By Mike Ashby

“What a difference a year makes” is a well-known saying and particularly apt with regards to course conditions a year ago and their current state. Last season’s dry state of affairs led to entry numbers dwindling as the season progressed but the wet start to 2020 has seen the equivalent numbers substantially increase and the Suffolk Hunt fixture a Ampton on Saturday has produced an uplift of over 125%, compared with last season, with a heartening total of 104 received, for the seven scheduled races.

Whilst previous course form is always a factor in pre-race assessing there are several entrants who performed particularly successfully at the January meeting, here at Ampton, and will be looking to confirm that form, on their return to the course.

In  the opening Veteran Conditions race, the mare Dream Doc jumped freely and impeccably in front at the January meeting and although was headed, re-challenged to win the Intermediate race. Ask Aspen also won when taking the Novice Riders race whilst After Hours was only 1 ½ lengths behind Just Cause in a similar, veteran contest, both at the January fixture. Gunmoney, irrespective of his fifteen years ran very creditable 3rd, beaten 22 lengths, by the all-conquering Fumet D’Oudairies at Horseheath at the beginning of last month. Several others, including Hawkhurst, Teeton Kato and General Ransom will have their supporters in an excellent opening contest.

The Intermediate race could be an interesting affair with Benefaktor, already boasting consecutive wins this season and Broadwater who finished last season with similar figures. Normofthenorth and Hard Ground have both won at Higham this year whilst Harmoney Row pushed Fumet D’Oudairies all the way at Horseheath at the beginning of last month. Don Cantillon’s Huntsmans Jog won unchallenged here in January and would need to be seriously considered if returning for some more Ampton glory.

Haymount and Gina Andrews will aim to win Ladies Open but may have most to fear from Changeofluck and Darius Des Bois. The latter could side-step this race and line-up with Frankie Flinton in the PPORA Novice Rider Conditions race. The pairing were successful in a Charing, Ladies Open a fortnight ago, on their first run together, after being recently purchased by Frankie’s family. After Aspen also holds an alternative entry here and the pace of the race will come from Knight Batchelor and Knockedoutloaded. Groundunderrepair delighted the Peck family last weekend at Horseheath and might go for a quick follow-up victory.

The Mens Open has the joint smallest entry, on the day, where Laser Beam could add to his trainers’ outstanding record at this Suffolk Hunt meeting. Andrew Pennock and his wife Ruth operate from their stables at Timworth, adjacent to the course; have saddled 10 winners over the last three seasons. Tullys Touch is twice a winner at Ampton whilst Midnight Cowboy is owned by Clerk Of The Course, Simon Stearn.

The Open Maiden races at each East Anglian meeting, this season, have attracted some young horses with massive potential and Ampton’s entry in no exception. Any Tom Ellis duo, in this instance, Annie Flower and Mega Mani have to be considered but factor in Advance To Go, Dragoon Springs, Howsitdone and possible improvements from the Andrew Pennock pair of  Lough Derg Sunrise and Urban Waltz and you have only scratched the surface of the 22 horses entered for this contest.

The Turner family over the years have dominated the closing Hunt race and they have entered two, namely Haut Bages and Quietly. Midnight Cowboy could take his alternative entry in this race whilst Advance to Go could make her British debut here rather than the Open Maiden. Namako is an entry from the Alan Hill stable to bring the potentially, entertaining afternoon card to its conclusion.

This meeting takes place on SATURDAY which departs from the normal raceday for the Suffolk Hunt.

Ampton racecourse is situated 4 miles north of Bury St Edmunds just off the A134, through the village of Ingham. ( Sat Nav IP31 1HU ) There are two pony races to start proceedings at 12noon followed by the first Point to Point race at 1pm. Trade stands, catering outlets, licensed public bar and bookmakers. Fun for all the family. A real countryside feel to the day with the return of the popular, fun dog show
Adults £10 Children (16 yrs & under) Free. FREE car parking. Dogs on leads and car boot picnics very welcome.