Essex Farmers & Union
Easter Monday 24th March 2008
by James Crispe
East Anglian Point-To-Pointing beat the weather for the second time in three days on Easter Monday as, while the professional meetings at Yarmouth and Huntingdon were abandoned, Marks Tey, which had been snowbound 24 hours earlier, hosted the Essex Farmers & Union fixture.
Jockey Matt Smith, from Burwell near Newmarket, had been on the mark at Saturday’s sleet-ravaged High Easter meeting. And he made it a weekend to remember by guiding Call Me Alfie, the first horse that he has ever trained, to a stunning success on his racecourse debut in the Maiden Race.
Unbroken until last October, Call Me Alfie showed no signs of his inexperience in beating the favourite, Silver Tenor, by a comfortable length and a half. The win was even more special for Smith because this Irish import is the first horse to run in the colours of his parents, Keith and Jean, who had journeyed down from their home in Bury, Lancashire, to witness the triumph.
Smith junior was quick to deflect some of the credit for the victory on to Great Wratting handler Sarah Humphrey, while his father was unworried by the prospect of a long drive home in the bank holiday traffic, insisting ‘I don’t care’ as he clutched the silver trophy while sporting a broad grin.
The real riding hero of the day was Joe Docker, the man who chased Smith home aboard Silver Tenor, as he won on all three of his other rides.
First he steered The Piper’s Son to a Restricted Race victory in the fastest time of the day. Then he cajoled the sometimes reluctant Round The Isles to Men’s Open Race success. And finally he was atop Bunratty’s Sole as this talented ten-year-old bounced back to form in Confined Race.
The last leg of the treble was an emotional moment for owner Sandra Fryer, from Wymondham, as Bunratty’s Sole (who is trained by Nibby Bloom) was the apple of the eye of her late husband, Dick, who died last summer.
Round The Isles looked none too keen in the early stages. But, given a couple of sharp cracks of Docker’s whip, the blinkered Jupiter Island gelding, who is trained in Northamptonshire by Gerald Bailey but owned by Paul Rackham, from Bridgham, near Thetford, responded well and eventually proved ten lengths too strong for Black Frost.
Similarly, The Piper’s Son is trained outside East Anglia, this time in Leicestershire by Holly Campbell, but is owned by neighbours Tina Heyward and Clare Buxton, from Heydon, near Norwich.
Reacting well to the application of cheekpieces, this result made it two wins from just four career starts for the six-year-old The Piper’s Son, who should not be too long in returning to the winner’s enclosure.
Find Me Another, who was meant to run at Fakenham, was rerouted to the Ladies’ Open. And, well ridden by his Newmarket-based trainer, Amy Stennett, the move paid dividends as he came home eight lengths in front of Itsallupintheair to make it two wins out of two since he too was fitted with cheekpieces.
Former East Anglian champion jockey Simon Andrews - who is now a trainer - has three kids all bidding to emulate their dad. And the Novice Riders’ Race victory of 16-year-old Georgina Andrews on Briar’s Mist meant that all three were on the mark over the weekend.
Georgina’s nine-year-old brother, Jack, won one of the two pony races at Marks Tey while the middle sister, Bridget, had done the same at High Easter on Saturday.