A good-sized crowd at Higham witnessed some excellent racing at the Waveney Harriers Point-To-Point on Sunday, where the locally trained horses were joined by runners that came from far and wide to race at the Suffolk venue, on a day where previous course form proved significant.
It was local trainer John Ibbott though who stole the show with a double on the card from just two runners, both of whom were partnered to victory by the in-form Gina Andrews, since regular stable jockey Harry Fowler had instead chosen to ride at Godstone in Surrey. Based at Chediston in Norfolk, John Ibbott captured the opening Hunts Club Members contest with Mountain Emperor, who was delivered with a perfectly-timed late challenge by Gina Andrews. Mountain Emperor had finished a close second at Cottenham seven days earlier when idling on the run-in, but having jumped ahead at the last fence, he was kept up to his work to score from odds-on favourite Caulkin, whose stamina seemed to give out. Mountain Emperor loves top of the ground and will be kept on the go through the spring with Hunter Chases the ultimate aim later this year.
Gina Andrews made it eight Point-To-Point winners so far this season when completing the double for John Ibbott aboard the mare Finnish Melody in the Open Maiden later in the afternoon. Despite racing keenly, Finnish Melody made her first attempt between the flags a winning one, having previously been raced under rules without success by her owner/breeder Angela Long, who was thrilled to see her mare in the winners' enclosure for the first time. The gambled-on favourite Lord Francois could do no better than a well-beaten fifth.
Start Royal is a familiar name in East Anglia and having finished runner-up to the classy Cork All Star in the Men's Open at the last Higham meeting in late January, he returned to the track to go one better this time and justify odds-on favouritism. Start Royal returned with a bad foot abscess from that latest race, but looked back to his best as he made it seven wins from ten career starts with a stylish victory from second favourite Foulston's Ruler. Start Royal enjoys these flat, sharp tracks and now heads to Cottenham on March 20th, prior to a possible Hunter Chase campaign.
The following Ladies' Open saw an even more commanding performance from Gloucestershire raider Rocklandslad, who made the seven-hour round trip seem very worthwhile for his trainer Julie Houldey. On his first run for the yard, having previously won four point-to-points prior to an unsuccessful venture under rules with Rebecca Curtis, Rocklandslad was always prominent and danced clear over the final mile to pass the post a distance clear of his rivals under Hannah Lewis. He will be kept to sharp tracks and good ground.
The winner of the earlier PPORA Club Members Race had travelled from almost as far away, as the Stratford-Upon-Avon based Susan Busby produced The Nuns Legacy to win for the second time at Higham this season. Having won the Intermediate at the first meeting, The Nuns Legacy justified favouritism in gritty fashion when staying on strongly to register a three-quarters of a length success under Hannah Watson. Good ground is reportedly the key to The Nuns Legacy and he proved his trainer's fears unfounded that the previous day's rain may have scuppered his chances.
Only five runners faced the starter for the Intermediate contest, but this did not prevent an enthralling duel playing out between the two market protagonists throughout the final circuit. It was the mare Latenightdip, also following up a win at the first Higham meeting, who managed to just see off the gallant but diminutive gelding Little Legend by half a length. This was very much a family success as Latenightdip is trained and ridden by Tom Ellis in Warwickshire and owned by his mother Pippa. The mare is rapidly making her way through the ranks, having only had eight career starts, and will now head into Open company.
The closing Restricted race provided the only shock winner of the day when the regally bred 25/1 outsider Tara Gale belied her starting price in no uncertain terms with a most impressive success. Bounced out into the lead from the outset by Jeremy Mahot, she jumped her rivals into submission and came home unchallenged by a distance on her return to the track following eighteen months on the sidelines due to injury. This was a superb training performance from Herefordshire-based Sarah-Jayne Davies, on behalf of owner/breeder's Robin and Maureen Phillips who had also raced Tara Gale's illustrious dam Grimley Gale, the winner of an amazing sixteen point-to-points and ten Hunter Chases during a stellar career at the end of last century.
Tara Gale had won a Maiden at Bitterley back
in 2007, but had not enjoyed her experiences under rules in 2009.
Much like her mother, she seems far more suited to Point-To-Points
and followed in Grimley Gale's hoofprints by winning at
Hunts Club Members
PPORA Club Members