Bradley Gibbs and Julian Sherriff were busy at Higham over the weekend, scoring a double as Gibbs applied pressure to his rivals in the race for the Riders Championship.
Higham's second fixture enjoyed a better patronage than the opener, with 51 runners over the 7 races. And Gibbs is earning himself the same reputation as the punters' choice as one L Piggott 30 years ago. Just about everything he rides is likely to start favourite.
He set the scene for the day when 8/11 favourite Fier Jaguen proved an 8l winner in the Intermediate, a prompt follow up to his Chaddesley win at the Harkaway. Meanwhile Whotheman ran out an evens favourite in division one of the Maiden, 1 1/2l in front of Immy Marshall on Some Boy McCoy.
Just two winners separate the three leading riders at the head of the championship, led by Will Biddick on 11, with Gibbs and Tommie O'Brien on 9 each.
Meanwhile under Rules, another East Anglian is heading for her best ever season. Lucy Wadham's 24 winners in the 2020-21 season netted the stable £248,209, a personal best. After a double at Fakenham today, the 16 winners have netted £177,564.
Somekindofstar held off Sean Curran's Doukarov in the 2m handicap chase, whilst 5 year old Mistral Nell made a winning debut in the bumper. That makes 10 individual winners from the yard that is Newmarket's leading Jumps stable.
Last year’s Cheltenham Foxhunters winner Porlock Bay put his reputation on the line against the 2021 Dudley Cup winner Premier Magic in the Men's Open at Chaddesley's Harkaway fixture earlier this week.
Bradley Gibbs was content to let Complete Sizing cut out the donkey work and the latter was still in front with half a mile to run but both Porlock Bay and Premier Magic were primed to launch their attack which Biddick and Gibbs did up the final hill.
There was little between the three horses at the 16th, but approaching the final bend Premier Magic and Porlock Bay quickened clear and made their bid for glory with both jockeys firing their horses into the penultimate.
Premier Magic held a narrow advantage approaching the final obstacle but Porlock Bay quickened into the fence and started off up the run in with a slender lead but Gibbs forced his mounts head in front again approaching the line to claim a length victory.
Gibbs indicated later “We knew we were up against it coming here, but Magic has improved so much in recent weeks, so I was not afraid of anything and was feeling confident”.
Earlier in the afternoon Gibbs had instigated the first leg of a double aboard Fier Jaguen in the Restricted, who also carries the colours of Julian Sheriff.
The winner led from flag fall before both Bon Calvados and Latenightfumble made short lived efforts on the climb into the home straight. Gibbs was able to take a dismissive glance round because his rivals could never get the winner out of his comfort zone and the 6-year-old kept up his relentless gallop to prevail by 10-lengths.
The Men’s Title race is beginning to take shape with Bradley Gibbs, Will Biddick and Tommie O’Brien vying for the lead in this year’s title race and both Biddick and O'Brien also scored at the fixture.
Emerging online auction house Thoroughbid has introduced an innovative Point-to-Point bonus, called Point2Rules. The scheme offers horses aged 4, 5 and 6 sold in a ThoroughBid auction the chance to land a £5,000 bonus for their new connections if going on to win their first start under rules. In addition, any graduate of a British Point-to-Point winning on their rules debut will qualify for an extra £10,000. Leading Point-to-Point trainer Charlie Poste was delighted with the news and said: “I think it’s a fantastic incentive. To say to buyers that there’s a very realistic chance they can recoup a good chunk of their purchase price within 12 months is a big carrot, and even more so if you’re buying British.
“Fair play to ThoroughBid for throwing their weight behind the Point-to-Point scene and coming up with something innovative. It’s definitely something I’ll look to support.”
To qualify for the bonus, horses must not have run in any race other than an English or Irish sanctioned Point-to-Point Steeplechase or Point-to-Point Bumper and the subsequent win under rules, Hunter Chases excluded, must fall within 12 months of the date of the ThoroughBid sale in which the horse was sold. Bonuses to be split: 60% owner, 20% trainer and 20% stable staff.
ThoroughBid’s next auction, the first sale where the new Point2Rules Bonus will apply, is the Christmas Sale on Sunday 19th December and entries close on Friday 10th December, just two days before the International.
Will Kinsey, co-founder of ThoroughBid, said “In recent years the Point-to-Point market has seen huge growth, not only in sales but also its importance within the industry. These bonuses are borne out of ThoroughBid’s desire to support vendors and provide another avenue for them to sell their stock."
ThoroughBid’s presence in the bloodstock world continues to grow, most recently successful in selling Grade 1-winning hurdler Belfast Banter for £130,000. The winner of the County Hurdle and Aintree's Top Novices is headed to the USA to continue his career in east coast steeplechasing.
The East Anglian Point-to-Point season got off to an inauspicious start at Higham over the weekend as the continued dry spell kept all but 14 horses away from the course. The result was a day which included 2 walkovers amidst 2 and 3 runner fields.
