By Mike Ashby

There was plenty of entertainment, throughout the afternoon, for the attendees at High Easter racecourse for the Puckeridge and Essex fixture with both the point-to-point racing and the Grand National from Aintree were relayed on a large screen, in front of the main enclosure.

Most of the bumper crowd were assembled in sight of the big screen which enabled them to keep up with the point-to-point action especially with the runners over the far-side of the course. However, they were privileged to enjoy the benefit of several thrilling finishes, which unfolded directly in front of them, over the closing stages of most of the races.

The Ladies Open was contested for the Warwick Vase and looked on paper a really competitive affair and so it proved with the three market leaders, No Hassle Hoff, Shentri and Tullys Touch always handy in a tightly packed field with Golden Poet, initially, leading the way and the favourite Tullys Touch, being held up at the rear. Approaching five out Shentri and No Hassle Hoff started to make their forward moves with Tullys Touch also making ground from the back. Two fences out Kate Gowing had manoeuvred No Hassle Hoff into the lead but the whole complexion of the race changed approaching the last where Ellie Holder had made significant ground, on the favourite, and with a perfectly-timed challenge swept past their two  market rivals to take the prize by 4 lengths. Tullys Touch has now won 13 races for owner Christina Blockley who unfortunately had traffic issues on the way to the course but pleasing arrived just in time to receive the prestigious Vase trophy. Christina’s late arrival meant she missed her 11-y-o’s excellent performance but her trainers John and Mel Ibbott would have been happy to relate all the details of how the race unfolded.

Izzie Marshall on Urban Grit produced another exceptional, almost identical, display of race-riding to take the Intermediate race. Trevada went off favourite with Zak Baker and they led the others with Burtown being reined back by Darren Andrews and Urban Grit plotting a wider course. Three out, Trevada was still in command and although Urban Grit was carrying 5lb more than his rivals, Izzie was confident of her partner’s ability to quicken when asked but it meant delivering her challenge at the precise time, jumping the last, which she performed with outstanding ability. At the finish the winners were 1½ lengths clear of Trevada with Burtown a further length away and assistant trainer Joe Hill was equally pleased with Urban Grit’s victory as was to see his fiancée extend her lead in the Ladies championship title.


We were treated to another thriller in the Mens Open which basically became a ‘match’ race from the off, between Fier Jaguen and Law Of Gold with the other declared runner, the game mare Jonjoela, not able to go the pace of her rivals. Fier Jaguen’s record of 9 wins from 14 points plus a hunter ‘chase victory and Law Of Gold’s tally of 8 wins from 15 pointing outings and another 5 successes in hunter ‘chases ensured that this was going to be a race full of class. Bradley Gibbs sent Fier Jaguen into the lead as expected, but was slightly jumping out to his right, with his main rival always a comfortable 2-3 lengths behind. This tactical positioning never altered until the last fence when Dale Peters conjured a perfect leap from the David Kemp-trained Law Of Gold and quickened away, impressively, from the obstacle to win by 1½ lengths.


After the race, Peters, who was riding his 14th winner of the season, appeared to be wincing, somewhat, as he returned to weigh-in, possibly as a result of a tumble suffered in the second race on the card, the RoR Veteran Horse contest. His mount, The Unmentiionable, was brought down after Dragon D’Estruval came down on the bend, before turning for the second last. The incident might have been a case of clipped heels with several horses abreast coming around the bend. Alex Chadwick who was partnered with Dragon D’Estruval was considerably shaken by the fall and the medical staff deemed it necessary for him to attend hospital, as a precaution. In the race itself  Cobra De Mai and Chloe East made virtually all the running, to take the winning prize, with a powerful round of jumping, bowling along, on ground, that Chloe and her owner/trainer father, Ricky, have been longing for all season. This was Miss East’s first winner of the season and her third in total, all achieved on the 12-y-o Cobra De Mai. Although Ricky East is the named trainer he was quick to point out, post-race, that his daughter is totally involved with all of Cobra De Mai’s work at home.


There was an unfortunate start to the day’s racing when the first race had to be curtailed, after a circuit and a half, due to a stricken horse on the course. The race was declared void after, sadly, Neumond had suffered a fatal injury at the first open ditch, a similar fate endured by Always Amazed in the later Maiden contest which went to Driveondonn and Charlie Buckle. Boasting the biggest field of the day, Bumpy Evans representing Tim and Edward Vaughan, raced into a clear lead, after a slow start, which they maintained through the first circuit and were still 6 lengths to the good, jumping four out. Their lead began to shorten as Driveondonn and Buckle made substantial progress round the final bend and on the approach the last, to collar the front-running Bumpy Evans and storm past their rallying rival to win by a length. Buckle and trainer Rob Cundy were celebrating their second winner of the season and Driveondonn was building on a decent showing at the previous meeting at High Easter, last month.


The final race on the card was always likely to involve only two runners and it was Nigel Padfield’s Padjoes Legacy who put his name to the trophy to follow the many previous successes that Padfield has achieved over the years, in this race. Zak Baker made all the running on the winner who was conceding 11lb to his rival, the mare Main Stage, who with Ellie Holder taking the ride, could never quite get to the Padjoes Legacy with the winning margin being 2½ lengths.


Another cracking day’s racing, full of tense, close finishes to thrill the crowd whose combined, cheering voices were in good competition with the funfair volume !