Rupert Stearn moved to the top of the East Anglian Point-To-Point Jockeys’ Championship with a treble at the Essex Farmers & Union fixture at Marks Tey on Sunday.
Fast ground meant that only 11 runners contested the first four races at this six-race fixture and Stearn, from Wymondham, made the most of the lack of opposition, beating just one rival to take both the Hunt Race, on Olympe de Farges, and the Mens Open, on Rocja.
He faced a much stiffer task in the Restricted Race yet, ironically, scored the most comfortable of his three successes, his mount, Ballynonty, responding positively to the application of blinkers to defeat Jack Ford by eight lengths.
The hat-trick took his seasonal tally to eight, which means that he has drawn alongside David Kemp (who is currently sidelined with a facial injury) at the top of the riding charts.
Olympe de Farges, trained at Raydon, near Hadleigh, by George Cooper, made heavy weather of beating his solitary opponent, stablemate Grand Symphony. And Stearn, in conjunction with his father, Simon, took a calculated risk removing Rocja’s visor prior to his match against Dead Mans Dante.
The gamble paid off as although Rocja jumped consistently out to the right and was far from impressive, he triumphed more comfortably than the winning margin of three-quarters of a length suggests.
Ballynonty was a long-awaited first winner of a thus far ill-starred season for Semer trainer Tory Hayter. Wreathed in smiles afterwards, Hayter explained that Ballynonty will always have a place in her heart as he had been responsible for her very first success three years ago.
Ballynonty broke down badly when racing under rules last year and Jean Merriam, from Eye, who owns the gelding in partnership with Helen Robson, from Hatfield Broad Oak, was keen to pay tribute to Sam Hodge, who had nursed the horse back to fitness at her yard in Saxlingham Nethergate, near Norwich.
Andrew Pennock, who lives close to Hayter at Monks Eleigh, was celebrating his first winner since he broke four verterbrae in a fall at Cottenham in March 2007 after he guided Monashee Grey to a narrow neck verdict over the heavily-backed favourite, Ocean Fou, in the closing Maiden Race.
This event, which attracted a very healthy field of 12, produced a pulsating finish as Monashee Grey fought back having been narrowly headed soon after the final fence. Monashee Greywas also a first win since 1987 for owners Alaster and Anne Templeton, from Whatfield.
The Joe Turner yard, which had suffered the frustration of having two runners finish second at a meeting in Kent on Saturday, hit the bullseye here when Louise Allan guided Assassino to an impressive Ladies’ Open victory. This result underlined the recent resurgence of the stable, which is based at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds.
Finally, Itsallupintheair, trained at Chediston, near Halesworth, by John Ibbott, and well ridden by Newmarket-based Harry Fowler, gave owner Andrew Schofield, from Sibton, a first success in the Confined Race.
Race One (Members Race):
1 Mrs F A Cooper’s Olympe de Farges (Essex Farmers and Union) (R Stearn),
2 T W Moore ‘s Grand Symphony (Essex Farmers and Union ) (M Smith).
Only two ran. Five lengths. 7.05. SP 1-5 fav.
Race Two (Confined Hunts Race):
1 A J Schofield’s Itsallupintheair (Waveney Harriers) (R H Fowler),
2 J Morrey’s Mr Naborro (Thurlow) (owner),
3 Miss O Fitzroy’s Rockville (Waveney Harriers) (owner).
Also: Hidden Talents (4). Fifteen lengths, 10 lengths. 6.40. SP 5-4 (Mr Naborro 11-10 fav).
Race Three (Ladies Open Race):
1 J M Turner’s Assassino ( Suffolk ) (Miss L Allen),
2 Mrs S Cinnamond and B Stickland’s Rodalko (E Essex) (Mrs L Spence),
3 S March’s Who Cares Wins (Essex and Suffolk ) (Miss A Stennett).
Twenty lengths, five lengths. 6.39. SP 8-11 fav.
Race Four (Mens Open Race):
1 Mr and Mrs S Stearn’s Rocja (Granta Harriers) (R Stearn),
2 J M Turner’s Dead Mans Dante ( Suffolk ) (J Owen). Only two ran.
Three-quarters of a length. 6.52. SP 1-2 fav).
Race Five (Restricted Race):
1 Mrs E Merriman and Mrs H Robson’s Ballynonty (Essex and Suffolk) (R Stearn),
2 J Bowles, J Parker and Mrs M Ibbott’s Jack Ford (Waveney Harriers) (R H Fowler),
3 B J Collinridge’s Royal Tender (Thurlow) (Miss G Andrews).
Also: Delgany Run (4), Lyric Maestro (5), Kaboobi (6), No Nay Never (pu), Rules Apply (pu). Eight lengths, three lengths. 6.36 SP 3-1 (Delgany Run 11-10 fav).
Race Six (Open Maiden Race):
1 Mr and Mrs A Templeton’s Monashee Grey (E Anglian Bloodhounds) (A Pennock),
2 S Stiff and J Wright’s Ocean Fou (Granta Harriers) (M Mackley),
3 C Lee-Smith’s Run Doctor Run (Dunston Harriers) (J Ross-Millar).
Also: Ciderlay (4), Hello Bill (5), Crooked Brook (6), Foreland Sands (7), Executive Mist (pu), Katepast (pu), Lusus (pu), Mirage Prince (ur), Thurning Lass (pu). Neck, three lengths. 6.44. SP 5-2 (Ocean Fou 2-1 fav).