John and James Ferguson, the father and son trainer-jockey combination from Cowlinge near Newmarket, began the 2013-14 Point-To-Point season with a bang by landing a quickfire double at the Cambridge University United Hunts Club fixture at Cottenham, near Cambridge, on Sunday.
This curtain-raising meeting is often dominated by visiting horses which have come from all over Britain. So it made a pleasant change for the Fergusons to win both of the first two races and, in the opening Club Members contest, to lead home a 1-2-3 for the East Anglian contingent.
A rapid pace was set by Galbally King (who is trained at Timworth Green near Bury St Edmunds by Andrew Pennock and was ridden by Ben Rivett, from Sharrington in Norfolk) and in the closing stages only Dreamy George, the Ferguson representative, could keep up.
Dreamy George took the lead after the second last fence but, to his great credit, Galbally King never gave up and was still just three lengths adrift at the winning post with See You Jack, trained near Wymondham by Sandra Fryer, another six lengths back in third.
Whereas Dreamy George had to put 14 opponents to the sword, 35 minutes later his stablemate, Earth Dream, had just three rivals to beat in the Mens Open. This proved a facile task, barring one jumping aberration at the third fence which saw his pilot briefly lose contact with a stirrup, and Earth Dream cruised home by 20 lengths to register a fourth Cottenham victory.
Dreamy George is now likely to have his attentions switched to novice chasing under professional rules while Earth Dream is set to be prepared for the Aintree Foxhunters’ Chase at the Grand National meeting in April.
John Ferguson was keen to divert some of the credit for the two victories on to Graham Peck, from Denham, near Newmarket, who exercises both horses in the mornings and also, fittingly, is Clerk Of The Scales at Cottenham.
The other local triumph from a six-race card which was contested in brilliant winter sunshine came in the finale, the two and a half mile Maiden. Again Pennock and Rivett had to settle for second place after their charge – on this occasion Warwickshire – had done most of the donkey work in front.
Warwickshire was overtaken after the final fence by Can Mestret, trained at Lilley in Hertfordshire by Simon Andrews and ridden by his daughter, Gina.
There was a dramatic conclusion to the Ladies Open race as the 2012 winner, Sagalyrique, trained near Worcester by his veteran jockey, Angela Rucker, had just got the better of a prolonged duel with the front-running Rossmore Lad when he was eased down prematurely shortly before the line.
Fortunately for Rucker, the post came just in time for Sagalyrique, who held on by a rapidly-diminishing head, otherwise she would have been in very hot water with the stewards.
Alan Hill, who trains at Kingston Blount on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border, enhanced his fantastic Cottenham record by saddling Earl Grez, who had been beaten in all 29 of his previous starts, to victory in the three mile maiden. He was given a perfectly-judged waiting-in-front ride by Hill’s son, Joe.
The afternoon’s best display of jumping came from another Berkshire raider, Moscow Blaze, who never missed a beat under owner-trainer-rider Page Fuller in the Restricted Race and made all the running for a brilliant 15 length success.
PPORA Club Members
1st Dreamy George (James Ferguson) Evens Fav
2nd Galbally King (Ben Rivett)
3rd See You Jack (Bridget Andrews)
Time: 5 mins 50 secs Distances: 3L, 6L 15 ran
1st Earth Dream (James Ferguson) 1/4 Fav
2nd L’Eldorado (Tom Chatfield-Roberts)
3rd Share Option (Peter Mann)
Time: 5-53 Dists:20L, 7L 4 ran
1st Sagalyrique (Angela Rucker) 5/2
2nd Rossmore Lad (Clare Hart)
3rd Nowurhurlin (Bridget Andrews)
Time: 5-47 Dists: Hd, 1L 8 ran, Start Royal 7/4 Fav (5th)
1st Moscow Blaze (Page Fuller) 4/1
2nd Guilty As Charged (Toby Betambeau)
3rd A Heart Beats On (Freddie Mitchell)
Time: 5-58 Dists:15L, 3L 7 ran, Free Run 6/4 Fav (4th)
1st Earl Grez (Joe Hill) 5/2
2nd Grey Bobby (Andrew Barlow)
3rd Sitting Back (Tabitha Worsley)
Time: 6-02 Dists: 5L, 2L 11 ran, Intentandpurposes 7/4 Fav (4th)
4,5 & 6 year old Maiden 2 miles 4 furlongs
1st Can Mestret (Gina Andrews) 7/4f
2nd Warwickshire (Ben Rivett)
3rd Pyro (Jamie Insole)
Time: 4-32* Dists: 5L, 4L 10 ran
* 3 jumps omitted, low sun