Oh but had it all started as the first race played out. Five went to post for the Conditions race, and in the style of many a Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner, Will Featherstone secured a back to back victory with Minella Beat, who had won here for the final event of last season's abridged calendar in April. Featherstone is on work placement with Jamie Snowden, also enjoying a good run of form under Rules.
Alex Chadwick was a winner of the Open Maiden on Abunchofmemories, in a 3 runner field, owned and trained by Brian Dowling. Meantime, in the PPORA Club Members Conditions race, a match neatly set up Sam Lee to win by 3 1/2l on Lords Park Star.
In the closing Restricted Race, Alan Hill's Frank And Honest took command over Alex Chadwick on Le Pogues Storm to win by 7 lengths.
The small numbers are not unique to the Point-to-Point scene. Only 47 went to post for Huntingdon's last fixture on Saturday, but I never heard any winning trainer complain about a lack of opposition!
Pam Sly was on the mark once again with a youngster in the concluding Bumper when Special Cadeau made a winning debut under Rules. He';s impeccably bred out of Pam's own Speciosa, who won her a Guineas, by Nathaniel, a Derby winner, so I suspect he may be a late developer. Start as you mean to go on, however.
Also on the mark was Toby Bulgin with his second winner in as many runners, starting a fresh career as a trainer after a break stretching back to 1989. Operating from a base at Methwold, outside Thetford, the second attempt has started well. How appropriate that the winning horse should be named Luckofthedraw.
It's been a good start to the Pointing season fro Bradley Gibbs, who has set off like a scalded cat in pursuit of a first Leading Rider award.
Five rides to date have resulted in 4 winners and a second, using connections with Pyle owner - trainer David Brace to secure a treble at the Llangeinor 3 weeks ago, and a maiden winner at Knightwick on Sunday.
It would be legitimate to argue that Sunday's maiden winner on El Diablo was somewhat fortuitous as leader Festin du Soir apparently had his measure until blundering two out and unseating rider Arron Butterfield. However, it's an old adage that you have to jump round to win.
Patch Me Up, who opened the current Point-to-Point season by winning the Young Horse maiden at Pyle on October 31st, showed a game attitude to win. By contrast, a different ride was required in the Restricted race won by Post No Bills, when left effectively running his own race after the 13th of the 18 fences in a match race. This is every jockey's dread; a showjumping hack around to win leaves no excuse, and often horses' concentration can waver when effectively schooling on their own. In these circumstances, it's as well to have a rider of the experience of Gibbs to see you home.
The four horses that made up the field in the third leg of Gibbs' Llangeinor treble didn't put up much of a challenge to winner Chimes of Dylan, trained by Robert Llewellyn. The 25l winning margin may not necessarily be repeated once more runners are flushed out as the season progresses.
Meantime, under Rules, Lucy Wadham enjoyed a day to remember at Fakenham yesterday when her three runners elicited 2 winners and a second. Six year old mare Sorbet put in a clear round to assert in the British Racing School Course 356 Handicap Hurdle, whilst earlier in the afternoon, four year old Terresita opened her Jumping account at the first time of asking in the 2m novices' hurdle.
Meantime, former Newmarket trainer Nick Littmoden continued his successful transition to French racing with a winner at Lyon's all-weather course. His eleven winners and 24 placed efforts from 65 runners to date this year makes an impressive winner-runner ration that is attracting French owners as much as those that migrated to Vichy with him. This is the new face of global racing post Brexit.
Small fields are plaguing all levels of the sport, and the weather is certainly being painted the culprit. With no rain for a fortnight or more, the opening of the heavens would be welcome, as much to allow horses to use the grass at home as to ease going on the track.
But watch this space. In another month, clerks and trainers will be remarking the ground is too deep! Sometimes, there is no pleasing people.
It's been a quiet few months for trainers and riders in the eastern counties with all the headlines cribbed by the likes of Fergal O'Brien. Certainly, there's no indication of a John Jenkins-like phoenix rising from the ashes of the East Anglian scene, like 35 years ago.
However, all is not lost. Amy Murphy's string looks as if it is running into some form after a winner today at Kempton. Not that anyone was there to see it; Kempton on a Monday takes a little selling, even if it were a Jumps fixture. It may produce beautiful ground, but it has none of the rural charm of a Plumpton or Fakenham.
Chase fields now are a little sparse just presently, and one has to hope that Covid hasn't left lasting damage on the desire of owners to participate in the sport. In the short term, that won't worry connections of Hawthorn Cottage, a handsome pillar to post winner by 12l of a Mares handicap chase.
Meanwhile East Anglian Pointing fans have just two weeks until the Waveney Harriers starts the area's 12 fixtures at Higham. With the sad closure of Cottenham, there are now just six venues to stage the sport, dominated by Higham and Horseheath, with three each. Whilst it makes perfect sense to join forces around shared costs, a little of the unique charm of one-off venues - like Northaw - is lost every time another of our country tracks disappears.
Support them! They may not be around forever.
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