Matt Cobbald enjoyed a dream introduction to Point-To-Point racing when winning a bizarre Members’ Race aboard Rip Kirby at the Essex Farmers & Union fixture at Marks Tey on Saturday.

The early stages of Cobbald’s debut were the stuff of nightmares as a series of incidents meant that all four runners were put out of the race.

The field was whittled down even before the action commenced, as Marsden bolted on the way to the start, forcing his withdrawal. This meant that all three runners were trained at Raydon, near Hadleigh, by Cherie Cunningham.

Yet there was no sign of friendliness between the stablemates as Endeavour jumped violently right at the first fence, knocking Rob Cundy, rider of Spring Frolic, out of the saddle.

Seemingly affronted, the riderless Spring Frolic took his revenge two fences later, running down the obstacle and baulking the two remaining contestants. George Cooper was unseated from Endeavour (and ended up in the ditch in front of the fence!) but, although brought to a shuddering halt, Cobbald managed to remain in contact with Rip Kirby.

Cool as you like, Cobbald then doubled back to get a run at the fence and, all alone, completed the remaining two and three-quarter miles of the course to gain a remarkable victory.”It was a bit lonely out there,” grinned Cobbald afterwards. A 24-year-old farmer from Little Bentley, near Colchester, Cobbald used to play Eastern Counties rugby but his oval ball career was cut short by a serious knee injury and, despite having to lose three and a half stone in order to make the weight, he decided to take up race riding instead.

This was the final meeting of the East Anglian season so it was fitting that David Kemp and James Owen, the two most prolific jockeys of 2004, both tasted success.

Kemp, from Kilverstone, near Thetford, took his tally for the year to 12 when guiding Madmidge to a ten length defeat of Tom de Savoie. And Owen equalled that total by lifting the final race of the campaign, the Maiden, aboard On The Day, who is owned and trained at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, by Joe Turner.

Jockey Matt Mackley and trainer Ninga Pollock, from Nevill Holt near Uppingham in Rutland, met the two impostors, disaster and triumph, in the space of 35 minutes during the afternoon.

Firstly, Delgany Royal, a horse who had never previously fallen, crashed out at the third last when cruising to victory in the Men’s Open. But the Mackley-Pollock partnership gained quick compensation in the Restricted Race when Table For Four proved 15 lengths too good for Ardnut.

Delgany Royal’s departure preceded a titanic duel between the two remaining contestants, Ballad and Splash And Dash, with the latter, who is trained in Sussex by Sara Hickman, prevailing by a neck.

The Ladies’ Open resulted in another thrilling finish, with Lucky Master getting up in the last few strides to beat Fair Exchange and provide owner-rider Gina Swan, from Potcote, near Towcester in Northamptonshire, with a first career success.


Race One (Members Race):

1 G I Cooper’s Rip Kirby (Essex Farmers and Union) (M Cobbold) – finished alone.

Also: Endeavour (ur), Spring Frolic (ur), Marsden (withdrawn – not under orders). 9.05. Rule 4 applies. SP 3-1 (deduction 10p in the pound on the withdrawal of Marsden) (Endeavour 4-9 fav).

Race Two (Confined Race):

1 Next Stop Cheltenham Syndicate’s Madmidge (Suffolk) (D Kemp),

2 The Wishful Thinking Partnership’s Tom De Savoie (West Norfolk) (N Bloom),

3 Miss R Heikkola’s Algan (Cambridge University) (J Ryan).

Also: Nordic Spree (4), Avondale Illusion (5), Fiolino (6), Persian Hero (tnp). Ten lengths, five lengths. 7.06. SP 6-4 fav.

Race Three (Ladies Open Race):

1 Miss G Swan’s Lucky Master (Grafton) (owner),

2 J M Turner’s Fair Exchange (Cambs with Enfield Chace) (Miss J Wickens),

3 J M Turner’s The Wiley Kalmuck (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner).

Also: Fair Kiowa (4), Borrow Mine (pu), General Confusion (ro). Half a length, 12 lengths. 7.01. SP 14-1 (The Wiley Kalmuck evens fav).

Race Four (Men’s Open Race):

1 M R Smith’s Splash And Dash (East Sussex and Romney Marsh) (A Hickman),

2 H Hill and J Ratcliffe’s Ballad (Granta Harriers and Cambs Univ) (A Williams).

Also: Delgany Royal (f). Neck. 7.29. SP 11-10 (Delgany Royal 4-5 fav).

Race Five (Restricted Race):

1 P Andrew’s Table For Four (Fernie) (M Mackley),

2 R A and Mrs C Page’s Ardnut (Cambridge University) (Miss R Page),

3 R D and Mrs S Green’s Stick Or Bust (Fitzwilliam) (M Smith).

Also: Gunner Be True (4), General Confusion (pu), Mr Moonbeam (ur).  Fifteen lengths, 2½ lengths. SP 2-1 fav.

Race Six (Confined Maiden Race):

1 J M Turner’s On The Day (Suffolk) (J Owen),

2 A Winchester’s Manhatton Storm (E Anglian Bloodhounds) (A Merriam),

3 Mr and Mrs S J Stearn’s Peats Ridge (Suffolk) (R Stearn).

Also: Lolloping Lad (4), Scalby Croft (5), Marsden (pu), Swanbank (pu). Fifteen lengths, head. 7.25. SP 9-4 (Manhatton Storm 5-4 fav).