By Mike Ashby

Horseheath racecourse hosted the opening meeting of the new East Anglian season, on the last day of the old year, with several exciting finishes served up for the large holiday attendance, to enjoy.

It was particularly good to see some of the stalwarts of the East Anglia scene thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoying, ownership success, in some thrilling races witnessed, during the afternoon.

Owned by ‘ The Whiskey & Water Partnership, Ragnor Lodbrok’s has a model consistency form record which was further enhanced with the Mixed Open success, over the favourite Fairly Famous. Alex Chadwick is a significant team member of James and Jenny Owen’s Newmarket stable feels he “knows Ragnor Lodbrok now and all his quirks “  and was confident he stays as the pairing bided their time before overhauling the favourite, who had taken up the running, three fences out.

Fairly Famous (left) and Radnor Lodbrok contest the Mixed Open.

Owner Keith Loads, presence, at an East Anglian fixture is always entertaining and he looks, with his partner Kate, to have plenty of interesting horses to relish watching, this season. All four of his horses saddled were placed with two victorious. Tigerbythetail, trained by Tom Ellis, won a match race against Back Bar for the Ladies Conditions contest and Gina Andrews, who had the ride, suggested afterwards that a Fakenham Hunter ‘Chase could be a target for the progressive gelding, who has now registered six wins in points


Tigerbythetail and Gina Andrews

Trojan Du Berlais, trained by Andrew Pennock, won the Maiden Conditions event, in Load’s colours, with a front-running success, under Paddy Barlow. Pennock was particularly pleased with all his horses’s performances, during the afternoon, highlighting “ a tweak” in their feed had produced them in better visual condition, in the lead up to the new season. Paddy was landing his first winner for the trainer and decided “to take the lead, from the start, and keep going” which proved to be sound tactics and was fairly confident that he still had the measure of his nearest pursuer, The Borobudur, who failed to get his undercarriage down, when falling at the last obstacle.

Trojan Du Berlais and Paddy Barlow

The Open Maiden went to the Alan Hill trained Paul Manate ridden by Dale Paters, snatching victory for the longtime leader Ask Carla, by a head, in the closest finish of the day. Ask Carla was jumping efficiently, in the lead with the favourite Artiste D’ Ainay, held back by Jack Andrews but Peters, on the eventual winner, was always ready to pounce and was confident of seeing out the trip and so it proved. Paul Manate’s ( or Bojo as he his known in the yard from the PM initials ! ) only previous outing was over shorter trip, which slightly caught him out at Edgcote, last season but connections were certain the three miles would suit him better.

The opening race of the day resulted in Mitchouka and Charlie Case taking the prize with a strong run from the last. Having finished 2nd at Larkhill in late November, connections could have returned to the same venue but it proved beneficial to take their chance at Horseheath. Case was delighted with the way his mount “ warmed up as the race progressed after jumping slowly to start with and then make steady headway up the finishing straight” He felt they were always comfortable to challenge, the favourite, All Is True, on the run-in and score by 1½ lengths.

The biggest field of the day saw Imperial Esprit, partnered by Keagan Kirkby, cosily beat seven other rivals in the Novice Riders’ contest. Seven of the starters were all in a pack, taking the open ditch for the last time and when entering the straight Imperial Esprit and In Arrears were vying for the lead. However, Kirkby, who is based in Somerset with Paul Nicholls, had the confidence of his mount’s two previous outings to ease the favourite home by 3 lengths, with Jonjoela taking the runner-up placing.

Imperial Esprit and Keagan Kirkby

The Restricted was another close affair when Iskandar Pecos and Huw Edwards narrowly defeated Coolagh Park by a length. Edwards felt that “the two earlier outings of the season had sharpened his mount up” and had justified the long journey for the North-West. Edwards himself was riding his first winner at the course, which he found in perfect order, considering the “soft” conditions, as did many of the other jockeys.

Iskandar Pecos ( right) and Coolagh Park

If this a foretaste of the action to come, for the rest of the season, bring it on !  Come racing, in East Anglia, with the next meeting at Ampton on Sunday January 14th

All photographs courtesy of Graham Bishop Photography