Cooperman – otherwise known as George Cooper – held back the sands of time yet again to ride a brilliant double at the East Essex Point-To-Point at Marks Tey on Saturday.
Cooper, from Raydon, near Hadleigh, is 60 years of age yet has somehow managed to maintain his fitness and enthusiasm and was able to get the better of many much younger rivals to register the 120th and 121st pointing victories of a career that stretches back to the 1960s.
Eight of those successes have come in partnership with the temperamental but talented French-bred Endeavour, who took the Confined Race. Kicked for home with a circuit to run, he held on by two lengths from Ardkilly Warrior.
Cooper adopted similar tactics aboard Jim’s Belief in the Restricted Race and another two length victory was the result. But the outcome might have been different had runner-up Secrete Contract not made a mistake at the final fence when coming to challenge.
It was a deserved change of fortune for Jims Belief as, on his previous outing at Higham, he was close up at the last obstacle when Cooper’s stirrup leather snapped, giving him a nasty tumble.
It was celebration all round in the Cooper household as his partner, trainer Cherie Cunningham, landed her first ever treble. She is responsible for both Jims Belief and Endeavour, and had earlier lifted the second division of the Confined Maiden with Magic Lodge, who was wearing Cooper’s red and black silks.
However, his win came in the most unfortunate circumstances. First past the post, and impressive to boot, was No Penalty, owned and trained at Little Horkesley, near Colchester, by Stephen March and ridden by Christian Ward-Thomas.
Noone deserved a winner more than March and his wife, who had done so much to make this such an enjoyable afternoon (we had eight races and 87 runners) in their roles as joint secretaries of the meeting.
But, to his horror, Ward-Thomas returned to unsaddle to find that his weightcloth had fallen off (it was found on the far side of the course) and, some way shy of his allotted burden of 12 stone, disqualification was inevitable.
This meant that the trophy went to Magic Lodge, who overcame one dreadful jumping error to triumph in a tight battle for second place under Wymondham’s Rupert Stearn who, at 19, is young enough to be Cooper’s grandson.
The Ladies’ Open went to Celtic Duke, owned and trained by Joe Turner, from Ampton near Bury St Edmunds, and ridden by his granddaughter, Zoe. Celtic Duke returned to a rousing and emotional reception as this was the Turners’ first success since Point-To-Point Legend David Turner, Zoe’s father, lost his battle against cancer just before Christmas.
Paul Chinery, from Great Yeldham, is enjoying a superb season and he took his 2004 tally to three (doubling his previous career total) when Ginger Bug ran her three rivals into the ground in the Members’ Race.
Chinery was widely expected to complete a brace in the Novice Riders’ race but he possibly went off a little too fast on the hot favourite, Royal Action, and was caught at the last by Pampered Gale, trained at High Easter in Essex by Simon Marriage and given a well-judged ride by Nicky Barnes.
Trainer-rider David Kemp, from Kilverstone near Thetford, took section one of the Maiden under Madmidge, who he owns in partnership with six friends and family including Brian King, from Fersfield, Diss, who puts so much into the sport through his work at Ampton racecourse.
Finally, Sussex raider Ballinure Boy was the only non-East Anglian winner of the day, taking his record to ten wins from just 16 starts in the Men’s Open.
Race One (East Essex Hunt Race):
1 A Chinery’s Ginger Bug (East Essex) (P Chinery),
2 B Belchem’s Give Him A Chance (East Essex) (N Moore),
3 Miss C Eagle’s Monsukh (East Essex) (Miss L Spence).
Also: Coole Chief (4). 12l, a distance. 6.58. W £2.40. SP 4-1 (Coole Chief 10-11 fav).
Race Two (Confined Maiden Race – Division One):
1 Next Stop Cheltenham Syndicate’s Madmidge (Suffolk) (D Kemp),
2 Mrs M G Sheppard’s Catch On (Cambs with Enfield Chace) (P Taiano),
3 J M Turner’s On The Day (Suffolk) (J Owen).
Also: Montenegro (4), Joves Shadow (5), Monarch Ruler (6), Sharp Sarah (7), Epop (pu), First And Fourmost (pu), General Hopkins (pu), Gunner Be True (ur), Looking Magic (pu), She’s A Terror (pu). 2l, 4l. 6.58. W £5. SP 5-2 fav.
