I’m having another crack at writing the review for the 08/09 East Anglia point to point season. Another great season passed, somewhat earlier than ever before but the racing was still as brilliant as ever. I’ve based it on the same type of layout as last year however this time I may have my job on the line depending what I say. On the other hand I might write something so fantastic that it goes completely the other way, you’ll have to see if there’s a different face leading up Where’s My Baby to find that one out!
Caveman – All Season
Caveman has improved even further this year. He has been yet again so consistent, 3rd on his seasonal debut at Cottenham, winning 4 times on the trot and then 2nd in a hunter chase at Towcester. His most impressive win was probably at Cottenham on the 15th of February, under stand in pilot Andrew Braithwaite, where he dug deep to see of the useful Coat Of Honour by a neck. Caveman seems to be very good in a finish and can out battle his rivals as he put up a good fight last year at the same venue against Go For Bust. He improved on his previous hunter chase efforts to be 3¾L 2nd to the useful Back Nine. He jinked left at the paddock exit which didn’t do any favours to his chances but wasn’t disgraced in the race. I think there will be more to come from him next year in hunter chases and I’m sure he can pick one up. He will only be 10 so should still have it all there. Another great season for Caveman and all concerned.
Viceroy Close – All Season
Every year David Kemp seems to have a new recruit that he transforms to a top pointer of the area and gets the pointing fans talking. This year it was Viceroy Close. He won all four of his starts, progressing to the next level each time. He won his first two starts impressively, winning his maiden by 10L and restricted by 25L. The next two victories he had to work a little harder to gain success. He never looked like he was going to win when he returned to Higham in the members race, he only jumped moderately through out and still wasn’t in contention turning for the home straight and a place looked the best hope but he kept going along with Master Rex to run down Pouilly’s 10L gap and flew the last to beat Master Rex by half a length in a hard battle all the way to the line. There was only a length separating the three horses. A great performance by both horse and jockey. It was a similar story at Brocklesby Park when he won his intermediate, didn’t look like the winner and still not jumping well, Viceroy Close was right out the back but David Kemp kept him going and with some help of some fallers went on to win by 12L. He has improved greatly since joining this yard and I’m sure he got many people talking about what else he might have done in the season. Unfortunately we won’t be seeing him next season as he is taking a year out due to injury.
Dellover – Fakenham Hunter Chase 13.03.09
This has got to be one of the biggest surprises of the season. Dellover had only ever run twice going into this. Pulled up on his debut and then won a moderate maiden at High Easter. Although it wasn’t the hottest of hunter chases, you wouldn’t have expected him to win this on form as all the others horses were much more experienced and he had been off for a year, but he was the gamble of the race and was getting supported in the market. Punters were most probably thinking that connections wouldn’t run an inexperienced horse in this for no reason. The fact that it was also Gina Andrews on board may have persuaded punters to take a gamble on this horse. He jumped and travelled beautifully throughout the race, his inexperience not showing through at all. With a confident ride from his jockey he took up the lead four out and ran on strongly up to the line and won quite easily. A brilliant training performance! He wasn’t seen again and having been off the track the previous season he may have his problems. Hopefully we will see him again next year as he looks to be a very exciting and capable horse.
Where’s My Baby – Fakenham 26.04.09
This has got to be one of the most consistent and honest horses of East Anglia. Having ran nine times in points, winning 5 of them and 2nd in the other four. This horse doesn’t know how to run a bad race. He started off the season with a 3L 2nd to Mid Div And Creep in the Horseheath members. The mare had already had a run out and it would have been interesting for them to meet again later into the season but they never did. He went back to his beloved Horseheath and won his Restricted very easily (this was one of three for the yard that day!). 2nd behind Go North at Ampton followed up with two more wins, members back at Horseheath and Intermediate at High Easter. However his most impressive win of the season was at Fakenham were he took the step up to open company. Gun Smith and Bob Justice set a flying pace but Where’s My Baby didn’t follow them, sensibly stayed a couple lengths back to lead the rest of the field. A place looked about his best chance after a mistake at the 3rd last cost him his momentum briefly and was being written off in commentary as “tiring in 5th” but he didn’t give up that easily and having to go widest of the four horses round the home turn and over the last, which he flew, he battled gamely with Andy Braithwaite throwing everything he had at him to get up to beat Go North by a head. The time was by far the fastest of the day at 6.14. A cracking finish and phenomenal effort by horse and rider. He ran his heart out again when he made his hunter chase debut at Folkestone finishing 5th but wasn’t far from 3rd place so he can improve on that. His jumping has improved with each race this year and we will see how well he can do next year as he will only be 8 so there could me more improvement to come.
