Robert Gardiner and Ruth Hayter shared top billing as a large crowd enjoyed the Suffolk Point-To-Point meeting, held in glorious spring sunshine at Ampton yesterday (Sunday).
Gardiner and Hayter trained a brace of winners apiece while two jockeys returned to the winner’s enclosure after spells on the sidelines.
Close finishes were the order of the day and the feature event – the Land Rover Men’s Open Race – saw a very exciting denouement as Fair Exchange just held off the determined challenge of Endevour.
Trained at Ashwell, near Royston, by Josie and Gurney Sheppard, Fair Exchange has been coughing since he chased home the subsequent Hunter Chase winners, Rob Mine and Real Value, at Horseheath back in January.
So he was probably still lacking in race fitness here and did well to edge home by a head despite conceding 7lbs to the runner-up. Having qualified here, he may now be aimed at the Land Rover Hunter Chase Final at Uttoxeter on May 21.
The judge also had a tricky time splitting the first two home in the Restricted Race. The margin was again a head as Aughmor River touched off Holy Moses after a battle royal over the last two fences.
The second leg of a double for Great Yeldham-based Gardiner, this was a first East Anglian success in the saddle for Nick Moore, 30, from Widford, near Chelmsford, who gave up riding eight years ago in order to concentrate on his career in the City of London.
Andrew Sansome, the reigning East Anglian Champion Jockey, has been absent since last June on medical grounds because the Jockey Club Doctor felt that he was suffering from a personality disorder. Sansome finally convinced officials of his fitness on Friday and made a winning return to the plate aboard Teeton Fizz in the Open Maiden Race.
Judged on this performance, Sansome has not lost any of his riding ability during the lay-off. He delivered the Northamptonshire-trained Teeton Fizz with a perfectly-timed challenge to beat Fine And Dandy by three-quarters of a length.
Gardiner’s other triumph came in the Confined Race as Native Status proved that there is still life in his legs at the age of 13, galloping on most resolutely up the final hill to see off Step In Line by five lengths.
This victory provided Gestingthorpe jockey Andrew Ayers with a fourth winner of the campaign to leave him level with Nigel Bloom and Andrew Braithwaite at the top of the East Anglian Jockeys’ standings.
The remaining two races went to horses trained at Glemsford by Ruth Hayter and owned by Anthony and Sue Howland Jackson. Gatchou Mans responded to a fine ride by Christian Ward-Thomas to take the Members’ Race while Village Copper denied odds-on favourite Spring Galein the Ladies’ Open.
Village Copper was also the beneficiary of a good piece of jockeyship, this time from Amy Stennett. The Thelnetham-based rider, who was getting off the mark for the season here, kicked for home with almost a circuit to run but left enough in reserve to hold off Spring Gale’s late thrust by two lengths.
Race One (Members’ Race):
1 Mr & Mrs Howland-Jackson’s Gatchou Mans (Suffolk) (C Ward-Thomas),
2 Mr N J Pewter’s To Milan (Suffolk) (Mrs H Edwards),
3 Mr J M Turner’s Millenium Way (Suffolk) (J Owen).
Also: Dockmaster (pu). Distances: 3, ¾. 6m 31s. W £2.20. SP 6-4 (Millenium Way evens fav)
Race Two (Confined Hunts Race):
1 Mr A Ayers’ Native Status (E Anglian Bloodhound) (owner),
2 Fernhurst’ Racing’s Step In Line (East Anglian Bloodhounds) (A Braithwaite),
3 Giles de Lotbiniere’s Ballyea Boy (W Norfolk) (D Kemp).
Also: Society Lad (4), New Ross (pu), Pampered Gale (ro), Pendil’s Charm (pu), Pongo Waring (ur), Salmon Mead (pu), Treasure Dome (pu). Distances: 6, 2. 6m 29s. W £3.20. SP 7-4 fav.
Race Three (Ladies’ Open Race):
1 Mr & Mrs A Howland-Jackson’s Village Copper (Suffolk) (Miss A Stennett),
2 Mr J M Turner’s Spring Gale (Suffolk) (Miss Z Turner),
3 The It’s My Job Partnership’s Early Morning Call (Avon Vale) (Miss A Embiricos).
Also: Borrow Mine (4), Castle Road (5), Musical Hit (6), Steve Ford (7). Distances: 2, 3. 6m 34s. W £2.60. SP 2-1 (Spring Gale 4-7 fav)
Race Four (Men’s Open Race):
1 Mrs M G Sheppard’s Fair Exchange (Cambridgeshire) (P Taiano)
2 Mr D W Clarke’s Endeavour (Essex & Suffolk) (G Cooper),
3 Mr A C Chinery’s Royal Action (East Essex) (P Chinery).
Also: Hatcham Boy (4), Corston Joker (5). Distances: Head, 10. 6m 29s. W £3.10. SP evens fav.
Race Five (Restricted Race):
1 Mr B Belchem’s Aughmor River (East Essex) (N Moore),
2 Mr E Cantillon’s Holy Moses (E Anglian Bloodhounds) (N Bloom),
3 Mr J M Turner’s Westfield John (Suffolk) (J Owen).
Also: Glad All Over (4). The Burglar (5), American Paddy (6), Lone Star (7), Lord Drakkar (pu), River Gala (pu). Distances: Head, 3 . 6m 35s. W £2.10. SP 5-4 fav.
Race Six (Open Maiden Race):
1 Mrs J M Tice’s Teeton Fizz (Pytchley) (A Sansome),
2 Mr J M Turner’s Fine and Dandy (Suffolk) (J Owen),
3 The Marriage Family’s Grey Fusilier (Essex) (N King).
Also: The Glen Road (4), French Boy (5), Ginger Bug (6), Bright Torino (pu), Cosmic Sky (pu), Court Award (ur), Lord Stroller (f), Orchard Express (pu), Run River Run (pu). Distances: 3/4, 12 lengths. 6m 39s. W £3.40. SP 7-4 (Fine and Dandy 6/4 Fav)