For some reason the Essex and Farmers Union are allowed to
host two point to point meetings in the year. Perhaps this one, the finale
of the East Anglian season, is the price they have to pay for also being
allowed the “prime” calendar slot of Easter Bank Holiday Monday?
The two events could not have been more different. The first
made no bones about treating the racing itself as almost incidental. It’s
main point of being was to milk as much money as possible from the paying
public, and, short sightedly, cared little about the (lack of) value it
offered them. This one, though, was a gem. The rains that had swept the
county over the previous two days made it uncomfortable for poseurs, and
helped condense the crowd to those who cared enough about the sport to
actually want to watch it! There was also an “end of term” joviality
about the proceedings, which everyone present was determined to enjoy. The
result was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and I struck up more
conversations with hitherto strangers than I had done at any other meeting
this year. This is what real point to pointing is all about; camaraderie, a
love of horses, and the competition of amateur sport, it is not the beer
tents and the rip off distractions of the so-called showpiece meetings.
Member’s races have come in for a bit of criticism lately,
and today’s offering did nothing to counteract it. Four were entered,
three of them coming from the George Cooper stable! Paula Twinn’s Marsden
was the odd man out but he ran away with his novice jockey on the way to
post and was withdrawn after travelling almost a circuit of the course. The
other three, in consideration of the tacky going, set off at pedestrian
pace. When the hot favourite, Endeavour, swerved violently at the first
fence he left Spring Grove with nowhere to go. The latter responded by
coming to an abrupt halt and throwing Robert Cundy from the saddle. Two
down, two to go!
Endeavour and Rip Kirby cantered leisurely to the second.
Spring Grove, now free of his rider, raced in front of them. As they
approached the fence the loose horse suddenly realised that he did not have
to jump it. In celebration he swerved violently left to run round the wings.
This caught the other two completely unawares. As a result George Cooper was
thrown from Endeavour. Debutant rider Matt Cobbold, however, had been
travelling so slowly on Rip Kirby that he was able to come to a sharp
standstill and still remain in the saddle!
As the loose Endeavour joined the loose Spring Grove on a
leisurely canter around the Essex countryside, it suddenly dawned on Matt
Cobbold that he had the race at his mercy. He walked Rip Kirby back up the
course in order to get another run at the fence. This time they negotiated
it safely. With nothing else on its feet, only sixteen more obstacles stood
between him and a debut success. He kept his cool and did nothing rash.
Despite jumping the majority of the fences in slow motion, they succeeded in
completing the course. James Crispe, in the commentary box, had his prowess
tested to the limit as he searched desperately for different ways of
describing what was going on. Nine minutes and five seconds later, probably
the slowest winning time ever recorded for a three mile race, his agony
ended without having to resort to telling the crowd what he had eaten for
Having backed Marsden in the Members, I looked forward to the
Confined where I was confident of at least getting a run from my selection.
I chose Persian Hero, on the strength of his close second to Bard of Drumcoo
in similarly testing conditions at Ampton earlier in the season. At 7/2 I
considered him to be better value than the 5/4 offered about his Horseheath
conqueror, Madmidge, or the 9/2 available about the former King George
The first attempt to start the seven runners in some kind of
a line was declared to be false one. The second was given the green light
but, as they charged to the first fence, I noticed that one of them was
missing. Needless to say it was Persian Hero. He had planted his feet firmly
into the ground and steadfastly refused to budge. I had the horrible feeling
that it was going to be one of those days!
Algan made most of the running in the hands of his owner, JJ
Ryan. Tom de Savoie, who had looked an absolute picture in the paddock,
tracked him purposefully and appeared to be travelling with a lot in hand. A
mile from home these two were joined by Madmidge, who had been ridden
quietly for the first circuit, and was almost kidded into the race proper.
Algan was the first one beaten. He has had a relatively hard
season and his sixteen year old body was obviously feeling the effects of
it. He was not the same horse that won with tons in hand at both Horseheath
and Cottenham earlier in the season, and will doubtless benefit from the
Madmidge and Tom de Savoie were left to slog it out. The gentler ride David Kemp had given the former during the earlier stages of the contest proved to be the deciding factor, and he came home four or five lengths ahead of the gallant second.
