Nibby Bloom, one of the best point-to-point jockeys East Anglia has ever known and second only to the late David Turner on the all-time winners list with 184, announced his retirement having made a surprise comeback at the West Norfolk meeting at Fakenham on Sunday.
Bloom, from Wymondham, had not ridden in a race since the very same West Norfolk meeting two years previously when a fall let him with bones in his lower left leg so badly pulped that he has spent much of the intervening period on crutches.
But, defying medical opinion that he would never ride again for the second time in his career, the 1994 national champion proved he had lost none of his prowess when guiding the often tricky Bunratty’s Sole to second place in the Confined Race.
His charge was reluctant to start and needed to driven over the first two fences. But he warmed to his task and for a short while after he took up the running with five to jump a fairytale return to the saddle looked possible.
But that was to discount Took My Eye, ridden by his Thetford trainer, David Kemp, who swept past at the third last and went on to score by four lengths. Bunratty’s Sole comfortably held second and Bloom immediately made public his decision to call it a day, prompting the presentation of a bottle of bubbly from the meeting secretary and a rounding ‘three cheers’ from his fellow jocks.
Bloom has long been a great ambassador for the sport and his bowing out somewhat overshadowed a fine performance by Took My Eye, who is owned by Barry Belchem, from Kelvedon, and is now likely to head for a Folkestone hunter chase.
While Bloom was calling it a day, 25-year-old Sam Vaughan-Jones, from Wells-next-the-Sea, was celebrating his first ever triumph in the saddle, courtesy of the evergreen Nokimover in the Members Race.
Now 14 years old, Nokimover has now won ten races since being acquired in late 2005 by current owners Gary Luck, from Fakenham, and Vaughan-Jones’s mother, Alice. In that time he has carried both Sam and his brother, Alex, to their inaugural successes.
Matt Smith, from Burwell, near Newmarket, is having a good season and after notching another winner at a meeting in Northamptonshire on Saturday he followed up here, making virtually all the running aboard Star Double in the Mens Open and keeping three persistent pursuers at bay with a most determined display.
It was a gutsy effort by Smith, as he suffered a crashing fall in the previous race and was hobbling around for the rest of the afternoon. Star Double is trained in Bressingham by Fleur Hawes and was a first winner as an owner for Fraser Duffin, who lives near Diss and is boss of the petrol retailer, Pace Petroleum.
Another tough customer is the mare, Mid Div And Creep, who recovered so quickly from her short head defeat at High Easter eight days previous that she was able to take the Restricted Race under a never-say-die ride from Nick Pearce. Trained at North Weald by Perry Harding-Jones, she is owned by Karen and Tony Exall, from Hatfield Broad Oak.
Clash, a well-bred five-year-old from the Newmarket yard of Don Cantillon, is a horse to follow in the future. A giant son of Cantillon’s super mare, Alpine Gale, he made a winning racecourse debut in the Maiden Race and should improve a huge amount for the experience.
Finally, the classy Warwickshire raider, Beet de Bob, made it four Ladies’ Open wins from four visits to East Anglia this year with a display of utter domination under Hannah Watson.