Three of East Anglia’s top point-to-point yards hit form at the East Essex fixture at Marks Tey on Saturday, with Joe Turner and David Kemp both registering doubles and Tory Hayter having to content herself with a first and a second.
It was a day for the aficianados, as the bitter cold meant that many potential spectators stayed at home. Those that did brave the elements were rewarded with some exciting finishes, especially in the two Open races, and the weather was comparatively kind by recent standards, as the only sleet came half an hour before the action commenced.
The Turner stable, which is at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, is well known for allowing its horses to gradually reach full fitness as the season progresses, so it was little surprise that the victories of King du Berlais and Broken Beau were its first of the campaign.
King du Berlais got up in the last few strides of the Ladies’ Open to overcome his old rival, Mid Div And Creep. At Horseheath a fortnight earlier, the pair had been separated by 12 lengths, in favour of Horseheath specialist, Mid Div And Creep.
But King du Berlais was much sharper this time and was also 7lbs better off at the weights. This was a first success of 2010 for jockey Louise Allan, who recently relocated to Longholes Stud in Newmarket and said afterwards: “He absolutely flew the last fence, which made all the difference.”
The Turner double had been initiated in the second division of the Maiden by Broken Beau, who attracted plenty of support in the betting ring despite having pulled up on his two most recent outings.
Following his six length defeat of Coxwell Snowstorm, jockey James Owen revealed that Broken Beau, who had disappointed at Higham and Cottenham, was much better suited by this more demanding course.
Coxwell Snowstorm is trained by Hayter, from Semer, between Sudbury and Ipswich. She got off the mark for the season a couple of hours later when Ballynonty used his abundant stamina to beat Lady Ann Lewis by six lengths in the Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Race.Ridden by Wymondham’s Rupert Stearn, who had made a rapid recovery from a broken collar bone sustained at Higham three weeks earlier, Ballynonty is jointly owned by Jean Merriam, from Eye, and Helen Robson, from Hatfield Broad Oak.
It was a real red letter day for Robson, as she is also the part owner of both of Kemp’s winners, Dan Kahtan and Sigma Digital.
Kemp, from Kilverstone, near Thetford, began the card in an awkward position as he trained both of the only two entries for the Hunt Race. He managed to choose correctly, Dan Khatanbeating stablemate Personal Flair with the minimum of fuss.
Sigma Digital had to work a bit harder but Kemp’s many hours of schooling on this Irish import paid off as his jumping was highly accurate and, having been kicked clear with over a mile to run, held on comfortably from the favourite, Forget The Ref.The Men’s Open looked sure to be won for the second straight year by Caveman, trained at Wymondham by Nigel Bloom. But he was caught right on the line by the Surrey raider, Victree.
Another superb finish came in the Novice Riders’ Race as the old-timer, My Best Buddy, who recently moved to the Midlands stable of of Lucy Docker, was locked in battle with Sodantay over the final five fences before prevailing by a neck.
Unusually, the fastest time of the day came in the first Maiden, Bynack Mhor, trained in Oxfordshire by Alan Hill, proving three lengths too strong for the persistent challenger, Orient Legend.