by Richard Hall

As the horses left the paddock, the commentator described the Mixed Open as “probably the best class race Ampton has staged”. A big billing, but the race lived up to it. McHattie, formerly with Martin Pipe, was sent off favourite at around even money. He effectively put himself out of contention early on, losing thirty lengths with a terrible blunder at the second. David Crosse (complete with a tub of Loctite) did remarkably well to stay on board and although he closed eyecatchingly on the leading trio on the final circuit, he was never in with a realistic chance thereafter. Copper Thistle, Caroline Bailey’s remarkable fourteen year old, made a lot of the running and held every chance until two out when the ex Terry Casey trained Even Flow (now with Chris Bealby), stalked closely by Storm of Gold (another ex-Pipe inmate) eased passed him. These two fought out a close finish with Joe Docker on Even Flow just keeping enough in hand to repel the strong urgings of David Dunsdon on the short run in.

J.M.Turner, who trains in the village, won the First Division of the Open Maiden with Millenium Way, also a former winner under Rules. Ridden aggressively by Andrew Sansome he took up the running three out and battled bravely to the line. The “one to follow” from the race, however, has to be Sara. Hickman’s Nubro. An eight year old, he was having only his second run in public (previously third in Ireland). He closed menacingly on the winner, drawing level at the last, where he stumbled on landing. He was closing again at the winning post and would have won in another fifty yards.

Sara Hickman also came out second best in a close finish to The Countryside Alliance Club Members Race for Novice Riders. Her Garrison Friendly, friendless in the market at 14/1, ridden by his owner (N Wilson) had been content to sit at the back early on and, hogging the inside berth on the final circuit emerged as the only serious challenger to Tea Box who had made the running throughout. He pegged back a ten-length deficit three out to get within a length at the last. David Kemp, however, had kept something in reserve on Tea Box and maintained that margin up to the post.

Earlier a novice rider, Miss E Neyens, produced the riding performance of the day to take the Intermediate on Our Man Flin. Having found herself in the lead as they approached the downward fence on the final circuit she eased the horse back to sit behind Derryair and Blackchesters until the second last when she let her horse have it’s head and pulled away to win by a comfortable five lengths plus. Blackchesters stayed on to finish second. He will undoubtedly be suited by slower going (the course rode good, good to soft in places). Contingency, touted by many as a horse to follow this season, ran badly to finish unplaced.
Caroline Bailey (Contingency’s trainer) had suffered another disappointment in the proceeding race, Division Two of the Open Maiden. Her Jeckll and Hyde had been sent off a short priced favourite but jumped badly throughout and could only manage third place behind Paul Keane’s ten year old, Early Morning Call. So often the bridesmaid, this horse took up the running early on the final circuit to win as he liked.

Tom De Savoie was another Caroline Bailey favourite to bite the dust. He failed to get the better of the Mike Bloom / Nibby Bloom combination on The Rural Dean in the day’s opening Confined Race. The winner was defending an unbeaten record in Point To Points, having won last year at both Cottenham and Ampton. Despite being an eleven-year-old he gives the impression of more to come, perhaps even in Open company. It was good to see Village Copper hint at a return to his form of two years ago. The Ruth Hayter trained ten year old was always up with the pace and held every chance until fading between the last two, eventually finishing third.

The Restricted was won by Bill Warner’s Euro Alert, a Maiden winner in Ireland, coming home on the bridle with the minimum of fuss.