Firm ground meant that just 18 runners contested the six races at the Essex Farmers & Union Point-To-Point at Marks Tey yesterday (Sunday). And that figure would have been 17 but for Rip Kirby running twice – and  failing to complete the course as the odds-on favourite on each occasion!

Marks Tey missed all of the recent rain, leaving trainers claiming that the surface was rough and bare in places despite midweek reports of good ground.

The lack of runners did not stop there from being a pair of tight finishes. But one of these was only due  to the cheek of jockey Zoe Turner, who sat motionless aboard Spring Gale on the run-in of the Ladies’ Open Race  even though Ballyea Boy was snapping at his heels.

Spring Gale passed the post just a length to the good but barely knew that he had been in a race and could make a rapid reapperance in a Hunter Chase at Fakenham  on Wednesday evening.

Turner, from Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, explained that the object of the exercise had been to give Spring Gale a confidence-booster following his heavy fall – the first of his career – at Cottenham three  weeks earlier.

The other exciting finish came in the Confined Race as Endeavour, who is trained at Raydon, near Hadleigh, by  Cherie Cunningham and George Cooper, got the better of New Ross by half a length.

Endeavour is a quirky character and Cooper, who also performed the riding duties, revealed: “I thought that he was going to stop at the last fence and we only just got home.”

The Men’s Open Race saw some exuberance from the successful owner-trainer-rider, Paul Chinery, from Great Yeldham, near Sible Hedingham. His mount, Royal Action, drew right away from the favourite,   Glaisnock  Lad, in the closing stages and, with victory in the bag, after the final fence Chinery threw his whip to his onlooking son, William, who was celebrating his ninth birthday.

Afterwards Chinery explained that Royal Action, who has always been a picky eater, had been transformed by a recent change in diet. Chinery won some vouchers from Baileys Horsefeeds in a cross-country race with his daughter last month and the resulting products have been devoured with relish.

The afternoon’s leading jockey was David Kemp, from Kilverstone, near Thetford, who notched his first ever double on Holmby Copse in the Restricted Race and Skirmishing in the Maiden. Holmby Copse is owned by Tony and Sarah Humphrey, from East Harling, near Thetford, while Skirmishing is owned and trained by Tim  and Kate Moore, from Barnston, near Great Dunmow.

It was a good day for the Moore family as Skirmishing is bred by Tim’s parents, Dudley and Wendy, and they were also reponsible for the foaling of the Members’ Race winner, Glad All Over, who is now owned, trained and ridden by David Hays, from Higham, near Hadleigh.


Race One (Members Race):

1 D Hays and F Willis’ Glad All Over (Essex and Farmers and Union) (D Hays),

2 G Cooper’s Fair And Fancy (Essex Farmers and Union) (A Ayers).

Also: Rip Kirby (ro). A distance. 7m 21s. SP 7-4 (Rip Kirby 4-7 fav).

Race Two (Confined Hunts Race):

1 D W Clark’s Endeavour (Essex and Suffolk) (G Cooper),

2 A W K Merriam’s New Ross (Easton Harriers) (Alexander Merriam),

3 J M Turner’s Bruan (Suffolk) (A Sansome).

Half a length, a distance. 6m 52s. SP 1-2 fav.

Race Three (Ladies’ Open Race):

1 J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),

2 Major M Edwards’ Ballyea Boy (Royal Artillery) (Mrs H Edwards),

3 Miss K Smith’s The Secret Grey (CUDH) (owner).

One length, 15 lengths. 6m 49s. SP 1-6 fav.

Race Four (Men’s Open Race):

1 A G Chinery’s Royal Action (East Essex) (P Chinery),

2 Tunmore family’s Glaisnock Lad (Dunston Harriers) (N Bloom).

Also: Drumlin (pu). Twenty lengths. 6m 43s. SP 5-2 (Glaisnock Lad 2-5 fav).

Race Five (Restricted Open Race):

1 A R and S J Humphrey’s Holmby Copse (Granta Harriers) (D Kemp).

Also: Rip Kirby (ur). 7m 14s. SP 7-4 fav (Rip Kirby 4-9 fav).

Race Six (Maiden Race):

1 Mr and Mrs T W Moore’s Skirmishing (Essex Farmers and Union) (D Kemp),

2 Lordship Group’s Crown Rule (Suffolk) (R H Fowler),

3 Mrs E M Bousquet-Payne’s Worthy Memories (East Essex) (A Williams).

Also: Schoodic Point (ro). Four lengths, 15 lengths. 6m 56s. SP evens fav.