Berties Dream was the star of a sun-kissed Dunston Harriers Point-To-Point at Ampton on Sunday, carrying off the Challenge Cup on offer to the winner of the AGA-sponsored Ladies Open Race for a third consecutive year.
Ridden with her usual aplomb by the National Champion Lady Rider, Gina Andrews, Berties Dream was taken into the lead with a circuit to run and only had to be kept up to his work to beat the gallant veteran, Swift Counsel, by five lengths with the favourite, Sharp Suit, half a length back in third.
Left to right – Sharp Suit (Katie Lyons), Berties Dream (Gina Andrews) and Caulkin (Honor Whyte)
Berties Dream is the standard bearer for Newmarket trainer Lauren Braithwaite and there was a charming photocall afterwards as her twin baby sons, sporting AGA-emblazoned woolly hats, posed in their buggy with the trophy and a bottle of champagne alongside members of the winning ownership syndicate, the Marriage family from High Easter, near Chelmsford.
Berties Dream is now 13 years of age and, although this performance proved that he still has plenty of vigour, he is likely to be kept to Point-To-Points this term as a glittering career, which to date has encompassed 13 victories including one at the Cheltenham Festival, begins to wind down.
It is unusual for a fixture at this Bury St Edmunds venue to pass without a victory for trainer Andrew Pennock, whose stable is situated within sight of the course at Timworth Green.
The sequence looked like it might come to an end when Pennock’s heavily backed favourite, Counting Stars, found Emperor Arcadius a length and a half too strong in the Open Maiden Race, the result sparking a riding double for Gina Andrews, this time in partnership with her husband, Warwickshire trainer Tom Ellis.
Emperor Arcadius (left) just shades Counting Stars at the final fence
But Pennock did hit the target with his other runner on the card, Galros Lady. Kicked for home at the third last by jockey Dickie Collinson, from Sutton, near Ely, she held off the late charge of Lule Kyle, who is trained at Wymondham by Sandra Fryer, to land the Subaru Restricted Race by a neck.
Galros Lady – with her stable almost visible in the top right hand corner of the photo – has the fast-finishing Lule Kyle at arm’s length at the last. Come the winning post, the margin was down to a mere neck
Owned by Michael Clarke, from Hartest in Suffolk, George Wright, from Middleton in Essex, and Steve Stevenson, from Little Henny in Essex, Galros Lady is a tough mare as she had won at Cottenham just a week earlier.
Afterwards Pennock was at pains to insist that he had not lost faith in Counting Stars despite his defeat here, suggesting that he will now wait for some dry weather as he will be a much better horse on good ground.
Which is not to say that Ampton was riding any worse than the official going of ‘Soft, Good To Soft in places’. Indeed, clerk of the course Simon Stearn had the track in fine condition and it had coped with recent heavy rain remarkably well.
Two 20-year-old jockeys displayed their prowess in the saddle to start and finish the afternoon with stylish victories.
First Max Kendrick, who hails from Assington, near Colchester but is now based at the Oxfordshire yard of the winning trainer, Sarah Case, gave Court Red Handed a copybook ride to lift the Club Members Race at the expense of Carlanstown, who is trained at Chediston, Suffolk, by John Ibbott.
Court Red Handed (red crossbelts and armlets) in the thick of the action
Then Hugh Nugent notched the fourth winner of his career when guiding another Warwickshire raider, Kristian Gray, to an easy triumph in the closing Novice Riders Race.
Four in the air together – (l to r) Shutthebackdoor, Mister Philson, Nightcap Jack and Kristian Gray
GOING: SOFT, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES
EA Area Club Members
1st Court Red Handed Max Kendrick 2/1
2nd Carlanstown Gina Andrews 9/2
3rd Weather Warning Charlie Buckle 9/1
Time 6 mins 40 secs Dists: 4L, 5L 8 ran Master Teddy 11/10 f (4th)
1st Emperor Arcadius Gina Andrews 3/1
2nd Counting Stars Richard Collinson 1/1f
3rd Floreat Jack Andrews 5/1
Time 6 mins 36 secs Dists: 1 ½ L. Dist 9 ran
1st Berties Dream Gina Andrews 11/8
2nd Swift Counsel Jane Williams 10/1
3rd Sharp Suit Katy Lyons 1/1f
Time 6 mins 36 secs Dists: 5L ½ L 6 ran
Harbour Court Joe Hill
1st Galros Lady Richard Collinson 6/4f
2nd Lule Kyle Rupert Stearn 5/1
3rd The Master Remover Charlie Buckle 7/2
Time 6 mins 43 secs Dists: Nk 3/4L 7 ran
1st Kristian Gray Hugh Nugent 5/2
2nd Nightcap Jack Jack Andrews 3/1
3rd Remarkable Man Ashton Elliot 9/4
Time 6 mins 47 secs Dists: 15L Dist 6 ran Shutthebackdoor 2/1f (PU)