Rock Charlie – Horseheath 28.03.09
This horse is lightly raced but has plenty of ability. He has won a point each season since joining his new connections, a maiden last year and just getting up to win his restricted this year. He hadn’t been seen since December when he wasn’t disgraced in a restricted at Cottenham finishing 6th. This looked to be more of his course at Horseheath and had 5 lengths to make up on the leader, Minehill Lad who looked the winner, jumping the last but Rock Charlie and Tom Jonason rallied gamely and stole the victory from Minehill Lad and Matt Smith just before the line to win by a head. Another thrilling finish! He never got into the Champion Novices’ Hunters’ Chase final at Huntingdon were Tom Jonason made his NH debut and was at the back through out with a few slow jumps. May be wrong but looks like he needs a stiffer track and I think he will be one to look out for next season.
Emma Bell and Ski Dazzle – High Easter
This wasn’t a particularly hot race but it was just the outcome and way it was run that made it a highlight for me. It seems Emma Bell is good at producing these unexpected wins. Last year with Frosty Run at Horseheath wining a hot ladies race at 20-1, one of the outsiders, then this year with Ski Dazzle at 12-1, one of the outsiders in a field of six. They took a clear lead from the drop of the flags and surprisingly stayed there with the help of newly applied blinkers. I personally didn’t think they would stay there and you could hear people around saying that she wouldn’t stay there, looking in the race card just to double check that this horse wasn’t a threat to the more fancied runners in the race. Having briefly lost the lead on the final circuit the pair were determined that today was their day and got back up to beat Captain Marshall by 2 lengths.
Becky Ward – Winner Well Deserved
After four years of waiting Becky Ward finally got off the mark to secure that well awaited first winner on her part owned, Magic To Do, at Northaw 04.05.09. There had been many occasions were she had just been touched off, including a half length defeat on her debut at Higham on Mr Audi back in march 2005. It was a well deserved win for the horse as well, as the partnership has been so close numerous times, including their previous outing, just going down by half a length. The pair was left in front five from home by the help of Ski Dazzle unshipping his rider and they held on from the favourites Good Vintage and Gina Andrews to win by 3 lengths. Becky does seem to get horses jumping well for her and has a good seat which was shown at Garthorpe 24.05.09 when Rockley Beach made a terrible mistake and looked as though Becky would be out the saddle but she reacted very quickly and did remarkably well to stay on, something that cant be said for some of the jockeys out there. On top of getting her first winner Becky Ward managed to win the title of leading lady novice rider of East Anglia. Thoroughly deserved! Lets hope we see Becky ridding plenty more winners next season.
Rupert Stearn Easter Hunter Chase Double
Rupert Stearn has been riding for quite a few years now and has had around 22 rides under rules but never managed to get a winner. Then just like busses, he waited for one, and two came along at once at the Easter Monday meeting at Fakenham in both hunter chases. The fields were small but competitive. Win number one came on the James Owen trained, Bonne Noel’s. Owen had Go North to ride so this was presumably a spare ride for Stearn. He sat behind the leaders through out and took up the lead at the 12th to go on and win very easily by 42 lengths. Rupert had to work a bit harder for win number two which was on Robert Abrey’s, Coat Of Honour. It looked anyone’s race as there were only three runners, all of similar ability and it was very close in the betting too. The grey sat in second through much of the race and swinging for home it still looked like any of the three could win but Scotland Yard began to tire before the last which ruled him out and with a bold jump from Coat Of Honour at the last he was ridden out by Stearn to win by 2 lengths from Yann’s. A great day for Rupert!
