Tight finishes, final fence calamities, the agony of narrow defeat, the ecstasy of victory, rain and sunshine – Saturday’s incident-packed Thurlow Point-To-Point at Horseheath had it all.
No race was more dramatic than the opening Club Members, which saw the odds-on favourite,Bluegun, inexplicably crumple on landing over the last obstacle when set for a comfortable victory.
Long-time leader Salsero seemed sure to take advantage but the stamina-sapping conditions took their toll on him in the last 100 yards allowing Castleconner Lad, who had been virtually tailed off with half a mile to run, to slog through the mud and catch his toiling rival in the last couple of strides.
Castleconner Lad is owned by Robert Clifton-Brown, from Great Bradley, not far from Horseheath, who recently rode him out hunting with the Thurlow despite not being far off his 82nd birthday. He is trained at Timworth Green, near Bury St Edmunds, by Andrew Pennock and his pregnant wife, Ruth, whose post-race jubilation rapidly turned to pain when Castleconner Lad kicked out and struck her a painful blow on the leg.
One could only feel sympathy for Georgie Thorogood, the Newmarket-based trainer-rider of Salsero, as she has been trying for ten years to ride a winner. That elusive first triumph seemed assured when Bluegun departed, but it was not to be.
The following Intermediate Race was even closer. Bridget Andrews, whose older sister, Gina, had ridden the unfortunate Bluegun, adopted front-running tactics aboard Thatmakestwoofus and looked certain to taste success when the partnership was almost three lengths clear jumping the last.
But a mistake at that fence affected their momentum and, with Wymondham jockey Rupert Stearn throwing the kitchen sink at the chasing Ide No Idea on the run to the line, the two combatants passed the winning post locked together.
It was cruel that there had to be a loser, but the judge decided in favour of Ide No Idea who, despite never travelling well on the soft ground, thus provided the fifth winner of a dream first season with a training licence for a second Wymondham resident, Caroline Fryer.
The Andrews clan finally hit the target in the Ladies Open. This time it was Gina at the helm and she rode a copybook race aboard Delightful Cliché to reel in Cool Roxy, one of two runaway leaders, on the final circuit and then hold the renewed challenge of that gallant veteran to score by three lengths.
Delightful Cliché is trained at Lilley in Hertfordshire by Gina’s father, Simon. This was her ninth win of a brilliant campaign that sees her well clear in the national lady riders’ standings.
The final obstacle again played a pivotal role in the Mens Open as the pace-setting The Hairy Lemon seemed to be just holding off a pair of pursuers when parting company with his pilot, George Saunders.
This left Shillingstone, who for most of the race had been labouring in last place, to beat Northall Lad by a neck. The winner is owned by Countess Cathcart, from Gateley, near Fakenham, and was ridden by her son, George Greenock.
Shillingstone is trained in Northamptonshire by Gerald Bailey who soon doubled up when Galway Jack, ridden by his son, Johnny, made all the running to land the Restricted Race by a comfortable six lengths.
Finally, successful owner, Jane May, from Long Melford, was all smiles following another pillar-to-post victory, this time by Punjabi Army in the closing Open Maiden.
For this was the first time that May and her husband, Fred, have bred a winner. Punjabi Army has caused them plenty of heartache, not to mention considerable vets fees, as they nursed him back to health after he sustained a serious hock injury in a hurdle race in February 2009.
Now trained near Bishops Stortford by Lauren Braithwaite and ridden by her husband, Andrew, he beat another Bailey inmate, Bishops Gate, by three lengths.
1 Castleconner Lad – Jody Sole 25/1
2 Salsero – Georgie Thorogood
3 Evening Echo – Andrew Braithwaite
Time 6-46 Dists: 1/2L, 1L 7 ran Bluegun 4/5f (Fell, last fence)
1 Ide No Idea – Rupert Stearn 4/7f
2 Thatmakestwoofus – Bridget Andrews
3 Halcyon Times – David Kemp
Time 6-42 Dists: Sh hd, 6L 5 ran
1 Delightful Cliche – Gina Andrews 7/2
2 Cool Roxy – Emily Crossman
3 Unmistakably – Rebecca Ward
Time 6-37 Dists: 3L, Dist 9 ran Home By Midnight 7/4f (PU)
1 Shillingstone – George Greenock 7/2
2 Northall Lad – Andrew Braithwaite
3 Coolefind – Johnny Bailey 5/4f
Time 6-45 Dists: Nk, 6L 7 ran
1 Galway Jack – Johnny Bailey 1/2f
2 Broken Beau – Louise Allen
3 Batalov – Gina Andrews
Time 6-43 Dists: 6L, 1/2L 9 ran
Punjabi Army – Andrew Braithwaite 7/1
2 Bishops Gate – Johnny Bailey
3 Sud Nivernais – Louise Allen 3/1 jt fav
Time 6-53 Dists: 3L, 7L 10 ran Rockfield 3/1 jt fav (5th)