By Mike Ashby

There was relief shared by the organisers, officials and enthusiasts as this Suffolk fixture at Ampton was able to go ahead, as scheduled.

Many hours of hard work and endeavour had taken place on the lead up to this meeting and the ultimate reward was racing taking place on ground conditions, officially described, as ‘ good to soft/ soft in places’. Remedial work had been required on a false patch of ground, on the bend into the uphill finish, which had proved successful and a course inspection was passed 24 hours in advance of the first race taking place.

The wet winter has caused havoc, all over the country, with meetings being initially abandoned, some postponed and some unable to be re-arranged for this season. Here, in East Anglia, we have been fortunate, to-date, to fulfil our original fixture list with six of the ten scheduled meetings having already been staged.

This Suffolk meeting may have only seen 30 horses declared but provided plenty of action to produce victories for owners, trainers and jockeys with the resultant background stories complementing their successes.

It was another successful Ampton meeting for Timworth-based trainer Andrew Pennock, whose stables are adjacent to the course, saddling two winners in Ask Carla and Trojan Du Berlais. Both horses were ridden, with confidence, by Charlie Marshall to bring his tally for the season to six victories. Ask Carla took up the running in the Maiden race after the early front-runner, Illico De Nuit had fallen at the downhill fence, on the second circuit. With their rivals looking to make progress up the stiff Ampton finish, Ask Carla responded to Marshall’s urgings to have 1 ½ lengths to spare over the well-backed Lavorante, the only other finisher.


Trojan Du Berlais maintained his unbeaten record, for the season, in the concluding Members’ contest with Atlantic Fleet his only opponent. Very little is gleaned from ‘match’ races and the slow pace of the race wouldn’t have helped either runner in the assessment of their jumping on the day. The margin of victory was 2 ½ lengths and Trojan Du Berlais’ owner and trainer will expect harder races, for their horse, as the season progresses.


One quirky comment on the race, provided by Andrew Hickman, the starter, prior to sending the duo on their way “Where was the last time in a point-to-point race that the only two horses entered, were trained by two different people and travelled the least distance to the races as they are stabled less than a mile away from each other, at opposite ends of the racecourse ? ”.

Tullys Touch is a wonderful servant to owner Christina Blockley and is always brought to the races, fit and well, by trainers Melanie and John Ibbott. In the Mens Open race, John had secured the services of current leading jockey, James King, who employed restraining tactics on the 11yo, content to sit behind the other three runners for the majority of the race. Red Maple had gone off the odds-on favourite and Alex Chadwick was also intent on keeping his mount covered up but when the pace increased around the final bend, where the remedial work had taken place, it was Tullys Touch and King who stayed on the best up the Ampton finishing straight to record a 2 ¾ length victory over Red Maple, This was the sixth course success for Tullys Touch and his eleventh points win in total and has been partnered to victory by some top names in Gina and Jack Andrews, Will Biddick and now James King can be added to the list.


Although Nick Wright, owner/trainer based on the Suffolk/ Cambridgeshire border saw his Red Maple beaten, earlier he had continued his winning season when Mount Pleasant challenged to lead the race after jumping three fences out, with jockey Alex Chadwick always confident of success, in the Restricted race. Mister Splash, for the Turner family, led the field with some mighty leaps but Mount Pleasant was always travelling easily and although outjumped by the leader three fences out, the eventual winners pulled away with Chadwick commenting post-race “ I knew I had plenty of horse under me and there was no need to push it. Nick is an easy person to ride for and his horses are always competitive”


Ellie Holder rode a determined and strong finish on her mount, Champagne Noir, to just head No Hassle Hoff on the run-in, in the Ladies Open contest. This was Ellie’s ninth career win, five of which have been on Champagne Noir, of which she is the owner but has secured a syndicate to be involved for this season. The three runners involved, are all consistent performers and it was Precious Bounty and Ellie Callwood who led with No Hassle Hoff and Izzie Marshall always in close attendance whilst Champagne Noir appeared to be off the bridle, even on the last circuit. However, up the stiff, climbing finish Precious Bounty gave way and No Hassle Hoff injected more pace and headed for home but Holder’s resolve and knowledge of her mount’s ability enabled them to draw level, at the last, and secure a narrow victory by ½ length.


In the opening Veteran Horse Conditions race, Coolagh Park comfortably landed the odds having dictated the race, from the front. Izzie Marshall pressed on from four fences out and the partnership were 10 lengths up at the next obstacle and maintained that advantage over their rivals, in front of the judge.


The Novice Riders’ race provided, as it so often does, a memorable day in the life of sixteen- year-old Tom Hutsby, from Warwickshire, who cooly took command of  proceedings after Ryans Fancy had unseated at the second open ditch and easily saw off any further challengers. Dad Fred, was particularly proud of his son’s achievement and Tom’s involvement in pony racing, in the past, has assisted his progression.

SHOAL BAY  and  TOM HUTSBY  (left)

Ampton’s season is now complete having provided two entertaining and excellently administered meetings, both here and in January.


All photographs courtesy of  Graham Bishop Photography