The Turner family fielded two of the six runners in the
Ladies Open, with Zoe choosing to ride The Wiley Kalmuck in favour of Fair
Exchange, on whom Julie Wickens got the leg up. These two led the market
along with Fair Kiowa, but, with question marks about all three, I saw
little value and looked instead for an outsider to carry the added burden of
After General Confusion, who had run in two races at the
Northaw meeting five days ago, carried his enthusiastic owner, Barbara
Czepulkowski, out at the fourth, the Turner pair were cleared to vie for the
lead. After a circuit it was obvious that Fair Exchange had won the battle,
and a disappointed Zoe was heard to exclaim that she had chosen the wrong
one! Fair Kiowa never travelled well on the ground and, as the leader turned
to go down the hill for the final time, it was left up to my selection to
make a race of it. Pulling away from the others, Fair Exchange and Lucky
Master went head to head from the second last fence. There was never more
than half a length between them, with first one holding the advantage and
then the other. It was Lucky Master, however, who caught the judge’s eye
and propelled my betting bank into a profit of over two hundred pounds! Only
then did I discover that this was Gina Swan’s first winner. I would never
have guessed it; she had ridden confidently and stylishly, and, in coming
round Fair Exchange’s inside at the final bend, had shown both bravery and
a shrewd tactical awareness. She looks like one to keep an eye on!
Only three declared for the Men’s Open but they included
Hunter Chase winner, Delgany Royal, and Splash and Dash, who had been
disappointing this season but had run his best race ever at the course last
year when slamming Rob Mine in a similar event. An intriguing battle looked
to be in prospect, with the bookies unable to show a clear preference.
Delgany Royal went off at 4/5, Splash and Dash at 11/10, with the outsider,
Ballad, easy to back at 10/1.
The intriguing contest never materialised. Matt Mackley sent
the favourite off into an easy lead and hotted up the pace from halfway. He
soon had the other two in trouble. Splash and Dash, a shadow of his former
self, never travelled well and was reduced to labouring into a battle with
Ballad for second place.
It looked all over bar the shouting. Not until the fat lady
sings, however, and, at the fourth last Delgany Royal, who had not made a
semblance of a mistake until then, unseated his rider. The battle for second
suddenly became the battle for first. Two tired horses, under maximum
assistance from their riders, each felt compelled, like leg weary
prize-fighters determined not to fall first, to slog it out all the way to
Approaching the last Splash and Dash had somehow managed to find a length’s advantage over his opponent. He jumped it so slowly, however, that he emerged from it a good half length down. On the final run in both horses, and both riders, gave their last ounce of energy. They were so tired that they seemed to be running in slow motion. It could have gone either way but, on the line, Splash and Dash and Andrew Hickman were adjudged to have prevailed by a neck.
General Confusion made it four races at two meetings in five
days when, partnered this time by James Owen, he lined up with five others
for the Restricted. He was one
of four horses available, at one time or another, at 3/1, with 8/1 on offer
about the other two.
Matt Smith set off on Stick or Bust determined to make the
pace a fast one. He got a breather into him at the end of the first circuit,
and increased the tempo again as they lapped their departure point. The
tactic almost worked. Four of his rivals struggled in his wake. The fifth,
however, revelled in the fast pace and, with five fences to jump, cruised
past him. From that point Table For Four just went further and further clear
to record the easiest victory of the day. They finished a distance ahead of
Ardnut, who rallied late to just deprive Stick or Bust of second, and
offered some compensation to Matt Mackley and Nicola Pollock for the unlucky
defeat of Delgany Royal in the Men’s Open.
The last race of the 2004 East Anglian season was a Confined
Maiden and, despite a hefty gamble on Manhatton Storm, was won in convincing
fashion by the Turner family’s On The Day, ridden, as usual, by James
On the Day was not winning out of turn, but he is a
frustrating type and will probably struggle to go through the grades. There
were a few promising performances in behind to perhaps bear in mind for next
season. Lolloping Lad, completing for the first time in three outings,
travelled and jumped well and looked a big danger until running out of steam
at the third last. A similar remark could also apply to Marsden, who had
earlier been withdrawn from the Member’s race after bolting with his owner
rider. He was piloted this time by the more experienced Andrew Braithwaite,
and looked a different horse for it. Peat’s Ridge was another to catch the
eye. The six year old, having only his third outing of the season, ran in
snatches but was finishing with some effect and almost took second from the
more experienced Manhatton Storm. The runner up was clearly expected to do
better and is becoming disappointing. He is definitely one to leave
And so the season ends. Suddenly my weekends will be “free”. Unlike most liberations though, I suspect that, after the novelty has worn off (in a week or two!) I shall be the poorer for it. To help me “come down gently”, I plan to spend a few hours reliving the last four and a half months in a Review of the Season. Work commitments permitting, I should be able to get it on the site by the end of next weekend. Please feel free to use the Noticeboards on either this or the Pointing EA site to record the highs and lows of your season. Who knows, if we can keep talking about it long enough, the seven and a half months until the first Cottenham meeting of 2005 may not seem quite so far away!