A huge crowd was on hand to witness the shock defeat of the top horse of the season so far, Madmidge, at the Essex Point-To-Point at High Easter on Saturday.
People were still queueing to get in after the second race and nearby fields were hastily transformed into overflow car parks as Madmidge went for win number six of 2005 in the Men’s Open Race.
But the David Kemp-trained and -ridden gelding could manage only fourth place as Splash And Dash, trained in Sussex by Sara Hickman, just got the better of doughty front-runner Lord Euro by three-quarters of a length
Splash And Dash is usually ridden by Hickman’s husband, Andrew, but he was concussed in a fall at Towcester last month and Newmarket’s Harry Fowler proved a highly able deputy.
It was a welcome change of fortune for Fowler as he only recently returned from a broken collar bone and an enforced absence from the saddle which brought the ultimate agony of a missed winner at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.
The most popular result of the day came in the closing Members Race as Bede, trained by Simon and Jo Marriage, who put so much into organising this fixture as clerk of the course and secretary respectively, benefited from a well judged waiting-in-front ride from Andrew Braithwaite to defeat Lisnagar Hide by three lengths.
Again Bede was not ridden by his first-choice pilot as Nicky Barnes, the Marriages’ stable jockey, was knocked out in a tumble at Marks Tey on Easter Monday and was serving the last day of a mandatory five-day suspension on medical grounds.
The day’s most successful rider was Alex Embiricos, from Newmarket, who notched her first ever double after many years in the saddle and approaching 60 career victories.
All her experience was needed at the fifth-last fence in the Ladies’ Open as her mount, Bush Hill Bandit, all but fell following a bad blunder. Embiricos picked him up off the floor and the partnership went on to register a two length triumph over the persistent Macfin.
Bush Hill Bandit is trained at Whepstead, near Bury St Edmunds, by Anne-Marie Hays and was winning for the second time in a week following a near two-year drought.
Embiricos sparked the double when East Anglia’s champion mare, Highland Rose, trained by her partner, Tim Bryce, proved two lengths too strong for Spy Knoll in the Confined Race.
The tightest finish came in the Restricted Race as a reluctant Earl of Buckingham responded to a strong ride from Paul Cowley to beat Pampered Lad, who had headed him momentarily on the run-in, by a neck.
The winner, who is trained near Banbury by Kim Gilmore, is set to be equipped with blinkers for his next start.
A field of 11 set off for the Open Maiden but only three completed the course, headed by Nigels Dream, who made it two Sussex winners on the card when holding off Here Comes Choosey by two and a half lengths.
Race One (Confined Hunts Race):
1 Mr and Mrs S N J Embiricos’ Highland Rose (Cambridge University) (Ms A Embiricos),
2 Miss L Fisher’s Spy Knoll (Cambridge University (C Gordon),
3 Mr J M Turner’s Leatherback (Suffolk) (J Owen).
Also: Just Magical (pu), Dancing Ranger (pu). Two lengths, 15 lengths. 6.53. Win £2.10. DF £2.10. SP ½ fav.
Race Two (Restricted Race):
1 Mr C W Booth’s Earl of Buckingham (Grafton) (P Cowley),
2 Mr A Pennock’s Pampered Lad (Cambridge University (A Pennock),
3 Mr R S Eagleton’s Ocki (West Street/Tickham) (D Page).
Also: No Nay Never (4), Baron Halebop (5), Present Moment (6), Abbey Days (ur), Ernford Smokinjoe (pu), Foxtown (pu), Ical (pu), Midnight Lord (pu). Neck, three lengths. 6.45. Win £3.80. DF £8.20. SP 5-2 fav.
Race Three (Ladies Open Race):
1 Mr C J Hays’ Bush Hill Bandit (Cambridge University) (Ms A Embiricos),
2 Mr T M Fowler’s Macfin (Cottesmore) (Miss L Allan),
3 The Seven Partners’ Pride of Kashmir (Grafton) (Miss M Filby).
Also: The Wiley Kalmuck (4), Sir William Wallace (pu). Two lengths, 15 lengths. 6.44. Win £2.10. DF £4.20. SP 14-6 fav.
Race Four (Mens Open Race):
1 The Guy Fawkes Partnership’s Splash and Dash (East Sussex and Romney Marsh) (H Fowler),
2 Mr A W K Merriam’s Lord Euro (East Sussex and Romney Marsh) (A Merriam),
3 Countess Cathcart’s Homme De Fer (West Norfolk) (G Greenock).
Also: Madmidge (4), Dunrig (5), Dunmanus Bay (6), Laras Grey (7). ¾ length, three lengths. 6.44. Win £3.80. DF £51. SP 11-4 (Madmidge 4-6 fav).
Race Five (Open Maiden Race):
1 Mr S Packham’s Nigels Dream (Crawley and Horsham) (M Sheridan),
2 The Cherry Tree Partnership’s Here Comes Choosey (North Norfolk Harriers) (R Morgan-Evans),
3 Mr M J Bloom’s Stormy Crossing (Dunston Harriers) (N Bloom).
Also: Bobbies Ryde (pu), Corkscrew King (pu), Golden Shred (ur), Hurricane Storm (ur), Mai Cure (pu), Manhattan View (pu), Manhatton Storm (pu), Nether Another (pu). 2½ lengths, 15 lengths. 6.53. Win £21. DF £11.80 (winner with Any Other). SP 10-1 (Stormy Crossing 7-4 fav).
Race Six (Essex Hunt Members Race):
1 The Marriage Family’s Bede (Essex) (A Braithwaite),
2 Mr N W Padfield’s Lisnagar Hide (Essex) (C Gordon),
3 Mr A M Gibbons’ Castle Prince (Essex) (A Gibbons).
Also: Egberts Army (pu), Scalby Croft (pu). Three lengths, two lengths. 6.56. W £4.40. DF £8.40. SP 5-2 (Castle Prince 5-4 fav)
Race One (East Anglia Hunt Pony Race – 13.2hh and under):
1 Miss Polly Marsh’s Mabel (Puckeridge) (Miss Polly Marsh),
2 Miss S Sutton’s Rapid Rupert (Aldenham) (Miss S Sutton),
3 Mr and Mrs P Hogsbjerg’s Poppy (East Essex) (Rory Hanley).
Also: Banadl Sarah (4), Corin, Lulu, Northern Belle, Rolly Jo, Warnheulog Rufus. One length, 1½ lengths.
Race Two (East Anglia Hunt Pony Race – 13.hh to 14.2hh):
1 Mrs L Porter-Cohen’s Gemini (Aldenham) (Jack Quinlan),
2 Miss Rosie Chinery’s Hetty (East Essex) (Miss Rose Chinery),
3 Mrs A Hull’s Tilly (Essex Farmers and Union) (Miss Christina Hull).
Also: Mr Ed (4), Biscuit, Grand Finale, Kenmare Little Katy, Lord of the Irish Sky. A distance, five lengths.