A meteorological miracle bestowed warm, dry weather on the point-to-point faithful who arrived expecting further monsoon conditions at the seven-race Dunston Harriers fixture at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds on Sunday.
The course was in superb condition, riding no worse than ‘good to soft’, and a high class meeting ensued, bookended by local victories in the first and last races.
Caveman quarried out victory in the opening Confined Race, responding well to a positive ride from George Greenock, who kicked for home at the fourth last. The partnership stayed on strongly to the line, eight lengths clear of Tuesday’s Child with Bob Ar Aghaidh third and the favourite Cosmic Sky, who struggled on the sticky ground, pulled up.
Greenock, from Gateley, near Fakenham, is in the final year of a Real Estate Management course at Oxford Brookes University while Caveman is trained at Wymondham by Nibby Bloom, whose recovery from a badly broken leg suffered race-riding almost two years ago is finally picking up pace.
Bloom, reflecting on how he prefers the jockey’s raceday role rather than the trainer’s, commented: “It’s much worse standing on the ground.”
It was a good day for the Bloom family as Mike, Nibby’s father, was later presented with a memento to mark his retirement following 25 years as clerk of the course at Ampton.
The other East Anglian victory came in the finale, the PPORA Novice Riders’ Race. This may have only had three runners, but spectators who stayed to the end were rewarded with a stirring finish, Sure Future pouncing on High Rank approaching the final obstacle and outbattling his rival by a length.
Sure Future is trained at Langham, near Colchester, by Wilf Tolhurst and is owned and ridden by the father-daughter combination of George and Lucy Franks, from Sutton, near Woodbridge.
Their beaming smiles afterwards spoke volumes about their admiration for the super-genuine Sure Future, who has been in training for ten years and, according to Tolhurst: “still gives of his best every week.”
A similarly tight finish came in a high class Men’s Open as Bon Accord made it six consecutive victories with James Tudor, the national champion jockey of 2007, edging out the man he deposed, Richard Burton (aboard Ballylusky), by a length.Bon Accord, who begun last season as a maiden, has now qualified for March 14th’s Cheltenham Foxhunters, which is one of a number of future targets being mulled over by his Oxfordshire trainer, Alan Hill, and owner Rodney Mann.
Millenium Way is a standing dish at this tight, hilly course and he lifted the Dunston Ladies’ Race for the second year running (he was also runner-up in 2006) when drawing well clear of Find Me Another, who is owned and ridden by Thelnetham’s Amy Stennett.
Millenium Way represented another trainer-rider in Caroline Taylor, from Sussex, who was worried beforehand as the 14-year-old had been working lazily at home.
Philip Hall, from just over the border from Taylor near Tunbridge Wells in Kent, took both training and riding plaudits following the Intermediate Race, won cosily by the steadily-improving Winters Beau.
The Maiden Race attracted a bumper field of 14 and was won in convincing style by Bravery Scotch, trained at Wolverhampton by Sue Taylor and ridden by the reigning national champion female jockey, Claire Allen.
Finally, jockey Andrew Corbett, who began his day badly when he was fined £75 for excessive use of the whip when third behind Winters Beau on Just Jove, ended it on a much better note as his mount, the Lincolnshire-trained Shady Minx, proved just too strong for the highly promising Thatmakestwoofus in the Restricted Race.
Race One (Confined Race):
1 Countess Cathcart’s Caveman (W Norfolk) (G Greenock),
2 M Ward and T Batterbee’s Tuesday’s Child (Granta Harriers) (M Mackley),
3 A Harvey’s Bob Ar Aghaidh (Puckeridge) (A Braithwaite).
Also: Thoutmosis (4), Tregastel (5), Balla D’Aire (pu), Breezy Betsy (pu), Cosmic Sky (pu), Dunmanus Bay (pu). Ten lengths, three lengths. 6.40. SP 8-1 (Cosmic Sky 11-8 fav).
Race Two (Open Maiden Race):
1 M Parr’s Bravery Scotch (Albrighton) (Miss C Allen),
2 Mrs K Exall’s Mid Div and Creep (Puckeridge) (M Mackley),
3 B Laverty’s Alpha Image (Cotswold VF) (J Tudor).
Also: Ski Dazzle (4), The Washerwoman (5), Le Mans (6), Ashgrove (pu), Cadtauri (f), Fairly Devious (pu), Flemensgold (pu), Huron (pu), Minehill Lad (f), Moss Campion (pu), Tabi (pu). Ten lengths, five lengths. 6.42. SP 6-4 fav.
Race Three (Intermediate Race):
1 Mrs P Wilson’s Winters Beau (Southdown and Eridge) (P Hall),
2 Mrs C Taylor’s John The Mole (Ashford Valley) (Owner),
3 Mrs F Macfarlane’s Just Jove (Belvoir) (A Corbett).
Also: Round the Isles (4), Marmalade Mountain (5), Luke Lively (6), Supreme Sir (7), Kings Reply (pu), Lighting Conductor (pu), Qualicum (pu), Winapenny (pu). Twenty lengths, one length. 6.42. SP 3-1 (Supreme Sir 5-2 fav).
Race Four (Ladies Open Race):
1 Mrs C Taylor’s Millennium Way (Ashford Valley) (Owner),
2 Mrs C Stennett, Mrs C Aldridge and Mrs E King’s Find Me Another (Thurlow) (Miss A Stennett),
3 M Burman’s Parsonhumfrywebber (Cambs with Enfield Chace) (Miss E Bell).
Also: Political Cruise (4), Multiaire (pu). Ten lengths, three lengths. 6.49. SP 4-9 fav.
Race Five (Men’s Open Race):
1 I Mann’s Bon Accord (V of Aylsbury with Garth and S Berks) (J Tudor),
2 Mr and Mrs W Rucker’s Ballylusky (Worcs) (R Burton),
3 The Opperman Racing Partnership’s Dead-Eyed Dick (Ludlow) (G Opperman).
Also: Eskimo Pie (4), Fin Bec (pu). One length, a distance. 6.39. SP 4-5 fav.
Race Six (Restricted Race):
1 Mrs F Macfarlane’s Shady Minx (Belvoir) (A Corbett),
2 A Howland-Jackson’s Thatmakestwoofus (Suffolk) (A Braithwaite),
3 Mrs S Embiricos’ Jilted Lover (Suffolk) (Ms A Embiricos).
Also: Topol (4), Nowhips (5), Limart (pu), Perfect Prefect (pu), The Longest Day (pu). One and a half lengths, ten lengths. 6.41. SP 6-4 fav.
Race Seven (PPORA Club Members Race, Novice Riders):
1 G Franks’ Sure Future (Essex Farmers and Union) (Miss L Franks),
2 H Franklin’s High Rank (Farmers Bloodhounds) (J Watson),
3 JM Turner’s Rakatia (Suffolk) (Miss K Smith).
One length, a distance. 6.54. SP 4-5 fav.