Kelly Smith and Joe Turner, two trainers who broke their ducks for 2008 while sharing four triumphs at Ampton six days earlier, provided the only East Anglian successes at the Fitwilliam (Milton) Point-To-Point at Cottenham on Saturday.
Smith and Turner live within barely a mile of each other on either side of the Ampton course near Bury St Edmunds. And it was a particularly sweet day for Smith as she rode her own winner, Rockley Beach, while her boyfriend and training partner, James Owen, was aboard the Turner scorer, The Right People.
Rockley Beach’s victory in the Restricted Race was hardly expected, as the horse was freely available at 16-1 in the betting ring beforehand. But he won in some style, taking up the running early on the final circuit and charging home a comfortable five lengths in front of Stroom Bank.
His overjoyed pilot could hardly believe it, saying afterwards: “He jumped brilliantly. There were lots of front-runners and he can be very keen so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold him, but I managed it for over a circuit!”
Owner Margaret Brightwell, from Cosford Stud in Hadleigh, added: “Rockley Beach likes this course and the fast ground was right for him. I am so thrilled for Kelly as she puts so much into it.”
The Right People got a copybook ride from Owen, who was notching his fourth win of the week, in the elders Maiden. Hitting the front approaching the second last, he proved eight lengths too good for the front-running Golders Green.
This completed a good day for the Turner team as their other runner, Leatherback, ridden by Joe’s granddaughter, Zoe, made the hot favourite Bell Rock pull out all the stops before taking second place in the Ladies Open.
Now unbeaten in four Cottenham starts, Bell Rock is trained at Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire by Alan Hill, who the previous day had saddled the recent Ampton winner, Bon Accord, to finish an awesome second in the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Burwell-based jockey Matt Smith partnered his first winner of the season in the Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Race. It was a virtuoso performance by Smith as his Northants-trained mount, Reel Cracker, can be a tricky customer but barely put a foot wrong in denying the odds-on favourite, Henry’s Luck Penny, ridden by Harry Fowler, by two lengths.
It was not such a good afternoon for Newmarket rider Fowler, as in the following event, the Men’s Open, he had the misfortune of looking on from atop Viciana, who finished a never dangerous fourth, as Polar Scout landed the spoils.
Towcester trainer Jenny Pidgeon explained: “I wanted Harry to ride but we only decided to run him a couple of days ago and by then he was committed elsewhere.”
Pidgeon also felt that Polar Scout, who has just recovered from a bout of coughing, would not be fit enough to win. She was almost proved right as Brown Teddy, trained at Bradfield St Clare by Alex Embiricos, stormed up the run-in to get within a head of Polar Scout at the winning post.
Tom Ellis, the lucky man to substitute for Fowler, had earlier guided home a third Northants-trained winner as Bobbies Ryde got the better of the gallant veteran, Round The Bend, in the Hunt Race.
Finally, there was a second Oxfordshire success as O’Connell’s Forge, representing one-horse owner-trainer Rachel Howe, made his superior jumping count in the closing youngsters Maiden.