by Nico Morgan[All photos from the Cottesmore meeting are here: The Cottesmore point-to-point]
After a period of uncertainty for point-to-point racing caused by the recent cases of equine influenza, it was refreshing to welcome nearly 70 runners to the Cottesmore’s Garthorpe season opener in Leicestershire this weekend. The organisers would like to thank the trainers and owners for their cooperation with the obligatory vaccination checks on arrival.
Shrouded briefly in early morning mist, the Leicestershire course looked as good as ever, with good ground throughout producing competitive times despite fence being on the outside of the track.
The seven-race card produced a double for Gina Andrews and trainer Tom Ellis, with owners Trevor and Mary Bourne, organisers of the Atherstone meeting, involved with both winners.
The first of these came in the first race of the day, a conditions race kindly sponsored by Folk2Folk and Frank Hutchinson Horse Transport. Twelve starters contested a race which saw Will Thirlby and Bertie’s Desire make the early running, sharing the lead in the second half with Sophie Walker and Merrydown Black. Andrews had judge a perfect race, though, and Samarnni pulled away in the final stages to record his third Garthorpe win by about four lengths from Burtredgipandgump (Archie Wright) and Bertie’s Desire (Will Thirlby) in a close finish for second and third.
The other slice in the Andrews/Ellis sandwich was the last race, the Stamford Garden Centre Open Maiden race. The maximum possible 18 runners came to post with the early running being shared between James Henderson’s Order In Court (Fred Henderson) and Gina Andrews aboard General Arrow. A good showing by Charles Dixey’s Geral Bailey-trained The Triple Pillar made it interesting but General Arrow ran out to win by three lengths for The Odd Sock Partnership which, among others, includes Samarnni’s owners Trevor and Mary Bourne.
Earlier in the day the Rutland & Cotswold Construction Ladies Open race saw an impressive display by seasoned dual Coronation Cup winner Brackloon High, ridden here by Novice jockey Jennifer Harbison. The 14-year-old finished strongly to win by 14 lengths and deny Gina Andrews a treble. She was second on ante-post favourite Can Mestret, Claire Hardwick and Midnight King were third. Co-Owner of the winner Mark Barlow said afterwards, “That’s the lightest he has carried by seven pounds and it has made a big difference.”
The Mens Open, sponsored by Saffery Champness, was taken by top-rated Cousin Pete, trained by Dibby Brown and ridden by Nick Phillips. An interesting race saw the lead taken by Abricot De L’Oasis (Fred Henderson) for much of the race, with Facile Bien (Sam Waley-Cohen), Bayley’s Dream (Dale Peters) and the winner waiting in the wings. Cousin’s Pete’s class showed as he pulled away in the final run-in to record a 10-length victory for Nick’s Mother Scilla, with Bayley’s Dream second and Facile Bien in third.
Earlier in the day, the Novice Riders’ race, sponsored by Dickinson & Morris, saw a battle of the Harrys, with Harry Arkwright and Susquehanna River getting the better of Harry Thorpe-Codman and Dido in the run-in. Favourites Jennifer Harbison and Storm Lantern were a little way behind those.
The Restricted Race was sponsored by Loomes & Co., watchmakers and official timekeepers for this meeting. Favourite HadMeAtHello and Dale Peters took this one, following up on their excellent victory at the Midlands Club meeting at Thorpe Lodge in January. It was a very close finish with David Kemp trained Law Of Gold, ridden by Archie Wright, with the distance recorded as a neck. The winner will target the Belvoir meeting here in a month’s time for their first intermediate.
Finally, there was a popular local victory in the RoR-sponsored Conditions race for horses of nine-years-old and over for Minella Friend and Belvoir regular George Chatterton, riding for Grandfather Mike. This completes a trio of wins for this combination, in their first season together.
The Midlands area now enters a mid-season break and returns here to Garthorpe on the 24th March, for the Belvoir meeting. E-tickets at the reduced price of £13 are already available.