REPORT OF THE WEST AND NORTH NORFOLK MEETING
HELD AT FAKENHAM RACECOURSE ON SUNDAY APRIL 23rd 2023
By Mike Ashby
The curtain came down on the 2022-23 East Anglian point-to-point season, with only a slightly damp ending to an enjoyable day’s racing at Fakenham racecourse. Several trainers had identified that the ‘good’ ground conditions would be beneficial to their horses and organisers of this West and North Norfolk fixture, were rewarded with 34 runners, contesting the six steeplechases.
The performances of two grey horses and an admirably consistent 15yo veteran were the highlights of the afternoon’s racing. The first grey to gain victory was Captain Biggles who extended his winning sequence to three with a fairly comfortable victory in the PPORA Condition race. Leading jockey, Gina Andrews, had the 8yo grey gelding travelling strongly after jumping the second last fence and the pairing easily repelled their nearest challenger, the front-running Tekap, by two lengths. Captain Biggles has done everything asked of him since joining the Tom Ellis stable, after racing under rules for Olly Murphy. Gina pointed out that their early judgements of his ability when he “slightly disappointed” at Chaddesley Corbett in December, were unfounded, “as it turned out to be quite a decent race”
The other winning grey, Clara Sorrento, also completed his third win in a row, with Rupert Stearn aboard, in the Mixed Open race; never surrendering the lead with some quick, nimble and fluent jumping. Market rival General Arrow lost any chance of challenging for the lead, after a mistake at the fourth last and immediately coming off the bridle and finished 3rd with Back Bar taking the runners-up placing some 10 lengths behind Clara Sorrento. Yet another success for trainer David Kemp who currently has this remarkable record, in points, for the season 12 wins from 18 runners.
What a winning machine the veteran Southfield Theatre is when able to dominate his races from the front ? Trained by Sara Bradstock, ridden by her daughter Lily, this was the 15yo gelding’s 18th point-to-point victory from 27 starts. A possible threat to their supremacy, in the ROR & Jockey Club Veteran Horse Conditions contest, came when Morning Vicar was making ground at the second last fence but took a heavy fall. The horse was uninjured and his jockey Rupert Stearn suffered bruising with hopefully nothing broken, as a result of the incident.
Lily was full of praise for her partner who came to them “ slightly sour “ after his campaigning under rules with Paul Nicholls. “ He just loves to be out front, on his own, so I just let him bowl along “ enthuses Lily whilst Sara was more than happy to come to Fakenham, where ‘good’ ground was predicted and will continue to let him race on, whilst he retains his zest for the game and he laps up the care he receives at home. Sara has always enjoyed travelling to the Norfolk course and during her riding days landed a double at the track, on one of her visits.
Prairie Town and young Cian Murphy followed up their recent Higham victory by winning the opening Conditions race for Veteran & Novice Riders race and carrying a 5lb penalty, for that success. Content to sit behind the early pacemakers before making a winning move, knowing his partner had “natural speed” to catch any front-runners, if required. There was some early exits, in the race, at the 4th fence when the odds-on favourite, Highway One O One, hit the obstacle with such a force giving Molly Landau, little chance of retaining the partnership and Soldier Of War ran out at the fence in front of the paddock, with a circuit to go.This left Knight Bachelor and Harry Greasby leading a very depleted field as Railway Muice had also been an unseat. As the two remaining runners came round the final bend, Murphy took a more direct route to the winning post, as the final fence had to be by-passed due to Soldier Of War’s demolition job on the wings of the fence. Seven lengths was the winning margin in another mature performance, in the saddle, from Newmarket-based Cian Murphy for trainer Michelle Bentham.
Tom Chatfeild- Roberts and Doctor Tom were successful in the 5-runner Restricted contest, jumping efficiently ahead of affairs. The horse is owned by his father John and trained by Kelly Morgan whilst Tom is a Leicestershire vet and Doctor Tom was a Higham winner, back in February. Chatfeild- Roberts explained “ he doesn’t settle well if behind “ so the tactics are to make the running, if possible, which the pairing where able to accomplish, here and they came home 6 lengths clear of Tres Francais, who was returning after 14 month absence. Mossy Be Lucky went off favourite but Gina Andrews had to pull him up sharply when his stride shortened, in front of the stands, with a circuit remaining.
Maskadam with trainer / jockey, Dale Peters, in the saddle, landed the closing Maiden race in comfortable style. After previous performance where the 7yo never seem to get near enough to win, here, with only four other rivals the race panned out in his favour. After the leader, Taita Sunrise, had unseated Paddy Barlow and two others were struggling and eventually pulling up it left Maskadam with one other, Red Diamond, to fight for the prize. The latter tried in vain to keep tabs on Maskadam but the winner was left to jump the last and coast up the run-in some 6 lengths to the good, at the finish.
All the amenities associated with a professional course were fully appreciated by the attendance who also cheered home Churchill and Hamish McGregor and Judge Fox with Kaden Beasley, in the respective, area finals of the pony racing.
So another East Anglian season comes to and end which saw nine of the ten scheduled meetings take place, with only the Suffolk losing their fixture, due ironically to the dry weather. I will leave the final comments to Stephen Howlett, Chairman of The East Anglian Point-to-Point Association “ I would like to thank all those who have been involved running a fixture and also all the owners, trainers and sponsors who have supported us this season”