Christian Ward Thomas was the jockey to follow at the Suffolk Point-To-Point at Ampton yesterday (Sunday), where horses handled by two of the country’s top lady trainers, Ruth Hayter and Caroline Bailey, fought out a pair of thrilling finishes.

The score between them was one all, but Hayter, from Glemsford, near Sudbury, was the more successful as she also took the opening Hunt race,courtesy of Village Copper.

An eight-year-old who was scoring for the second time this season, VillageCopper gave Ward Thomas an armchair ride, cruising to a six length defeat of Bramblehill Buck. The runner-up was himself well ridden by young David Kemp, from Thetford.

The victory was a birthday present for owner Sue Howland Jackson, who pointed out that this was the first time that the familiar green and white colours of her and her husband, Anthony, had won a Members race.

Hayter revealed that Village Copper had matured since last season. “We used to have to nurse him – he had shore shins and god knows what – but now he has grown up and can cope things better,” she said.

Ward Thomas, from Thaxted, was forced to work much harder to complete his double when Dry Highline held the late thrust of the Bailey-trained favourite, Tom de Savoie, in the Confined Race.

A free-running sort, Dry Highline immediately pinched a 20 length lead, but his jumping was so erratic that Ward Thomas later admitted that he could  hear his pursuers laughing in his wake.

However, the joke was on them when Dry Highline kept on gamely despite his blunders, and, although Tom de Savoie got to within two lengths approaching the second last, that was still the deficit as they passed winning post.

Bought by David Minton having showed some good form between the flags in Ireland, Dry Highline is owned by Clare Villar, from Tostock, only six miles from the course, near Bury St Edmunds.

Mrs Bailey, the national champion trainer, from Northamptonshire, gained her revenge when Copper Thistle, ridden as usual by owner, Richard Hunnisett, defied the determined challenge of the Hayter/Ward Thomas representative, Hatcham Boy, in the Land Rover Men’s Open Race.

Copper Thistle won no less than ten times last season, and Bailey said: “He is such a star that he deserves to have a go at a Hunter Chase, although Richard’s weight means that his opportunities are limited in that sphere.”

The Ladies’ Open Race produced a tale of the unexpected. Firstly the  favourite, Cracking Idea, dropped away tamely and was pulled up. Then Gatchou Mans gave Hayter a rare reverse with a fall when upsides the leader at the fourth last and, lo and behold, the same thing happened at the next fence to Faha Gig.

All this left Thurles Pickpocket, who is trained at Raydon, near Hadleigh, by George Cooper and Cherie Cunningham and was enterprisingly ridden by Sam Hodge, to come home in his own time.

The course was in excellent shape and attracted some big fields, with 69 horses contesting the seven races. Much credit is due to the master fence builder and assistant clerk of the course, Tim Walrond, who during racing received a well-deserved award for his long service.

The largest field came in the Restricted Race where the Lincolnshire-trained Ardeal led his 13 rivals a merry dance from flagfall, eventually accounting for the hot favourite, Secret Streams, by two and a half lengths.

The two Maiden Races also fell to raiders from outside East Anglia. Peacemaker, who is owned, trained and ridden by John Cornwall, from Melton Mowbray, got the better of King’s Mandate by a length in division one, while Cloudy Creek, a visitor from Kent, looked a nice prospect when defeating Frosty Deal in the final


Race One (Members Race):

1 Mr and Mrs A Howland Jackson’s Village Copper (Suffolk) (C Ward Thomas),

2 Mr M Kemp’s Bramble Hill Buck (Suffolk) (D Kemp),

3 Mr J Turner’s Remilan (Suffolk) (A Sansome).

Also: Premier First (4), Mill O The Rags (pu). Six lengths, eight lengths. 6m 52s. W œ1.70. SP 11-10fav.

Race Two (Confined Hunts’ Race):

1 Mrs C Villar’s Dry Highline (Suffolk) C Ward Thomas),

2 Mr W Barber’s Tom de Savoie (West Norfolk Foxhounds) (W Wales),

3 Mr D Harding-Jones’s O’Flaherty’s Babe (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg)

Also: Popeshall (4), Cheryl’s Lad (5), John Tufty (pu), Major Man (pu), Mighty Merc (pu), Mister Main Man (pu), Nibble (pu). Two lengths, a distance. 6m 44s. W œ7.20. SP 5-1 (Tom de Savoie 4-5fav).

Race Three (Ladies’ Open Race):

1 Mrs J Stevens’ Thurles Pickpocket (East Anglian Bloodhounds) (Mrs S Hodge),

2 Mr D Barnard’s Peanut’s Pet (Essex) (Miss H Barnard),

3 Mr and Mrs B Twinn’s Limited Liability (East Essex) (Miss C Grisell).

Also Cracking Idea (pu), Dockmaster (pu), Doc’s Dilemma (pu), Faha Gig (ur), Gatchou Mans (ur). A distance, 20 lengths. 6m 48s. W œ16.60. SP 6-1 (Cracking Idea evens fav).

Race Four (Men’s Open Race):

1 Mr R Hunnisett’s Copper Thistle (Pytchley) (owner),

2 Mr and Mrs A Howland Jackson’s Hatcham Boy (Suffolk) (C Ward Thomas),

3 Mrs C Sporborg’s Shake Five (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg).

Also: Lonesome Traveller (4), Andermatt (5), Dual or Bust (pu), Punnett’s Town (ro), Saint Benet (pu), Torus Spa (pu), Who is Equiname (pu). 2« lengths, a distance. 6m 48s. W œ1.80. SP 4-6fav.

Race Five (Restricted Race):

1 Mrs J Bealby’s Ardeal (Quorn) (A Bealby),

2 Mr C Sporborg and Sir Chips Keswick’s Secret Streams (Puckeridge) (S Sporborg),

3 Mr M Lurcock’s Tumlin Oot (Fitzwilliam) (owner).

Also: Javelin Cool (4), There We Are Then (5), Bakmalad (pu), Baron Allfours (pu), Free and Equal (pu), Gerej (pu), Holiday Time (pu), Iberian (pu), Lillooet (pu), Mister Audi (pu), Skinsey Finnegan (pu). 2« lengths, five lengths. 6m 56s. W œ4.70. SP 5-1 (Secret Streams 4-9fav).

Race Six (Maiden Race Division One):

1 Mr J Cornwall’s Peacemaker (Belvoir) (owner),

2 Mr S Ruddy’s Kings Mandate (Enfield Chace) (P McAllister),

3 Mrs T Bulgin’s Ballad (Essex Farmers and Union) (T Bulgin).

Also: Bannagh Express (co), Campbell Hill (pu), Casino Nell (pu), Cicero’s Law (pu), Dream Isle (pu), Oak House (pu), Polly Live Wire (pu), Squaddie (pu), Tierna’s Respect (f). One length, 20 lengths. 7m 07s. W œ2.50. SP Evens fav.

Race Seven (Maiden Race Division Two):

1 Dr D Silk, Mr G Addiscote and Mr R Purkis’ Cloudy Creek (Kent & Surrey Bloodhounds) (P Bull),

2 Mr A Moss’ Frosty Deal (Suffolk) (R H Fowler).

Also: Airborne Blue (pu), City Run (pu), Classic MS (ur), County Derry (pu), Eltrym Flyer (pu), Full Bore (pu), Out Of Actons (pu), The Arkle Bar (pu). 15 lengths. 7m 06s. W œ3.70. SP 7-2 (The Arkle Bar 2-1fav).