It was no joke for the bookies at Cottenham on Saturday as Norfolk farmer and erstwhile stand-up comic, Keith Loads, was on hand to welcome the well-backed Troufion into the winner’s enclosure following the two and a half mile Maiden Race at the Cambridge University Draghounds Point-To-Point.
Loads, who hails from Hindringham, near Fakenham, has been a keen racegoer for over four decades. But when Troufion, trained at Wymondham by Sandra Fryer, held off the late challenge of My Nosy Rosy by half a length, he became the first horse to win whilst sporting the silks of the colourful 57-year-old.
Spotted by Loads when running under rules at Huntingdon in November and subsequently purchased, Troufion was backed in to 6-4 favourite from an opening show of 3-1, although the successful owner later claimed that he had been nothing to do with this gamble.
Two speedy front-running geldings, Kilbeg Opera and Galbally King, were the other East Anglian-trained winners at a seven-race meeting which was postponed for a fortnight after torrential rain had left the course unraceable on its original date.
Kilbeg Opera took the opening Members Race to give both trainer Martin Ward, from Sutton, near Ely, and his jockey son-in-law, Dickie Collinson (from Little Downham), their first victories of the season.
Ward has been forced to be patient with Kilbeg Opera, who suffered badly with a virus last season. But he now looks to have a good prospect on his hands, and a cheap one at that – he cost just £700 at Ascot Sales in June 2012.
Galbally King continued the excellent start to the season of trainer Andrew Pennock, from Timworth Green near Bury St Edmunds, and jockey Ben Rivett, from Sharrington in Norfolk.
His winning Intermediate Race margin of one length would probably have been extended had all 19 fences been jumped (two were bypassed to protect fallen jockeys) as Galbally King is a very accurate fencer.
The rest of the afternoon was dominated, as is so often the case at Cottenham, by trainer Alan Hill, from Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire. Despite living some 90 miles from this venue, Hill is by far its most successful handler, and three more winners brought his tally for the 2013-14 campaign alone to seven.
By far the most significant of the trio was the facile Mens Open triumph of Harbour Court, who will now head to the CGA Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham on March 14 as one of the favourites.
Clearly none the worse for being cruelly brought down at the first fence of a Kelso Hunter Chase ten days earlier (enduring a fruitless 700-mile round trip to Scotland into the bargain), Harbour Court was barely out of second gear in beating Nikos Extra by five lengths.
Welshman James Tudor was aboard Harbour Court and he also partnered Hill’s other winners (Sharp Suit in the Restricted and Cool Klan in the three mile Maiden) to secure the trophy as Cottenham’s leading rider for the season.
The Ladies’ Open went to Moscow Blaze, who repeated the trail-blazing tactics of his November win here and again jumped superbly before crossing the line five lengths clear of Invisible Man.
1st KILBEG OPERA (Richard Collinson) 13/2
2nd My Shamwari (Richard Spencer)
3rd American Eagle ( Ben Rivett )
Time: 6 mins 13 secs Distances: 1 ½ L : 4L 5 ran ( Pheidias 8/11 Fav ( 4th ) )
Ist GALBALLY KING ( Ben Rivett ) 7/4
2nd Credit Crunched ( Sam Painting )
3rd Can Mestret ( Gina Andrews ) Evens Fav
Time: 6-02 Dists: 1L : 3L 12 ran (Two fences omitted- first fence fallers being attended to)
1st HARBOUR COURT ( James Tudor ) 1/5 Fav
2nd Nikos Extra ( Tom Weston )
3rd Now Then Charlie ( James Ferguson )
Time: 6.07 Dists: 5L : 8L 8 ran
1st MOSCOW BLAZE ( Page Fuller ) 15/8
2nd Invisible Man ( Josephine Banks)
3rd Double Mead ( Alex Dunn ) 11/10 Fav
Time: 6-05 Dists: 3 ½ L : 6L 11 ran
1st SHARP SUIT ( James Tudor ) 4/5 Fav
2nd Classic Destiny ( Toby Betambeau )
3rd Midnight Rebel ( Tom Ellis )
Time: 6-10 Dists: 8L : 4L 12 ran
1st COOL KLAN ( James Tudor ) 4/5 Fav
2nd Starksy Des Mottes ( Dale Peters )
3rd Spendent Spree ( Sian Hawkes )
Time: 6-20 Dists: 7L, Neck 11 ran
4,5,6 and 7 year olds Maiden ( 2 miles 4 furlongs )
1st TROUFION ( Bridget Andrews) 6/4 Fav
2nd My Nosy Rosy ( Nick Pearce )
3rd Kazuri Kate ( Claire Hart )
Time: 4-44 Dists: ½ L : 20L 9 ran