Race Three (Confined Maiden Race – Division Two):
1 G Cooper’s Magic Lodge (Essex Farmers and Union) (R Stearn),
2 D Gibbon’s Artic Sun (Dunston Harriers) (N Bloom),
3 Mrs A Villar and Mr P Beeton-Brown’s Golden Shred (Suffolk) (N Moore).
Also: Play Alone (5), Willow Ryde (6), Assington Bay (pu), Bright Torino (ur), Divine Mist (pu), Granny Dick (pu), Groovejet (pu), Swanbank (pu), Tea Time (pu). No Penalty finished first, but was disqualified for carrying the incorrect weight. One length. 6.57. W £59. SP 7-1 (Willow Ryde evens fav).
Race Four (Ladies Open Race):
1 J M Turner’s Celtic Duke (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
2 Mrs P Hutchinson’s Noki Mover (Fernie) (Miss G Hutchinson),
3 A Kemp and Miss H Irving’s Killerine (Bicester with Whaddon Chase) (Miss H Irving).
Also: Jolly Minster (4), Highland Rose (5), Borrow Mine (pu), Fair Kiowa (pu), Fiolino (pu), Hay Dance (pu), Irish Sea (ur), Moonlite Magic (pu), Over The Country (pu). 2l, 3l. 6.44. W £3. SP 7-4 fav.
Race Five (Men’s Open Race):
1 Mrs E Smith’s Ballinure Boy (E Sussex and Romney Marsh) (A Hickman),
2 Mrs A W K Merriam’s Tod’s Brother (E Sussex and Romney Marsh) (A Merriam),
3 B Kennedy’s Minino (Essex Farmers and Union) (C Ward-Thomas).
Also: Millenium Way (4), Red Lake (pu). 2l, 3l. 6.53. W £1.90. SP 4-6 fav
Race Six (Confined Race):
1 D Clark’s Endeavour (Essex and Suffolk) (G Cooper),
2 Mrs A Wales’ ArdkillyWarrior(West Norfolk) (N Bloom),
3 M Kemp’s Nowornever (Thurlow) (D Kemp).
Also: Westfield John (4), Prologue (5), Ardnut(f),Colonel Conca (pu), Henwyn (pu), Lambrini King (pu). Two lengths, half a length. 6.53. W £2.50. SP 7-4 fav.
Race Seven (Countryside Alliance Club Members’ Race for Novice Riders):
1 The Marriage Family’s Pampered Gale (Essex) (Miss N Barnes),
2 A Chinery’s Royal Action (East Essex) (P Chinery),
3 Mrs N Pollock’s Crackrattle (Fernie) (A Brown).
Also: Topical Tip (4), Corston Joker (5), Aughmor River (6), Tale Bridge (7), Buckland Bobby (8), Rip Kirby (9), Bruan (10), Garrison Friendly (11), Mister Audi (12), Drum Battle (13), Castle Road (14), Ical (ur), Tomcappagh (pu). Three lengths, one length. 6.53. W £104. SP 14-1 (Royal Action 5-4 fav).
Race Eight (Restricted Race):
1 Lady Green and T Buxton’s Jims Belief (Essex Farmers and Union) (G Cooper),
2 Mrs A Dawes’ Secrete Contract (Coakham Bloodhounds) (D Dunsdon),
3 D J and Mrs W E Lay’s Run Monty (Essex and Suffolk) (T Lane).
Also: Bunratty’s Sole (4), Sydney Hobart (5), Ferryhill (6), Filou Du Bois (7), Glad All Over (8), Federal Case (pu), Naughty Noah (pu), No Reward (pu), Nonplussed (pu), Paddy’s Dream (pu), Shanrod View (pu), Treble Trouble (pu). 2l, 1l. 6.56. W £4.90. SP 7-1 (Bunratty’s Sole 2-1 fav).