Another top jockey that got his first win under rules this season was Andy Braithwaite. He’s had more rides under rules than Stearn and surprisingly he too hadn’t managed a winner. This ended when he guided Took My Eye to win the Paul Rackham Champion Novices Hunters’ Chase final at Huntingdon, standing in for the injured David Kemp. The pair travelled well through the race and won comfortably. Well done to Andy!
Matt Smith’s Two Doubles
All the years Matt Smith has been riding and winning you would just think that there was a double in there somewhere having rode plenty of winners, around the fifty marker, but all of them have come on a single occasion at a meeting. Finally on 25.01.09 at a soggy Higham, Smith managed to finish first past the post in two races. The first win came in division 1 of the 56&7yo maiden on the Leicestershire trained Delgany Run who romped to a 25 length victory. Smith’s second success was a on the 14-1 outsider, Pouilly, who gave him his first ever double.
As in Rupert’s case, you wait for one, and you get two in a season as six weeks later Smith rode another double at Cottenham on 15.03.09. Wicked Nice Fella got the ball rolling in the opening member’s race. This was the first of two tight finishes, unlike the Higham double. Wicked Nice Fella made most of the running and held on by a neck from a late spurt from the favourite, Bobbies Ryde. His second winner of the day to make the double was even closer on Prince Carr who fought of the challenge from Pass The Parsel to win by a head. A well deserved achievement for Matt Smith!
Kemp Treble At Horseheath 21/02/09
This is just a personal highlight of mine. It was good to be part of a yard that scored a treble at one single meeting. The first two victories were won comfortably in style with Rydal Park taking the men’s open and then Where’s My Baby in the restricted. The final winner of the day was what made it even more thrilling. Lucky Mojo looked like he would make it three easy wins for the yard having had a 10 length lead but with a bad blunder at the last and wondering eyes on the horsebox entrance he tried to pull himself up and allowed Blue Rebel to get in front but luckily Lucky Mojo was glad of the company and got back up to win in the nick of time by a head.
The Amount of Injured Jockeys
This year we seemed to have lots more of the jockeys out for a few weeks or the rest of the season due to an injury on the track or an incident at home, many more than previous seasons. It was though a curse had been put on the East Anglia jockeys as there were seven local riders out in total through out the season.
George Greenock had to miss a win on Caveman at Cottenham on 15.02.09 due to a broken thumb, he was soon back on board two weeks later to reunite the partnership with a win at Marks Tey.
Ben Rivett was off for a few weeks when the fresh King Eider, having been off the track for nearly two years, took of too early at the second fence and came down a crashing fall leaving Ben with a shoulder injury at High Easter 22.03.09. This track seems to have good and bad luck for Ben as both his two wins have been at High Easter.
David Kemp had to miss half the season when a head first fall on Rydal Park at Towcester 25.03.09 left him with broken cheek bones. It would have been hard to keep up with the fitness while he recovered so David called it a day for the rest of the season and focused on the training side. This was his worst accident in ten years of race riding. If this accident hadn’t of happened I think the jockey championships may have been different.
Tony Williams was another who missed much of the second half of the season with a broken leg which was caused by riding out at Newmarket.
Matt Mackley yet again missed some of the season, this time with a broken ankle. This happened at the Easter Monday meeting at Marks Tey 13.04.09 when Kaboobi suffered a fatal fall. Mackley has been unlucky in recent years as he was out last year because of a shoulder injury. Better luck for next season!
Emma Bell also missed the final few weeks of the season, which may or may not have cost her the lady novice title. This was on a day of highs and lows for Emma. She had won the second race on the card with a front running performance on Ski Dazzle and two races later was off to hospital after a heavy fall on Frosty Run left her with a broken collar bone and concussion. An air ambulance was called but the injuries weren’t as serious as first thought.
