The overnight light frost thawed in time for an exciting seven-race card to take place at Ampton on Sunday for the Dunston Harriers Point-to-Point. A good crowd witnessed a number of stirring finishes to races that were run in fast times due to the unseasonal good-to-firm going.
Just four runners went to post for the feature Mens’ Open, but the quality was high. Cold Mountain refused at the first fence, leaving course specialist Caveman to lead for over two circuits of the track, but the 12 year-old could not add to his four Ampton victories as he was out-speeded by two younger opponents in the closing stages. It was Divine Intavention under an energetic ride from Cirencester-based jockey Mark Wall who proved one length too strong for Ballyeightra Cross and Miles Seston, who travelled sweetly throughout the race but could not match the winner up the final hill. Divine Intavention had provided Mark Wall with his 100th career winner when successful in the Intermediate Race on this card last year and this time he provided his rider with the first leg of a double that moved him into second place in the National Jockeys’ Championship with five winners, four behind leader Will Biddick.
Mark Wall persuaded Banbury-based trainer Hugh Wilson to make this race entry since Divine Intavention was in such good form since finishing second at Tweseldown in December. Hugh’s job as a wildlife photographer kept him away from Ampton, but his father Guy confirmed that hunter chasing may well be on the agenda for their stable star later this year.
An equally aggressive ride from Mark Wall secured victory in the following Restricted Race, as his mount Nobby Kivambo kept responding to his rider’s urgings despite being taken on for the lead for the first two circuits by Master Workman. The performance was particularly courageous since Mark Wall reported that a lump that had appeared on the horse’s back on Saturday seemed to be bothering him throughout the contest and thus he never travelled or jumped with his usual fluency. The seven-hour round trip proved well worthwhile for Nobby Kivambo’s Gloucester-based trainer Jason Warner, especially since he had attempted to run his progressive seven year-old at Wadebridge in Cornwall last weekend, but the horsebox had broken down on the way to the track. Jason, who is secretary of the Cotswold Vale Farmers Hunt Point-to-Point at Andoversford near Cheltenham, has owned Nobby Kivambo since he was a two year-old and ran the horse without success when he was trained by Brendan Powell under rules.
This is now two consecutive wins for Nobby Kivambo following his maiden win at Whitfield in mid-December. That day he beat Roi De Garde by ten lengths and the runner-up gave a further boost to the form when cruising to a facile success in the Open Maiden at Ampton. The odds-on favourite trained by Antonia Bealby near Grantham in Lincolnshire was always travelling sweetly for Matt Stanley who works for Chris and Antonia Bealby and was enjoying his second point-to-point winner, having ridden several winners in Arab racing and a winner over hurdles under rules. Chris Bealby, Antonia’s husband, confirmed that converting Roi De Garde from under rules racing to point-to-pointing was a confidence-building exercise and that the plan is now to head to the Restricted Race at Thorpe Lodge in two weeks’ time prior to returning the six year-old to racing under rules.
Just as in the Mens’ Open, only four runners faced the starter for the Ladies’ Open, but again a fantastic driving finish ensued and following a prolonged duel throughout the final mile it was the outsider in the betting Sir Harry Cool who prevailed by a head from Bearneen Boy despite National Champion Gina Andrews’ best efforts aboard the runner-up. Both horses had previously been in training under rules with Newmarket trainer Neil King and Sir Harry Cool was in fact maintaining a perfect record in point-to-points, having won a maiden as a four year-old five years ago at Cottenham. This victory provided jockey Tammy Webster with a third career success and one which was particularly sweet since Gina Andrews is the girlfriend of Tammy’s employer Tom Ellis, plus Sir Harry Cool’s trainer is Tammy’s mother Angela from Southam in Warwickshire.
Another promising young jockey to register his third career victory was 17 year-old Patrick Smith who again enjoyed success aboard David Phelan’s Flowersoftherarest in the concluding PPORA Club Members Conditions Race for Novice Riders. The pair had teamed up at Cottenham on New Year’s Eve for victory in a similar race and the nine year-old gelding has now won six of his last eight starts. Patrick has worked for Kent trainer David Phelan for the last three years, but is not allowed to ride Flowersoftherarest at home as he is exclusively ridden by the girls in the yard in order to keep him sweet. Patrick and David had combined for a memorable double at Cottenham with Flowersoftherarest and Oscar The Myth, but they were thwarted this time as Oscar The Myth could do no better than second place behind Nobby Kivambo in the aforementioned Restricted Race.
The opening race on Ampton’s card was the East Anglian Area Club Members Conditions Race confined to horses aged ten years-old and over. The nine veterans served up a magnificent spectacle with point-to-pointing debutant Kells Castle coming out on top under a strong ride from J.D. Moore, son of legendary Irish trainer Arthur Moore and a well-known horse trader and pre-trainer from Ireland who moved to Lambourn in Berkshire last year. Kells Castle had won seven races under rules but became soured with racing when in the care of Irish trainer Gordon Elliott. Gordon’s fiancée Annie Bowles subsequently took over the horse for a spell showjumping and eventing in a bid to sweeten him up. The ploy seems to have worked perfectly as running under the ownership of Annie’s father Jeffrey Bowles, clerk of the course at Higham, Kells Castle won this first start in a point-to-point by two lengths, thus providing local trainer John Ibbott from Chediston in Suffolk with a first winner from his first runner this season. John enjoyed a hugely successful 2010/2011 season with seven winners from just a handful of horses and his string of four horses for this season look likely to maintain the impressive strike rate.
Another local trainer to enjoy his first success of the season was David Kemp from Kilverstone near Thetford in Norfolk, who also rode his new recruit from Ireland, Cheyanwe, to a convincing victory in the three-runner Intermediate Race. This winner for David came ten years to the day from his first ever winner in the saddle. The late decision by David to run Cheyanwe due to concerns about the fast ground proved the correct one, as the only mare in the contest duelled with runner-up Medic for much of the race, but in the end proved five lengths too good on her first start in the UK having won two Irish point-to-points. This was a welcome tonic for owners The Oak Partnership who sadly lost their prolific winner Rydal Parklast year.
Veteran Horses EA Club Members Race
1 Kells Castle – Johnny (J D) Moore 5/1
2 Star Double – Ben Rivett
3 Ya I Know – Mikey Ennis
Time 6 mins 18 secs Dists: 2L, Nk 9 ran Where’s My Baby 9/4f (4th)
1 Roi De Garde – Matt Stanley 4/5f
2 Teeton Grand Slam – Liz Harris
3 John’s Delight – Harriet Bryce
Time 6-20 Dists: 15L, 4L 8 ran
1 Cheyanwe – David Kemp Ev’s f
2 Medic – Tom Ellis
3 Thenford Ryde – Frankie Hickman
Time 6-23 Dists: 5L, Dist 3 ran
1 Sir Harry Cool – Tammy Webster 6/1
2 Bearneen Boy – Gina Andrews
3 Ski Dazzle – Bridget Andrews 11/10f
Time 6-26 Dists: Hd, Dist 4 ran
1 Divine Intavention – Mark Wall 5/4
2 Ballyeightra Cross – Miles Seston 4/6f
3 Caveman – George Greenock
Time 6-28 1L, 15L 4 ran
1 Nobby Kivambo – Mark Wall 11/10f
2 Oscar The Myth – Patrick Smith
3 Ted Gunther – Dale Peters
Time 6-19 Dists: 1L, 12L 5 ran
1 Flowersoftherarest – Patrick Smith 4/5f
2 Mnason – Benjamin Brackenbury
3 Ballygalley Bob – Sam Davies-Thomas
Time 6-27 Dists: 1L, 2L 6 ran