It Was Me prevailed in a blockbuster Ladies Open at a top quality Cambridge University Draghounds Point-To-Point at Cottenham, near Cambridge, on Saturday.
At a time when many professional courses are suffering from small fields and are staging just two steeplechases per meeting, this fixture proved that the amateur branch of the sport is alive and kicking – a relatively modest crowd was able to enjoy no less than eight contests over fences with an average field size of almost ten horses per race.
As billed beforehand, the highlight of the fixture was the Ladies Open where It Was Me, under a masterful waiting ride from Carey Williamson, provided a popular local victory for owner-trainer Nick Wright, from Badlingham, near Newmarket.
It Was Me (green and red, jumping fence) is some way off the leaders early on
The four-time hunter chase winner, Drom, set a furious pace which may have contributed to Khyber Kim depositing his jockey, Camilla Henderson, on the turf at around the halfway mark.
Coming to the penultimate obstacle, Drom still had his head in front but was being stalked by both Dabinett Moon and It Was Me. Jumping proved crucially here, as Dabinett Moon crashed out and It Was Me conjured a fabulous leap which saw him take a lead he was never to relinquish.
The race also saw witnessed another step forward in the progress of the Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist turned jockey, Victoria Pendleton, who finished fourth aboard According To Sarah. She is set to ride her top horse, Pacha du Polder, at Fakenham on Friday.
The Mens Open was similarly dramatic as the odds-on favourite, Now Ben, folded suddenly after the third last fence. The Buckinghamshire-trained Brackloon High then moved past the front-running Consigliere on the home bend only to idle on the run-in and thus have just a length and a half to spare over Never Complain at the winning post.
Brackloon High is in front earlier than planned (at the last) ahead of Consigliere
The Subaru-sponsored Restricted Race brought a second career success for 21-year-old jockey Charlie Buckle, from Semer, near Hadleigh, as his mount, Nightscape, defied odds of 16-1 to hold off Hill Of Gold by six lengths.
Nightscape and Charlie Buckle pop over the final fence
A fine turn-out of eight runners for the opening Hunt Race was spearheaded by Play The Ace. Owned by Susan Stevenson, from Little Henny, and Julia Turner, from Wickham St Pauls, and trained just outside Bury St Edmunds by Andrew Pennock, Play The Ace returned to something close to his best to beat the gallant front-runner, Picaroon, by five lengths.
Play The Ace (Dickie Collinson) seals victory with a good jump at the last
The Cheshire raider, Lilbitluso, so impressive at the opening Cottenham meeting back in November, again looked like a horse with a big future when shrugging off a late jumping blunder to score an easy success in the Intermediate Race.
Lilbitluso (John Mathias, left) jumps alongside Burtredgipandgump (Archie Wright)
And Midlands-trained geldings dominated the closing three Maiden races. Bingo Star, representing Northamptonshire handler, Stuart Morris, showed admirable battling qualities to outgun Celtic Silver in a tight finish to one; Ypsilanti, a visitor from Worcestershire, went one better than at New Year here to take another; and the third saw Superior Fire, from Fred Hutsby’s Warwickshire yard, get off the mark.
Bingo Star (red sleeves, Johnny Bailey) jumps alongside the grey, Celtic Silver (Gina Andrews)
Ypsilante (Leo Mahon)
Superior Fire (Hannah Watson)
1- PLAY THE ACE Dicky Collinson Evens fav
2- Picaroon Jack Day 20/1
3- Rob Conti David Maxwell 7/4
Time 6mins 13secsDists: 5L, 12L 8 ran
1- LILBITLUSO John Mathias 1/2fav
2- Stoleaway Peter Bryan 3/1
3- BurtredgipandgumpArchie Wight 5/1
Time 6-10 Dists: 25L, 10L 8 ran
1- BRACKLOON HIGHAndrew Barlow 5/1
2- Never Complain Charlie Marshall 25/1
3- Consigliere Joe Hill 6/4
Time 6-08 Dists: 1 ½L, 1L 7 ran
(Now Ben 4/5favpu )
1- IT WAS ME Carey Williamson 9/4 fav
2- Drom Emma Todd 7/1
3- Rey Nacarado Gina Andrews 20/1
Time 6-08 Dists: 8L, 10L 11 ran
1- NIGHTSCAPE Charlie Buckle 16/1
2- Hill Of GoldSam Davies-Thomas 3/1
3- Detank Peter Bryan 5/4fav
Time 6-13Dists: 6L, 4L 10 ran
Open Maiden Division One
1- Ypsilanti Leo Mahon 4/5 fav
2- Velvet Cognac Joe Hill 7/2
3- Max O Dale Peters 10/1
Time 6-12 Dists: 5L, 25L 10 ran
Open Maiden Division Two
1- BINGO STAR Johnny Bailey 4/1
2- Celtic Silver Gina Andrews 7/2
3- Middleton’s MinxClaire Hart 6/1
Time 6-16 Dists: Neck, 20L 11 ran
(Sissinghurst 3/1favFell )
4,5 & 6-year-olds Open Maiden ( 2 ½ miles )
1- Superior Fire Hannah Watson 5/1
2- Namako Alex Edwards 7/2
3- Somme Boy Dicky Collinson 5/1
No time taken Dists: 8L, Neck 11 ran
(Nandini 4/5 fav 6th )