As we all know Rosie Chinery with out a doubt had one of the most horrific riding accidents imaginable when the horse she was riding collapsed with a heart attack whilst doing a piece of work at Newmarket. When you’re going flat out at that speed you can only hope that you land out the way of the horse. Unfortunately the horse came down on top of her leaving Rosie with numerous serious injuries. Thankfully she pulled through and is steadily recovering. All the best to Rosie on her recovery.
Although not classed as an East Anglia based jockey, Johnny Bailey missed the last month or so of the pointing season with a broken leg having been brought down in a maiden race.
Scare Lotte’s death
It seems we lose an old favourite in this sport every year in the cruellest way. Last year we sadly lost Tartar Sabre and this year another very popular horse, Scare Lotte who sadly fell at the last fence and broke her leg I believe. She was another very popular horse, so consistent and honest, not always foot perfect with her jumping but she had some talent. She ran 23 times, winning eight, well nine but she was disqualified for loosing a weight cloth, second three times and third twice. She was bred by the family, trained by Harry Hobson, owned by Rosemary Hobson and ridden mainly by Clare Hobson who knew just how to ride her. This tough little horse gave each member of the family a lot of fun and happiness. Giving Clare Hobson her first winner and first ride under rules, which if she wasn’t hampered three out and got a clear run on the run in she would have won. she could win at any track, from Horseheath to Cottenham. She was a personal favourite of mine and will be missed in the pointing world. R.I.P Scare Lotte.
We also lost Bob Ar Aghaidh who was a good horse to his small pointing yard, the Harveys, who suffered a heart attack after his final race at High Easter. Kaboobi and Armaturk also lost there lives on the track, R.I.P to all of them.
Rydal Park – Unfortunate Not Disappointing
Some people will say that Rydal Park was disappointing this year having gone up a level. The fact of the matter is that he was more unfortunate than a disappointment. His first two runs he looked like he would go on to do just as well this year in open races and hunter chases, having run a fine race behind Cappa Bleu who went on to win the Cheltenham Fox Hunters. Then won a men’s open race easily back at Horseheath. His hunter chase runs have been on ground softer than his liking. His first run in a hunter chase at Leicester he wasn’t disgraced in 4th place, running on well at the end but wouldn’t have minded it the ground was firmer as it was good to soft which he can cope with, just would have had more of a chance with it a bit harder. He unfortunately fell on his next run at Towcester where who knows what would have happened as he was patiently ridden out the back and still had every chance going on how the horses were finishing in that race, very tired. Back to Towcester on Easter Sunday the ground was given as good but it was in fact much softer and Rydal ran no sort of race and finished a tailed off last to complete 4th. There’s no doubt that he should be back to winning ways next year after a couple of runs in points and with the right ground.
It Was Good To See
Jockeys getting off the mark with their first winner. Becky Ward was one, I’ve already mentioned her win in the highlights. 18yo Dale Peters got his first win down at Brafield-On-The-Green 29.03.09, on board his father’s Rare Gold. He beat Nokimover by 6 lengths in a fast time of 6.4.5 seconds. The pair went onto run more good races in the season including 3 lengths fifth to Where’s My Baby in a men’s open and a head second to the mighty Tribal Venture at Garthorpe. They returned to Garthorpe 24.05.09 to give Dale his second success in a novice riders race which they won by a length beating Tooley Park. There is sure to be more wins to come from this pair next year. George Kennedy managed to score in his first season race riding. He had to wait until the end of the season at the penultimate fixture at Fakenham 26.04.09. This came aboard Tuesday Club in the Open Maiden. The pair came close last time out, beaten by a Martin Ward horse, Katy’s Classic, however this time they got one back on him as they beat his Ocean Fou by 3 lengths even though it was close jumping the last fence but Tuesday Club found more.
