race.
But Irish Rebel found a little more in front to continue the love affair his 22-year-old trainer-rider, Clare Hobson, has with this venue. Although this was the first winner as a trainer for Hobson, from Rede, near Royston, she has notched seven victories as a pilot and over half of them have been at Horseheath.
Another course specialist is Mid Div And Creep, trained at North Weald by Derek Harding-Jones. This mare made it five consecutive victories at this stiff track in the Ladies’ Open, justifying red hot favouritsm with a comprehensive pillar-to-post success.
Stamina is clearly her long suit and Harding-Jones plans to allow her to take her chance in a hunter chase before the end of the campaign, with Towcester picked out as a likely destination.
The Men’s Open saw a similarly dominant front-running performance from the odds-on favourite, in this case Denvale, who is trained in Northamptonshire by Gerald Bailey, who was persuaded to let the gelding take his chance despite reservations about the ground by Denvale’s corinthian owner-rider, Richard Hunnisett.Another all-the-way victory was registered in the older-horse Maiden by Whistle Blowing. His trainer, Matt Smith, lives withing walking distance of the course in Horseheath village while his owner, Robert Fuller, had only marginally further to travel as he hails from Haverhill.
The youngsters Maiden attracted just two runners yet still provided a thrilling finish, the pair cantering for over two and a half miles prior to a sprint finish which saw Castledockerell master Katepast by a mere half length.
Castledockerell is owned and ridden by 45-year-old Andrew Pennock, who also trains him at Boyton Hall, Monks Eleigh, near Lavenham.
The Restricted Race conjured an even tighter tussle, with Fresh Fruit justifying the four-hour journey from the Shropshire yard of Sheila Crow with a hard-fought neck defeat of Premier Buck.