A REVIEW OF THE 2005 EAST ANGLIAN
by Richard Hall
On May 7th 2005, somewhere
amidst the wide expanse of Marks Tey racecourse, a handful of
scattered die hards witnessed the East Anglian season shuffle to
its conclusion. It was scarcely a fitting finale, and contained all
the excitement and pageantry of elderly residents on crutches
scurrying down Frinton’s high street to book the last
remaining place in the cemetery. It was, without doubt, the
year’s most poorly attended meeting, and ample illustration
of the truth in T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men; “This is
the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a
Contrasting the muted
indifference greeting Cosmic Sky’s final race victory with
the excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation that oozed from every
pore of the vast crowd when Rhythm King pulled clear of Airoski to
take the Hunt Club Members Race at Cottenham’s opening
fixture, reminded me that the point to point season is very much a
microcosm of life itself. From its birth as a baby, where
everything is fresh and anything is possible, through to death, be
it as a tired old man, knowing your limitations and having few
surviving friends, or at the peak of your powers with much still to
do. In between are the hopes, the challenges, the victories, the
defeats, and the thrill of simply taking part. Although years and
individuals come and go, the fabric remains intact. It is timeless.
In less than eight months the refreshed spirit will be reincarnated
once more and, as sure as eggs are eggs, the cycle will begin
– Ampton 16.01.05
I have not known Ray Newby
that long, but it is hard not to like him. From our first meeting I
was struck by his passion for the sport and the friendly good cheer
he always seemed to carry with him. He, for me, personified the
true enthusiast. Although associated with pointing (as a spectator)
for most of his adult life, and able to recall virtually every
detail of every meeting held since the early eighties, he had never
actually owned a horse. During the close season Ray set about
rectifying this and invested a tidy sum in Runningwithemoon, a
Thorpe Lodge Maiden winner, whom he bought, out of the ring, from
Runningwiththemoon had his first
outing in the Newby orange and purple colours at Ampton in the
middle of January. Ray’s eyes in the parade ring were a
picture. Whilst he used them for seeing out, they portrayed an
emotional rainbow to those looking in. Pride came first as he took
his place amongst fellow owners and hangers on in the parade ring.
Anticipation and the accompanying butterflies were next in line as
Matt Mackley took the leg up and accompanied Ray’s investment
to the course proper. As I left to take up my chosen race viewing
position I saw the calm begin to return. It was out of his hands
now, and it would soon be over.
I can only imagine what he went
through during the race: Anxiousness over the first few jumps,
amazement when Runningwiththemoon appeared to be travelling so well
and actually looked as if he could win, and total disbelief as Matt
Mackley booted him into the lead and began to draw away. Sheer
elation must have followed when he past the post in glorious
isolation, quickly followed by complete incredulity at the entire
When I saw him next, weighed
down with trophies and well wishes, and posing for photographs, his
eyes were watery and blank. He had gone through emotional and
adrenaline overload and he was running on autopilot. As I knew from
my own experiences the previous year, that first victory was such
an incredible high. One, I think, that you could spend a lifetime
trying to recapture and never quite succeeding. It was like
virginity; an innocence that you could only enjoy losing once.