The Paul Rackham Champion Novices Hunters’ Chase final at Huntingdon kept going for a second year running. Its very good of Paul Rackham to sponsor this again as it is good for the area to have their own end of season hunter chase which is a qualifying race restricted to East Anglia horses only. It is good as well because it gives horses which may be progressing to have a crack at the next level up and they wont necessarily be against more experienced horses, they are all on a pretty similar level. It was a shame that it didn’t get a larger amount of entries. A thank you to Paul Rackham for allowing this race to happen and let’s hope that he will continue to do it next year.
Northaw getting rid of the member’s race. The Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chase member’s race at Northaw has never attracted a huge entry, let alone runners on the day. A small field or walkovers have normally been the case. This year it was made into an EAAC Club Members Conditions race which attracted more entries and runners on the day. This race makes much more sense and can allow spectators to see a better race, sometimes an extra race when it’s been walkovers. Much improved.
Suggestions/Improvements For Next Year
Just a few points which I personally would like to see.
More novice rider races. I know it’s hard to fit them in with all the other races but it would be good if we could have a novice rider race at every meeting. Maybe some of the member’s races could be turned into a novice riders, it would attract a larger entry and give more of a race to the paying public, especially towards the end of the season. I know it’s nice to have the member’s race for that hunt but look at the Essex Farmers & Union at Marks Tey 05.04.09, that had 5 entries, 4 of which came from the same yard, George Cooper. It was good that he had different owners that allowed us to have a race, even if it was just 2 runners. The hunt races at Marks Tey should be made into a Marks Tey member’s race, just like Higham and Horseheath, other wise make the race into a novice riders, at least there will be more entry money made that way. Or towards the end of the season when there are just six races, make the start half an hour earlier, so one thirty instead of two o’clock and stick a novice rider race on the card. It gives the novices more of a chance in their own race, competing against fellow novices and they can get more experience keeping in their own category without having the more experienced jockeys ruining their fun.
I still think as I said last year that it would be good to have a Fakenham finale. It would be a great idea for the last meeting of the season to be held at Fakenham and make it into a right finale. All the races could be confined to East Anglia runners only. There could be races which we don’t normally have such as the Marriage horse feeds mares championship final, we don’t have a mare’s race any more and for it to be the Marriage horse feed mare’s final we could get a decent race where every point would count to winning that prize. A novice rider race final, a 4mile open race or a longer race of some kind, champion open horse race final, 2m4f maiden race. I think that would be a great way to end the season off and there would be a real battle on with the jockeys to see who would come out on top for the championship prizes. Something to look forward to as the season closes.
Best Ride By A Male Jockey
This was so hard to choose from as it could have been; David Kemp with his rides on Viceroy Close at Higham 1.03.09 or Lucky Mojo at Horseheath 21.02.09, Rupert Stearn on Rocja Cottenham 15.03.09, Ben Rivett who gave a brave ride on Sodantay at High Easter 18.04.09 or Andy Braithwaite with Caveman 15.02.09. But I’ve gone with Andy Braithwaite and his ride on Where’s My Baby at Fakenham 26.04.09. People may think I’m being biased but I really did think it was an exceptional ride and there is no denying that it was. I’ve already talked about what happened but it was down mainly to Andy that the horse got up to win in the dying strides. If it had been a novice or someone not as experienced it is probable that the outcome would have been different. A brilliant ride and gave us one of the best finishes in years.
Best Ride By A Female Jockey
This is another toughie as this could go to; Emma Bell’s front running performance on Ski Dazzle at High Easter 18.04.09, Louise Allan and Leatherback at Northaw 04.05.09, Lauren Michelli’s ride on the outsider Duke Of Stradone Higham 11.04.09 or Gina Andrews and Good Vintage at Ampton 18.01.09 but my final choice has gone for Kelly Smith with her strong ride on Ten Horse Power at Higham 1.03.09. Kelly has improved lots over the past couple seasons and wouldn’t have won this battle 2/3 years ago but now an improved race rider she got her 8-1 shot to just get in front of Mountain Emperor and Harry Fowler, something she wouldn’t have done before as well to beat a much more experienced jockey in a close finish.