Thrills, spills and plenty of drama were the tasty morsels served up for a huge Easter crowd at an excellent Essex & Suffolk Point-To-Point at Higham on Saturday.
The racecourse executive had done a fine job watering and, although the ground was firm, it was admirably level and consistent and produced some terrific action and storybook results as four of the six races were decided at, or after, the final fence.
The Ladies’ Open witnessed a fantastic duel up the run-in between Cinnamon Club and Spring Gale – the former gaining a very popular victory by just a head.
The result was particularly fitting as winning jockey Amy Stennett, from Thelnetham, was able to receive the trophy from her aunt, the race sponsor, Lucy Gibbon, who had won countless races aboard the brilliant hunter, Mr Mellors, while wearing the same black and red silks of Cinnamon Club’s owner, Clare Villar.
Much credit is due to the successful trainer, Ruth Hayter, from Glemsford, as Cinnamon Clubbled very badly on her previous start at Fakenham and has needed to be nursed back to fitness. She also has a delicate constitution and, on the advice of her owner, has recently switched to a low protein diet.
The following Confined Race was even closer, as Wise Advice and Westfield John flashed passed the winning post locked together. Nobody knew who had won, and a walkie-talkie malfunction meant that spectators and participants alike had to wait for an agonising five minutes before the judge’s decision of a dead-heat was broadcast over the tannoy.
This victory completed a double for the Kilverstone, near Thetford, father-son trainer-jockey combination of Malcolm and David Kemp. Earlier, in the Men’s Open Race, Kemp junior partnered Watchowillie to a facile victory much to the surprise of the bookies who sent him off as the outsider of the four-runner field.
Owners Ian Low, from Clacton, and John Wall, from Framlingham, moved Watchowillie from his previous yard in Ireland because he had ‘become quirky’ and these temperament problems resurfaced at the start on Saturday when he was very reluctant to jump off.
When he did consent to race, Watchowillie made every yard of the running and Malcolm Kemp was quick to thank the starter, Terry Pinner, afterwards saying: “I think I owe him a fiver for his patience!”
Another widely acclaimed triumph was achieved by Endeavour in the Members’ Race under George Cooper. He carried the colours of Nobby Clarke, who has recently emigrated from Tiptree to Ireland but was on hand to receive not only the winner’s trophy but also a bronze from the Essex and Suffolk Hunt as a mark of their gratitude for acting as Joint Master for the past six seasons.
The other two races both saw dramatic final fence exits. The Restricted Race looked sure to be going the way of James Owen, aboard Persian Hero, until they crashed to earth at the last fence when holding a four-length lead. This left Marmalade Mountain to land the spoils under Christian Ward-Thomas and initiate a double for the Hayter-Villar trainer-owner team.
Owen gained compensation in the closing race as his mount, Captive, was just behind Bedewhen that rival inexplicably stumbled and unseated Neil King two strides after the final obstacle.
Like Westfield John, Captive is trained at Ampton Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, by the Turner family and this success brought their seasonal tally to 15.
Children’s Invitation Flat Race (In aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund):
1 Mrs J J Andrews’ Annie (Miss G Andrews,
2 James Hale’s Tottington Time Out (James Hale),
3 Mrs J March’s Blackcock (Tom March).
10 ran. Two lengths, neck.
1 D W Clarke’s Endeavour (Essex and Suffolk)(G Cooper),
2 Lady Aldous’ Beau Brummel (Essex and Suffolk) (A Merriam),
3 G W Paul’s Rolcap (Essex and Suffolk) (P Taiano).
Two lengths, eight lengths, 6m 57s, 3 ran. Win £1.15 SP 1-6 fav.
1 Mrs A Villar’s Marmalade Mountain (East Anglian Bloodhounds) (C Ward-Thomas),
2 M Ward and G Wedd’s Lone Star (Granta Harriers) (Miss F Hatfield),
3 Mrs F Ferneyhough’s River Gala (CUDH) (R Page).
Also Highfield Lady (Pu) Persian Hero (F) Zafan (Pu). A distance. 6m 13s. 6 ran Win £1.80 DF £5.50 SP 6-4 jt fav (Persian Hero 6-4 jt fav).
Men’s Open Race:
1 M Kemp, I Low and J Wall’s Watchowillie (Suffolk) (D Kemp),
2 Mrs A McVay, R Oliver-Smith and P Cornwall’s Pangeran (Suffolk) (N King).
3 J M Turner’s Corston Joker (Suffolk) (J Owen).
Also: Cheerful Aspect (Ur). Twenty lengths,one and a half lengths. 6m02s. 4 ran. Win £3.30, DF £14.00 SP 8-1. (Pangeran 4-7 fav).
Ladies’ Open Race:
1 Mrs A Villar and T Batterbee’s Cinnamon Club (Suffolk) (Miss A Stennett),
2 J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
3 Mrs S Ruddle’s Hay Dance (Waveney Harriers) (Miss L Barrett-Nobbs).
Also: Mai Point (F). Head, five lengths. 6m 07s 4 ran Win £2.30 DF £2.20 SP 2-1 (Spring Gale 5-4 Fav).
1 Mr and Mrs M Kemp’s Wise Advice (Suffolk) (D Kemp),
1 J M Turner’s Westfield John (Suffolk) (J Owen)
3 Fernhurst Racing’s Step in Line (Suffolk) (A Braithwaite).
Also: Treasure Dome (4th) New Ross (5th). Dead heat, ten lengths. 6m 08s. 5 ran. Win £1.40 DF £4.50 SP Wise Advice 5-1, Westfield John 3-1 (Step in Line 5-4 fav).
Open Maiden Race:
1 J M Turner’s Captive (Suffolk) (J Owen),
2 M Ward and Mrs B Martin’s Fair Storm (Granta Harriers) (Miss F Hatfield),
3 D Everard and Miss A Hardy’s Life of a Star (Essex) (A Braithwaite).
Also: Bede (ur) Ceewardie (pu).Twenty lengths, two lengths 6m28s 5 ran Win £1.50 DF £7.00 SP 4-6 fav.