Shock victories for two locally-trained outsiders bookended four more predictable results at a well attended West Norfolk Point-To-Point at Fakenham on Sunday.
The most popular success of the day (and the narrowest) came in the opening Hunt Race where Made Welcome responded to a never-say-die ride from Ben Rivett to get up on the line and deny the front-running Rockfield by a short head.
Made Welcome is trained at Hingham, near Norwich, by owner Peter Hall and had raced just three times, pulling up on each occasion, since finishing third in this very race two years ago.
It was a poignant victory for Hall, who has been active on the East Anglian Point-To-Point circuit for well over three decades, as it was his first since his wife, Di, died of cancer last year.
It was also particularly meaningful for Rivett, from Sharrington, within ten miles of the course, as it was his first at his local track. “It was great to be able to get here on time and still have a lie-in,” he beamed afterwards.
The other big surprise came in the closing Maiden Race as Regal Ovation, who had finished a distant fifth on his solitary completion from four previous career starts, led three fences from the finish and held off the late thrust of Thyne Hall by two lengths.
It was not totally unexpected for owner-trainer Simon Stearn, from Wymondham, however, as he took advantage of some of the 33-1 on offer from bookmakers who were unaware that Regal Ovation had been up with the leaders prior to a late fall on his previous run.
The win allowed Stearn’s son, Rupert, to draw back level with James Owen at the head of the East Anglian Jockeys’ Championship with eight wins apiece following Owen’s earlier success aboard Parrain in the Men’s Open.
That race so nearly resulted in a first ever riding double for Rivett. But, having taken up the running with half a mile to run, his mount, Took My Eye, fought out a thrilling duel with Parrain from the final fence which saw the verdict go against Rivett in favour of Owen, who hails from Timworth, near Bury St Edmunds, by a head.Parrain is owned and trained by Joe Turner, from Ampton, just up the road from Timworth, who later made it nine wins in the last four weekends when Assassino took the Ladies’ OpenRidden by Louise Allan, from Newmarket, Assassino followed up his victory at High Easter eight days earlier with a one length score.
Nick Pearce, who himself used to be based in Newmarket but now trains near Tunbridge Wells in Kent, has always done well at this fixture and pocketed the other two races.
Firstly, Duke Of Kentford, trained by recently-retired Northants based rider Stuart Morris, sauntered home 20 lengths clear in the PPORA Club Race.
Then, barely out of breath, Pearce followed up half an hour later with a similarly emphatic triumph aboard his own Peadar in the Restricted Race.