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Cambridge University United Hunts Club at Cottenham
Sunday 3rd December 2017
by James Crispe

The 2017-18 East Anglian Point-to-Point season got off to its usual hectic start as 60 horses contested seven high class races at the Cambridge University United Hunts Club meeting at Cottenham on Sunday.

The locals are often thoroughly outgunned at this fixture, but the East Anglians more than held their own this time around, accounting for both the Maiden races and also contributing the winning jockey and winning owner to two other contests.

The rider in question was Gina Andrews, the reigning and four-time National Champion Lady Point-to-Point Jockey, who hails from Lilley in Hertfordshire, but is now based near Rugby in Warwickshire.

She began the defence of her title by not only lifting a Maiden aboard Full Batten for Newmarket trainer, James Owen, but also teaming up with her husband, trainer Tom Ellis, to land one of two divisions of the PPORA Club Members race aboard Celtic Silver.

Full Batten is owned by a partnership led by Phil Simmonds, from Barton, near Cambridge. A greyhound trainer by profession, Simmonds knows plenty about how best to relief cash from the bookies' satchels and he landed a nice bet here, as Full Batten was heavily supported into 6-4 favouritism before demolishing his seven rivals by 25 lengths.

Celtic Silver's victory was not quite so comprehensive but Andrews was still able to ease her mount a few yards from the winning post and have three lengths in hand of their closest pursuer Very Intense.

The other East Anglian-trained Maiden race hero was This Breac, from the Timworth (near Bury St Edmunds) yard of Andrew Pennock.

The successful owners here were Michael Clarke, from Hartest, George Wright, from Middleton (near Sudbury) and Steve Stevenson, from Little Henny.

This trio, who race under the ownership banner of 'Two Farmers and a Butcher', were a little startled after This Breac had scored by an easy nine lengths. Pennock had given them limited encouragement about this new recruit's chances beforehand, fearing his jumping was not slick enough, hence the winner drifted in the betting from 4-1 to double those odds.

Keith Loads, from Thursford, near Fakenham, was left dreaming of a first ever success at his local course (which hosts a Point-to-Point on April 22nd next year) after his light blue and white colours were carried to victory by Hawkhurst in the Restricted race.

Trained in Oxfordshire by the top Cottenham trainer Alan Hill, Hawkhurst made a winning debut for his new connections after being bought out of Jonjo O'Neill's yard, beating Urban Storm by 20 lengths.

The tightest finish of the day came when Bear's Affair, trained in Shropshire by Phil Rowley, came out on top by just a head following a terrific duel with Full Trottle in the Mens Open race.

Bear's Affair has the Foxhunter Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree next April as a possible target for the campaign and, if he does get to Liverpool, he may well meet the winner of the Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Open, Bound For Glory.

Trained in Gloucestershire by David Fitch-Peyton, Bound For Glory came from well off the pace to beat Foxcub by four lengths.

Another jockey to employ come-from-behind tactics to good effect was James Martin, who brought Oxfordshire-trained Gallox Bridge with a storming late run to land the second division of the PPORA Club Members race.

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