Matthew Abrey made a fairytale riding debut at the tender age of 16 when partnering Dockmaster to a shock victory in the Men’s Open Race at the inaugural Granta Harriers Point-To-Point meeting at Higham on Saturday.
Abrey, from Wretham, near Thetford, showed maturity well beyond his years and no little courage, firing Dockmaster at the final fence and being rewarded with a flying leap to seal a six length defeat of Prince Of Saints.
Matthew, a student at Writtle Agricultural College, was following in the footsteps of his father, Robert, who also triumphed on his very first ride at Ampton ten years ago.
Abrey senior was beside himself with delight, saying: “I can’t believe it! We were only hoping that he got round and gave Matthew a nice ride.”
“He wasn’t even meant to ride Dockmaster this year, as the horse is a bit small, but the schoolmaster we bought for him has had a problem. I can only thank George Cooper and Cherie Cunningham, who saw Dockmaster at Kate Milligan’s yard and recommended him to me.”
Charlie Ward, a jockey at the opposite end of the experience scale, also had great reason to celebrate as he broke a losing sequence of over 85 rides, going back two years, when guiding Commuter Country to victory in the Countryside Alliance Club Members’ Race.
All the better for his seasonal debut run at Charing two weeks earlier, Commuter Countryproved ten lengths too strong for the favourite, Just One Question.
Ward, from Sporle, near Swaffham, has had a traumatic few days as his son, Joseph, was born six weeks prematurely. But this victory helped put a smile back on his face and, more importantly, Joseph was set to be allowed home from hospital in King’s Lynn.
Commuter Country’s success completed a double for owner-trainers Paul and Margaret Brightwell, from Cosford Stud in Hadleigh, as they had earlier saddled Cracking Idea to land the Ladies’ Open in impressive style under Gi d’Angibau.
Mr Brightwell revealed that, after walking the course following heavy rain on Friday afternoon, they had not intended to run either horse because of the soft ground. But they brought them along just in case, to find that the track had dried out very swiftly.
Manna Brave is a young horse to follow, judged by the manner of his defeat of Our Man Flinin much the faster of the two divisions of the Maiden Race. Trainer Wilf Tolhurst, from Langham in Essex, was on hand to greet his winner despite having a leg in plaster following a ski resort accident three weeks beforehand.
Also in attendance was the unfortunate Alan Coe, who would have ridden both Manna Braveand Commuter Country but for being laid up with a shattered collarbone. Nigel Bloom was the beneficiary on this occasion.
The second Maiden went to Mai Point, giving Paula Twinn, from Pebmarsh, near Halstead, her first victory as a trainer and jockey Coral Grissell her first winner since moving up from Sussex to work in Newmarket. Mai Point was bred by Paula’s father, David Claydon, and is from a family that the Claydons have been involved with for the best part of 60 years.
Sussex raider Ballinure Boy justified favouritism with a three length defeat of Ask The Doctor in the Restricted Race, while the Daniel Cook-ridden Cheryl’s Lad survived some appalling jumping to lift the Hunt Race in which all four runners were trained by Henry Hill.
Race One (Maiden Race, Division One) –
1 W J Tolhurst’s Manna Brave (Essex and Suffolk) (N Bloom),
2 M F Rogerson’s Our Man Flin (Thurlow) (D Cook),
3 P Jonason’s Shine A Little (Cambridgeshire) (Miss F Jonason).
Also: Action Stations (f), Bannagh Express (pu), Casino Nell (f), Dreamisle (pu), Glencoy (pu), Morph (f). Five lengths, a distance. 6m 14s. W œ2. DF œ8. SP evens fav.
Race Two (Maiden Race – Division Two) –
1 Mrs P Twinn’s Mai Point (East Essex) (Miss C Grissell),
2 The Lord Leighton Partnership’s David Bruce (East Essex) (R H Fowler),
3 Mr and Mrs S Barr’s Fountain Bank (Easton Harriers) (M Gingell).
Also: Cicero’s Law (4), Always Trying (5), Marsden (pu), Nosy Parker (pu), Second Thoughts (f), Sire de Brumetz (pu). 3l, dist. 6m 22s. W œ3.60. DF œ33. SP 11-4 fav.
Race Three (Men’s Open Race) –
1 R Abrey’s Dockmaster (Suffolk) (M Abrey),
2 J M Turner’s Prince of Saints (Suffolk) (A Sansome),
3 R Ames and Mrs E Clarke’s Mill O’ The Rags (N King).
Also: Raincheck (4), Airtrack (pu), Dual or Bust (f), Lusty Light (pu), Tan Hill Sparky (f), The Glow (pu). Six lengths, six lengths. 6m 14s. W œ12.50. DF œ73. SP 14-1 (Lusty Light 5-2fav).
Race Four (Restricted Race) –
1 Mrs E Turtle’s Ballinure Boy (E Sussex and Romney Marsh) (A Hickman),
2 Dr D Silk’s, N Fordham’s and Ms E Warren’s Ask The Doctor (K and S Bloodhounds) (P Bull),
3 Mr and Mrs S Howlett’s On Target (Dunston Harriers) (N Bloom).
Also: Kings Mandate (4), Javelin Cool (5), Harry Tartar (6), Therewearethen (7), Father Henry (ur), Ger’s Girl (pu), Henpecked (f), I Don’t Think So (pu), River Ferdinand (ur), Teluk (pu). 3l, 10l. 6m 19s. W œ2.10. DF œ5. SP 4-5fav.
Race Five (Ladies’ Open Race) –
1 Mrs P Brightwell’s Cracking Idea (Essex and Suffolk) (Mrs G D’Angibau),
2 Mrs E Bousquet-Payne’s Uron V (East Essex) (Miss T Hayter),
3 Mrs A Gardiner’s Dance On Sixpence (East Essex) (Mrs S Hodge).
Also: Emsee-H (4), Just Jack (5), Airello (pu), Count Of Flanders (f), Limited Liability (ur), Royal Surprise (pu). Six lengths, 1« lengths. 6m 18s. W œ1.30. DF œ3.30. SP 1-2fav.
Race Six (Countryside Alliance Club Members’ Race) –
1 Mrs P Brightwell’s Commuter Country (Essex and Suffolk) (C Ward),
2 Mrs K Pilkington’s Just One Question (Enfield Chace) (A Harvey),
3 Mrs G Pidgeon, P Riddle and R Kay’s Cut A Niche (Bicester with Whaddon Chase) (B Kendellan).
Also: Going Around (4), Absolute Limit (pu), Dynamite Dan (pu), Greybury Star (pu), Reuter (pu), Wardy Hill (ur), Wise Point (pu). 10 lengths, 20 lengths. 6m 18s. W œ3.50. DF œ3.50. SP 6-4 (Just One Question 11-10fav).
Race Seven (Hunt Members’ Race) –
1 Mr J Henderson’s Cheryl’s Lad (Granta Harriers) (D Cook),
2 Mr H Hill’s Nanda Devi (Granta Harriers) (D Maxwell), only two finished.
Also: Campbellhill (f), Classic Ms (pu). 2« lengths. 6m 44s. W œ1.60. DF œ1.40. SP 1-2 fav.