By Mike Ashby

The first meeting of the season at Higham racecourse became the focal point for local racegoers to assemble and thoroughly enjoy an afternoon of racing together with the opportunity for a social occasion.

For a February fixture, the organisers would have been delighted with the attendance who witnessed some fast and furious action on perfectly safe, ground conditions with near record times registered, throughout the afternoon.

The locals were in full voice cheering home Rock On Rocco, trained within five miles of the course at Semer, near Hadleigh by Rob Cundy. The 9yo was a decisive winner of the PPORA Conditions race, giving jockey Alex Chadwick his first winner of the season. Rock on Rocco is the first syndicated-owned horse for the No Win No Fee partnership, originated by Rob Cundy when he floated the idea to his five-a-side footballing chums, in the pub, after one of their strenuous weekly workouts. Those involved come from a variety of professions and this to Cundy is the way forward to bring more people into ownership and offer them an afternoon of racing entertainment.

Chadwick who enjoyed his best season’s tally of winners last campaign was relieved to finally get off the mark for this season. When put to him if he was pleased to get off the “cold” list, he quipped “cold….it was positively freezing !!” . Rest assured, Alex, the winners will start to flow from now on, after this victory.

ROCK ON ROCCO and ALEX CHADWICK winners of the PPORA Conditions race

The opening contest saw Azzuri set a fast pace and supplement his previous course win. Sean O’Connor was his winning partner and this performance re-kindled Azzuri’s more consistent form, from last season. O’Connor suffered two broken legs in quick succession, the latest one last season, so this was a welcome return to the winners’ enclosure, for the Cork man. He has nothing but praise for his employers, the powerful Skelton Racing team, from the top down, where he is learning new skills with hands-on experience everyday, Azzuri’s trainer, Nick Pearce, initial thoughts were his horse was less impressive than his winning performance at the course, last January. On reflection, however, Nick concluded the race had been run at a blistering pace, from the start, with plenty of front-running contenders, to the fore. The closing stages of the race saw General Custard and Tom Frogley making a concerted effort, when challenging at the last fence, but a crucial stumble put paid to his winning chance with the odds-on favourite 1½ lengths to the good, at the finishing line..

AZZURI and SEAN O’CONNOR on their way to victory in the opening Owner-Trainer Conditions race.


Reigning national champion James King took his tally for this season to ten winners with a double on Wagner ( Mixed Open race) and Whiskey For Jack ( Restricted). The former had the easier task when easily accounting for his two rivals whilst Whiskey For Jack’s success was due reward for trainer Luke Price’s long journey from his base, near Cardiff. Wagner’s declaration was the perfect outing, with trainer Max Comley in attendance, his horse having qualified for the Aintree’s Foxhunters. It proved to be a comfortable round of jumping without any concerns throughout the race and followed up the 8yo’s runner-up placing behind Midnight Cowboy at Ampton, last month.


JAMES KING on WAGNER winners of the Mixed Open.

JAMES KING’S second winner on the card  WHISKEY FOR JACK


King’s mount, Jay Bee Whiskey, was made favourite in the Maiden contest but lost a racing shoe putting paid to their chances and the race went to Doctor Tom and Tom Chatfeild-Roberts. The winner was entitled to this success after some reasonable together with some inconsistent performances, last season. Here, after some of his rivals failed to negotiate more than one circuit, he jumped efficiently enough and the two Tom’s coasted home a distance in front of the only other finisher, Taita Sunrise, the mare having valiantly attempted to keep in touch, until three fences out.

DOCTOR TOM and TOM CHATFEILD-ROBERTS the Open Maiden winners.


This was Tom Chatfeild-Robert’s third success of the season, a similar number achieved by Toby McCain-Mitchell after partnering his mother’s Slievegar, to victory, in the Intermediate contest. Jo McCain had driven the horsebox containing the Shropshire-trained 7yo, to the races and he produced a slick round of jumping, in the fastest time of the day. Having taken the lead at the final open ditch the winning pairing were 8 lengths up on Josh The Plod at the final obstacle, the distance that was maintained to the winning post.

The winner SLIEVEGAR and TOBY McCAIN-MITCHELL (far side ) and JOSH THE PLOD and CHARLIE BUCKLE lead the field in the Intermediate race.


An efficiently administered meeting and with this volume of support from local racegoers and sponsors, it augurs well for the future of the sport.