Christian Ward-Thomas continued his exhilarating partnership with Dry Highline at the Essex Farmers and Union Point-To-Point at Marks Tey on Saturday.
The Thaxted-based jockey produced a virtuoso performance in the saddle for the second time this season to land the Confined Race in the fastest time of the day.
Owned by Clare Villar, from Tostock, near Bury St Edmunds, Dry Highline is a free-running sort and, much as he had done at Ampton four weeks earlier, Ward-Thomas allowed him to sprint off into a commanding lead.
Trainer Ruth Hayter’s instructions had simply been to “come back safely”. But Ward-Thomas took matters into his own hands and, when Dry Highline was 15 lengths clear jumping the fifth of 20 fences, Mrs Hayter, from Glemsford, admitted to feeling sick with apprehension.
The other jockeys, together with most of the spectators, presumed that it would be impossible for the Dry Dock gelding to maintain such a fierce pace in ground made very testing by half an inch of rain on Thursday night.
Dry Highline proved us all wrong, and never sighted one of his 11 rivals in winning unchallenged by 15 lengths from a back-to-form Nibble, with the favourite, Scarlett O’Haraonly third.
Spring Gale posted a similarly stylish victory in a Ladies’ Open race that completely overturned the Horseheath form from earlier in the month. Then, Thurles Pickpocket just got the better of Cache Fleur with Spring Gale third and the same trio did battle on Saturday.
Once again, there seemed likely to be little between Cache Fleur and Thurles Pickpocketjumping the third last, but Spring Gale was pulling double alongside his old rivals.
The eventual five length winning margin did not do justice to Spring Gale, the mount of Zoe Turner, who trains this exciting nine-year-old with the help of her family at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds. Cache Fleur stuck on gamely to ensure second place.
The opening Hunt race began a day to remember for the 54-year-old Tolleshunt Major builder, David Hays, as he registered his first ever riding success by guiding the Keith Coe-trained Hizalto a three length verdict over his stablemate, Dreamisle.
Later, Hays was also seen in a good light as a trainer when he saddled Glad All Over to take second place in the closing Maiden.
Copper Thistle was not extended in notching his third success of the season in the Men’s Open Race under Richard Hunnisett, and only an act of god seems likely to stop the Caroline Bailey-trained gelding from grabbing the award for the nation’s most prolific winning pointer for the second successive year.
Mister Trick finished a highly creditable, if distant, second, and his effort was a feather in the cap of Whepstead trainer-rider Neil King who bought him for just 2,500 guineas at the Malvern Sales less than three weeks earlier.
Monty’s Tag, owned by Michael Gore, from West Somerton near Great Yarmouth, followed up his Horseheath Maiden win in the Restricted Race. But the Montelimar gelding was pushed quite hard by the outsider, Therewearethen, and trainer-rider Simon Andrews reported that he was ill-suited by the sticky ground.
Neither Dry Highline or Spring Gale are exactly straightforward to train, and a day for quirky equine characters was completed when Le Cabro d’Or and Ballad won the two divisions of the Maiden.
Le Cabro d’Or had hung violently left and run off the course on his previous start, but on this left-handed track he was always lugging badly to the right and had to be yanked around the bends. He was still mighty impressive, leaving Bishops Stortford-based jockey Simon Sporborg to say: “he would be awesome if he didn’t mess about so much!”
Toby Bulgin, who trains Ballad at Danbury with his wife, Nicola, was forced to miss the ride after cracking a bone in his left arm in a fall at Higham the previous weekend.
Alex Harvey proved a most able deputy as the son of Salluceva scored by 15 lengths, and his most anxious moment came after the winning line, as Ballad tends to suffer from a lack of oxygen following a race and was unsteady on his feet for a few minutes.
Race One (Members Race) –
1 Mr and Mrs A Willis and A Coe’s Hizal (Essex Farmers and Union) (D Hays),
2 K Coe’s Dreamisle (Essex Farmers and Union) (C Ward),
3 B Kennedy’s The Arkle Bar (Essex Farmers and Union) (A Braithwaite).
Also: Skirmishing (4), Golden Knight (5), Exarch (pu), On The Beer (ur). Three lengths, a distance. 7m 42s. SP 2-1fav.
Race Two (Confined Hunt’s Race) –
1 Mrs C Villar’s Dry Highline (Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas),
2 Miss C Cunningham’s Nibble (East Anglian Bloodhounds) (G Cooper),
3 C H Sporborg’s Scarlett O’Hara (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg).
Also: Commuter Country (4), Spuffington (5), Alfredo Garcia (pu), Ardkilly Warrior (pu), Courier’s Way (pu), Cropredy Lad (pu), More Fun (pu), O’Flahertys Babe (f), Speedy Snaps Pride (pu). 15 lengths, « length. 7m 13s. SP 3-1 (Scarlett O’Hara 5-4fav).
Race Three (Ladies’ Open Race) –
1 J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
2 Mrs G D’Angibau’s Cache Fleur (Essex and Suffolk) (owner),
3 Miss J Stevens’ Thurles Pickpocket (East Anglian Bloodhounds) (Mrs S Hodge).
Also: Limited Liability (4), Faha Gig (5), Royal Surprise (6), Ann’s Ambition (pu), Lets Twist Again (ur), My Best Man (pu), Uron V (f). Five lengths, five lengths. 7m 15s. SP evens fav.
Race Four (Men’s Open Race) –
1 R Hunnisett’s Copper Thistle (Pytchley) (owner),
2 Mrs K Williams’ and Mrs H Lascelles’ Mister Trick (Pytchley) (N King),
3 P Hall’s General Assembly (West Norfolk) (N Bloom).
Also: High Learie (4), Insulate (5), Karar (6), Cinnamon Club (pu), Remilan (pu). 15 lengths, 20 lengths. 7m 17s. SP 1-3fav.
Race Five (Restricted Race) –
1 M Gore’s Monty’s Tag (Enfield Chace) (S Andrews),
2 S Watson’s and T Humphrey’s Therewearethen (Dunston Harriers) (N King),
3 Mrs I Hodge’s Country Barle (Puckeridge) (N Bloom).
Also: Bally Seamus (pu), Beau Joueur (pu), Coolest By Phar (pu), Handy Boy (ur), Skinsey Finnegan (pu), Trojan Love (pu). 10 lengths, a distance. 7m 26s. SP 4-7fav.
Race Six (Maiden Race Division One) –
1 Mrs C Sporborg’s Le Cabro D’Or (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg),
2 The Wickham Partnership’s You Can Quote Me (Puckeridge) (A Harvey),
3 A Scott’s Miss Mouse (Essex and Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas).
Also: Persian Boy (4), Arbitage Man (pu), Bachelor-Carrasco (pu), Curracloe Rose (pu), Lancaster Boy (pu), Ruddy Marvel Lass (pu), Uncle Buck (pu), Wardy Hill (pu), Wise Point (pu). A distance, three lengths. 7m 35s. SP 5-2 (Uncle Buck 2-1fav).
Race Seven (Maiden Race Division Two) –
1 Mrs N Bulgin’s Ballad (Essex Farmers and Union) (A Harvey),
2 D Hays Glad All Over (Essex Farmers and Union) (C Ward),
3 N Padfield’s Senior Partner (Enfield Chace) (S ndrews).
Also: Out of Actions (4), French Tale (pu), Mannagar (pu), Primrose Hill (pu), Sugar Love (f), Sweet Talker (pu), Will Hill (pu). 15 lengths, 10 lengths. 7m 33s. SP 7-1. (Senior Partner 7-4fav).