Berties Dream and Doctor Kingsley, a pair of horses who are set to take part in the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival in two months time, were the star performers at an outstanding Dunston Harriers Point-To-Point at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, on Sunday.
Following a half hour delay to allow frost to thaw, the fixture was staged in glorious sunshine and its six steeplechases averaged just shy of 12 runners per race.
Berties Dream has been to three previous Cheltenham Festivals, winning once, and he is now half way towards qualifying for a fourth, in March 14th’s Foxhunter Chase, after an easy ten length defeat of Citizens Arrest in the Ladies Open Race.
Berties Dream is a first winner of the season for Newmarket trainer Lauren Braithwaite, who is heavily pregnant with triplets. Asked in the winner enclosure how she was feeling, she said: “I feel a lot better now – watching my horses race is not good for these three,” pointing to her stomach!
Berties Dream’s Foxhunter opponents are likely to include Doctor Kingsley, who passed four horses up the finishing hill and took advantage of a final fence blunder from the runner-up, Milled, in the Mens Open Race.
Winning handler, Pauline Harkin, from Northamptonshire, said: “We didn’t think he would like the sharps bends here and he did get outpaced but he loves hills and picking off tired horses. We intend to send him back to the Foxhunter as he can improve upon last year’s fourth – we almost didn’t run him that day as he had suffered from colic the night before.”
Milled is trained within half a mile of Ampton by Andrew Pennock, who had to suffer another near miss in the Maiden Race. His representative here was American Eagle, but he found Volcan Surprise half a length too strong after a thrilling finish in which Vertige Fatal threw away probable victory with a calamitous error at the final obstacle.
Volcan Surprise is trained at Wymondham by Caroline Fryer and, partnered by Bridget Andrews, was completing a family riding double as her sister, Gina, did the steering aboard Berties Dream.
The Club Members Race for veteran horses provided a dream start to the season for trainer-rider David Kemp, from Kilverstone, near Thetford. Cheyanwe was his first runner of the campaign and, other than a scruffy leap at the tricky final fence, she never put a foot wrong and did not need to be hit with the whip while scoring by eight lengths.
The 16-runner Restricted Race provided thrills and spills from start to finish and threw up a winner of exceptional promise in the form of the Oxfordshire-trained Boston Article.
An eight-year-old with just two previous runs under his belt, he expended unnecessary energy by pulling very hard in the early stages. Finally allowed his head with half a mile to run, he shot 12 lengths clear only to tie up badly on the run to the line, eventually scrambling home by half a length.
The closing Novice Riders Race witnessed another successful Oxfordshire raider as Alpha Native made almost all of the running to beat The Rodeo Clown by a length and a half.
GOING: GOOD, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES
EA Area Club Members Race 10 YO + Horses
1st Cheyanwe (David Kemp) 3/1
2nd Pheidias (Gina Andrews)
3rd Thenford Ryde ( Frankie Hickman)
Time 6 mins 19 secs* Dists: 8L, 12L 10 ran Ashfields Dream 2/5f (PU)
*3 jumps omitted , Frost in ground
1st Volcan Surprise ( Bridget Andrews) 6/4
2nd American Eagle ( Ben Rivett)
3rd Vertige Fatal ( Sebastian Desmontils) 4/6f
Time 6-26* Dists: 1/2L, 1 1/2L 14 ran
*3 jumps omitted , Frost in ground
1st Berties Dream ( Gina Andrews) 4/6f
2nd Citizens Arrest (Bridget Andrews)
3rd Mount Sandel ( Frankie Hickman)
Time 6-25 Dists: 10L, 1L 9 ran
1st Doctor Kingsley (Peter Mann) 5/2
2nd Milled (Ben Rivett)
3rd Nobby Kivambo (Mark Wall)
Time 6-26 Dists: 3/4L, 5L 11 ran Bay To Go 4/6f (4th)
1st Boston Article (Mark Wall) 4/6f
2nd Done A Runner (Johnny Bailey)
3rd Earl Grez (Joe Hill)
Time 6-35 Dists: 1/2L, 3/4L 16 ran
1st Alpha Native (Tom Kindleyside) Evs f
2nd The Rodeo Clown (Hugo Thompson-Brown)
3rd Pairc Na Gcapall (Zoe Meen)
Time 6-32 Dists: 1 1/2L, 2L 11 ran