REPORT OF THE ESSEX AND SUFFOLK MEETING HELD AT HIGHAM RACECOURSE ON GOOD FRIDAY APRIL 7th 2023
By Mike Ashby
The annual Essex and Suffolk fixture produced another colossal attendance with seemingly most of the population of the two counties congregating at Higham racecourse, on Good Friday. Once again, as in previous years for this Easter meeting, the overflow car parks were full to capacity and some gatherings were still on-going, well after the racing had concluded.
The recent rain leading up to the meeting had produced near perfect ground conditions resulting in 47 runners, in total, contesting the six point-to-point races.Training honours, on the day, remained in the East Anglia region, with David Kemp saddling three winners which continues the remarkable run of success for the Kilverstone-based trainer which for this season in points and hunter ‘chases stands at nine wins out of seventeen runners, a 53 % strike rate.
Ballinagore overcame his rivals to come through and take the Conditons (Level 3) race under Alex Chadwick, who reflected post-race that despite the dislike of the tight bends, the fences and the ground by his partner this was nevertheless “some horse”. Ballinagore always had more than one opponent ahead of him during the race with Josh The Plod, Southfield Lily and Oval Street, all vying for the lead. Kemp’s entrant made their winning challenge at the second last and were clear on the run-in by 5 lengths over Oval Street. The Oak Partnership were recipients of the Broken Eagle Trophy, kindly presented by Jake and Caroline Exelby, in memory of their wonderful servant who recorded eight wins at the Higham course.
BALLINAGORE AND ALEX CHADWICK ( right) with OVAL STREET AND ARCHIE WRIGHT
Chadwick was also the winning jockey, for the Kemp stable, on Back It Up, who made a fine GB pointing debut in the closing Maiden contest. The race was run at a sensible pace which suited the inexperienced, 5yo Irish-import and allowed him to settle and learn a lot from the race, to the delight of the owner and trainer. The winning jockey commented that Back It Up had given one of the best ‘feels’ of any horse he had ridden this season. Some compliment and we will watch with interest the progress that materialises from subsequent outings.
BACK IT UP AND ALEX CHADWICK
Dale Peters took the mount on Kemp’s other success on How To Get Away, in the Conditions ( Level 2 ) race. After the runaway King Cnut surrendered the lead on the final circuit it was the two market leaders who emerged as the only likely winners at the cross fence, four fences from home. A ding-dong tussle ensued up the Higham straight with How To Get Away and Peters presenting their final challenge to the previous course winner Slievegar, after jumping the last fence, and go on to score by 1½ lengths.
SLIEVEGAR AND TOBY McCAIN-MITCHELL lead HOW TO GET AWAY AND DALE PETERS ( left)
Peters rode and also trained the winner of the main race on the card, the Ineos Grenadier Mixed Open, with Peacocks Secret relishing the ground conditions. Connections had taken the decision to declare here rather than go for the hunter ‘chase at Fakenham on Easter Monday and it proved to be the correct one in the circumstances. The pace was strong from the start which put some of the runners on the back foot early on as Commanche Red and Molly Landau led the way with Peacocks Secret never far away. After taking the lead down the final stretch of the back straight the winning partnership were never in danger of surrendering this advantage and powered 6 ½ lengths clear of their rivals to take the £600 first prize.The 11yo was only competing in his fourth point, having contested far more hunter ’chases, during his career, but according to his trainer/jockey “ loved it round here and the quicker ground. I was always holding on to him and he was jumping outside the wings and always travelling…..a hero “
PEACOCKS SECRET AND DALE PETERS
In the Novice Riders’ race it was a memorable day for sixteen year old Cian Murphy, fully supported by his friends and family, who rode his first winner on Prairie Town , on only his third ride. Having taken the lead with a circuit to go the teenager showed plenty of composure to maintain that position through to the winning line and hold off the late challenge of the favourite, Muckamore, who was finishing the fastest. Cian is gaining his experience by riding out for two of Newmarket’s professional trainers Lucy Wadham and Sean Woods and his future participation in these novice riders’ contests will be monitored with keen interest after this mature display, in the saddle.
PRAIRIE TOWN AND CIAN MURPHY
Back Bar and Izzie Marshall were the easiest victors on the day, in the colours of the Cranfield family, in the opening Hunt Members’ race after the mare Koyote, the long-odds on favourite and previously unbeaten this season, unseated Ellie Holder at the fifth obstacle, having jumped untidily two fences earlier.
BACK BAR AND IZZIE MARSHALL
The day’s proceedings had commenced with the now traditional “Side Saddle Spectacular” and once again we admired the expertise and riding skills of the ladies in their 6 furlong dash. The two pony races also provided a wonderful experience for the young competitors in the front of a huge audience whilst the two rings of the dog show were busy all afternoon.
MAX LEIBERMANN AND LOUISA CHAMBERLAIN (left )winners of the Side Saddle Spectacular and SPEEDY BRUERE and BECKY BAKER who finished second.
Altogether a superb day’s racing and entertainment, witnessed by a bumper holiday attendance proving, given the perfect weather and ground conditions, the sport is in fine fettle and will always be fully supported by owners, trainers, sponsors and the public.
Photos courtesy of Graham Bishop Photography