Essex Farmers And Union
It was a day of exciting and competitive racing for the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt Point-to-Point at Marks Tey on Sunday. A mixture of impressive winners and close finishes, plus some thrill and spills, made for an enthralling day's sport, where locally-trained winners were the order of the day.
It was the North Norfolk-based pair of trainer Tina Hayward and jockey Stuart Higgins who enjoyed an afternoon to remember with a double that was the first of both their careers. The Piper's Son got them to off to an impressive start, as he travelled powerfully throughout the Confined Hunts Race, before asserting rounding the home turn and running on strongly to hold off market protagonists Forget The Ref and Sigma Digital by seven lengths.
This was a notable training performance by Tina Hayward, who trains at Heydon in North Norfolk, as The Piper's Son was returning from thirteen months off the track due a leg problem. He has now won five of his twelve starts in Point-to-Points and is rated an exciting prospect by his connections.
Mill Five Acre secured the team double in the Restricted Race later on the card, but he required far more driving by Stuart Higgins to hold on by a fast-diminishing neck from Humphrey Bee, who ran most encouragingly on his return to action following almost two years on the sidelines. Young Stuart Higgins, from Aylsham in Norfolk, had only ridden one winner prior to racing, so he was understandably thrilled to take his career tally to three.
Foulstons Ruler had a straightforward task on paper against just two inexperienced opponents in the opening Hunts Club Members Race and so it proved in the race, although the long odds-on favourite did give his supporters a severe scare when making a bad mistake at the final fence when well clear. However, jockey Rupert Stearn managed to sit tight to allow the partnership to coast home by fifteen lengths, providing a second victory in the race for owner, trainer and breeder George Cooper, who is based at Raydon near Hadleigh in Suffolk. George has four horses in training, all of which he bred himself, including three out of Foulstons Ruler's dam, Springlark.
The Turner Family, long-time stalwarts of East Anglian Point-to-Pointing, enjoyed their second success of the season thus far when King Du Berlais and regular pilot Louise Allan stayed on too strongly in the closing stages for the heavily-backed favourite Va Vavoom in the Ladies Open. This was a second success at Marks Tey for King Du Berlais, following his victory at the course last season and took his career tally to five wins from seventeen starts. He could make a quick reappearance at the Turner's local track at Ampton next Sunday should he come out of this race in good shape.
The most impressive winner of the day was certainly local favourite Caveman in the Mens Open, who was always travelling supremely well for his regular rider George Greenock and strode effortlessly clear to register a distance success. Caveman has now racked up an amazing twelve victories in Point-to-Points, eleven of them under George Greenock and the pair were making up for two near misses at Marks Tey last season, when just pipped twice in close finishes. Trainer Nigel Bloom, based near Wymondham in Norfolk, noted the wonderful enthusiasm of the eleven year-old Caveman and stated that the horse is likely to be kept on the go throughout the spring as he enjoys the better ground.
The concluding Maiden Race was described afterwards by some of the jockeys as one of the most challenging races that they had ridden in, as the inexperienced fifteen-runner field raced in a tightly-grouped pack and spent most of the first circuit getting in each other's way. It was Argentato under jockey Bridget Andrews who emerged victorious in the end, deservedly breaking his maiden at the thirteenth attempt after several consistent efforts. Trained at Ickwell, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire by Michael Burman, Argentato was providing Bridget Andrews with her fourth winner of the season on the same day that her sister Gina Andrews was crowned East Anglian Jockey Of The Month for February following her array of winners last month.
Hunts Club Members