George Greenock enjoyed a fairytale start to his career in the racing saddle as the Essex & Suffolk Point-To-Point played out to a huge Easter crowd at Higham on Saturday.
Greenock, from Gateley, near Fakenham, only turned 18 last month. He has found the perfect equine schoolmaster in Homme de Fer, who jumped superbly and held off the challenge of the odds-on favourite, Ballinure Boy, to land the Men’s Open Race by a length.
Like so many of East Anglia’s current crop of talented young jockeys, Greenock has been expertly tutored by Homme de Fer’s trainer and former National Champion Jockey, Nigel Bloom.
Unfortunately Bloom, from Wymondham, missed out on witnessing his pupil’s dream debut, instead riding at Dingley in Leicestershire, where he managed one second place (aboard Tom de Savoie ) from three mounts.
Also absent was another guiding light in the riding career of the Stowe schoolboy, Greenock’s grandfather, Desmond Skinner. Himself once a high class pilot, Skinner, from Snetterton, chose to trek north to watch one of his horses run under National Hunt rules at Carlisle.
A bizarre Ladies’ Open race saw the hot favourite, Spring Gale, come from a seemingly impossible position to register a four length victory. Ridden by Zoe Turner for her grandfather, Joe Turner, Spring Gale forfeited 20 lengths with a slow start and compounded his error by clouting the first fence.
Turner performed miracles to maintain her balance. Refusing to panic, she made up ground gradually and Spring Gale responded to her strong driving in the closing stages to defeat Mai Point by four lengths.
Sadly, the runner-up, who was on the point of retirement following a fine career which has gleaned six victories, collapsed and died after the race. Our condolences go to her connections and particularly to trainer Paula Twinn, from Pebmarsh, who doted upon this home-bred mare.
The Ampton-based Turner yard went on to complete their third double of the season (not to mention a treble at the previous meeting here) when the James Owen-partnered Leatherbackbeat Ballad by four lengths in the Confined Race.
This was a poignant result as Leatherback was the last horse bought by Zoe’s father, Point-To-Point legend David Turner, prior to his premature death before Christmas.
Owner-trainer David Wales, from Marham, near King’s Lynn, got off the mark for the year when Camden Loch lifted the Restricted Race under David Kemp. This took Kemp, from Kilverstone, near Thetford, to a new seasonal personal best of nine wins.
Endeavour gave great pleasure to his owner, Nobby Clark, the recently-retired Master of the Essex & Suffolk who had jetted in from his new home in Ireland, by taking the Members’ Race for the third year running under George Cooper.
The success of Cooper, the senior member of the East Anglian weighing room, was in stark contrast to the triumphs of 12-year-old James Hale, from Polstead, and Jason Rodd, 11, from Henley, in the two pony races that preceded the regulation action.
The most impressive performance of the day was left until last as newcomer Mr Hawkeye, who was bought for just 2,000 guineas in 2003, trounced his 13 rivals in the Maiden race. Owned and trained in Newmarket by Alex Embiricos, he was ridden by Nick Moore.
Race One (Members’ Race):
1 D W Clarke’s Endeavour (Essex and Suffolk) (G Cooper),
2 D J and W E Lay’s Johnny Ross (Essex and Suffolk) (D Kemp),
3 J K Buckle’s Spikey Passage (Essex and Suffolk) (Miss S Keay).
Also: Hollyhock (pu). Three lengths, a distance. 6.34. W £1.20. SP 2-7 fav.
Race Two (Restricted Race):
1 D Wales’ Camden Loch (West Norfolk) (D Kemp),
2 D Harding-Jones’ Trinity Buoy (Puckeridge) (M Mackley),
3 Mr and Mrs R Page’s Ardnut (CUDH) (Miss R Page).
Also: Zafan (4), Give Him A Chance (pu). Fifteen lengths, 10 lengths. 6.20. W £3. DF £1.40. SP 2-1 (Trinity Buoy evens fav).
Race Three (Men’s Open Race):
1 Countess Cathcart’s Homme De Fer (West Norfolk) (G Grennock),
2 Mrs E Smith’s Ballinure Boy (East Sussex and Romney Marsh) (A Hickman),
3 J M Turner’s Dunrig (Suffolk) (J Owen).
One length, a distance. 6.09. W £2.20. SP 2-1 (Ballinure Boy 4-6 fav).
Race Four (Ladies Open Race):
1 J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
2 D Claydon and Mrs P Twinn’s Mai Point (East Essex) (Mrs S Hodge),
3 M Ward and Mrs B Martin’s Catherine’s Way (Granta Harriers) (Miss A Stennett).
Also: Wise Advice (4). Four lengths, a distance. 6.17. W £1.40. SP 1-2 fav.
Race Five (Confined Race):
1 J M Turner’s Leatherback (Suffolk) (J Owen),
2 H Hill’s Ballad (CUDH) (A Williams),
3 M Ward and J Glenister’s Polo Ridge (Granta Harriers) (R H Fowler).
Also: Algan (4), Fiolino (pu), Trojan Love (pu), Vital Issue (ro). Four lengths, six lengths. 6.21. W £7.20. DF £82. SP 6-1 (Algan 5-4 fav).
Race Six (Open Maiden Race):
1 Miss A Embiricos’ Mr Hawkeye (Thurlow) (N Moore),
2 J M Turner’s On The Day (Suffolk) (J Owen),
3 A Winchester’s Manhatton Storm (East Anglian Bloodhounds) (A Merriam).
Also: Play Alone (4), No Nay Never (5), Carvilla (pu), Half A Story (pu), Lightning Rebel (pu), Looking Magic (pu), Memsahib Ki Behan (pu), No Reward (f), She’s A Terror (pu), Spring Frolic (pu), Straw Exchange (pu). A distance, half a length. 6.12. W £14. DF £16 (winner with third or fourth horse). SP 12-1 (On The Day 5-2 fav).
Children’s Invitation Flat Races (Ponies) Division One:
1 Kingsland Blaze (J Rodd),
2 Sammy (Miss H Craven),
3 Topsy Dancer (Miss J Chamberlain).
Eight ran. Time: 57.2 sec.
1 Tottington Time Out (J Hale),
2 Daylight Robbery (Miss C March),
3 Pilgrims Orolan (Miss E Westwood).
Nine ran. Time: 55.4 sec.