No Nay Never –
Jeffrey Bowles is one of life’s
gentlemen. Although privately possessing a sharp and wicked sense
of humour, the first thing that you notice about him is his quiet,
unassuming, sociability and his overriding desire to put as much
into anything as he could ever hope to get back. PTP is no
exception to this rule. He gave his time as Clerk of the Scales at
Higham for many years, and has also invested a large proportion of
his limited income into mainly moderate horses, latterly for his
daughter Annie to ride. His last winner was Cherry Chap, many, many
years ago and, despite a series of disappointments since then, his
commitment has never waivered. In 2003 Society Lad broke down at
Fakenham and had to be retired. In 2004 the horse he bought as a
replacement, Kirkhalle, suffered a similar fate on his first outing
in his colours at Ampton. In 2005 father and daughter had only one
horse to run, No Nay Never, whom they had bought from the other
members of the Good Craic Club at the end of the previous year and
had moved to John Ibbott’s yard. Hopes were hardly high. No
Nay Never’s form was undistinguished at best, and yet an
exceptionally kind division of the Maiden saw him thrown into a
contest where the form lines suggested that they need not be the
usual, automatic, also rans. A placing was a distinct
Annie seized her opportunity
with both hands. She kept No Nay Never up with the pace throughout
and, two fences from home, made her dash for glory. I heard her
whoop with fear, delight, and hope as the combination jumped the
last with a two length advantage. She kept riding, hands and heels,
low in the saddle, all the way to the post. No one caught her. She
was a maiden no longer. She had broken her duck!
My over–riding memory is
of seeing them in the unsaddling enclosure. No Nay Never was
steaming as they took the saddle off. Annie was beaming from ear to
ear, incoherently telling everyone how she did it and how she felt.
In contrast, Jeffrey stood on his own, quietly in the background,
watching it all. The only betrayal of the pride and happiness
engulfing him was the Mona Lisa glint in his eyes. It was a
typically gentle celebration for such a gentle man.
Splash And Dash –
High Easter 02.04.05
Having demoralised Rob Mine at
Marks Tey and run away with a Stratford Hunter Chase in 2003, hopes
were so high for Splash And Dash that he went into 2004 as a
genuine candidate for the Cheltenham Foxhunters. It was not to be.
The year began with a lacklustre performance at Cottenham on the
opening day and gradually got worse. It concluded with a victory in
a three runner Open, where he got up on the line to deprive the
moderate Ballad by a head after the other horse in the race,
Delganey Royal, fell four fences out when looking home and
Clearly not right, the Hickmans
bought him from Maurice Smith to run in syndicate colours for 2005
(presumably at a fraction of the price he could have fetched twelve
months earlier). When he made his seasonal debut, again at
Cottenham, he finished a long way behind Always On The Line and
hardly looked a good investment. Sights were raised slightly for
his next run, in a Folkestone Hunter Chase, but the performance
stayed the same and he made absolutely no show.
He was freely available at 5/1
for his third outing of the season in an average Open at High
Easter. The event was noteworthy only for the presence of David
Kemp’s impressive Madmidge who, after a comprehensive victory
the previous weekend, was chasing his sixth victory of the year. I
did not even consider an investment, although somebody evidently
did because the Racing Post returned him at 11/4.
The rest, as they say, is
history. Held up for most of the way Splash And Dash produced a
devastating turn of foot for substitute jockey Harry Fowler when
asked to quicken four fences from home, and came from last to first
in a matter of strides. It was as comprehensive a demonstration of
class as you are ever likely to see on the pointing field and,
although Lord Euro rallied gamely on the run in, Splash and Dash
only had to be kept up to his work to record a gallant and
heart-warming victory. The old horse was back!
– Dingley 01.05.05.
Although never in Splash And
Dash’s league, Parsonhumfrywebber caught both my eye and my
fancy in 2001 for his spectacular style of racing. Ridden by a
novice (Emma Bell) he would mulishly detach himself well and truly
at the back of the field for the first two and a quarter miles. Six
furlongs from home, however, the Dr Jekyll donkey would turn into
the Mr Hyde thoroughbred and fly home like the proverbial train.
After just being touched off in a controversially close call at
Cottenham, he finally won his Maiden at Fakenham when converting a
thirty length deficit four fences out into a similarly wide margin
advantage by the time he reached the last.
He ran just once in 2002. Andrew
Braithwaite partnered him in a Horseheath Members and rode him up
with the pace throughout. The combination pulled clear after the
final fence for a comfortable, if unspectacular, victory. From then
things must have gone wrong for he did not see a racecourse again
until Cottenham’s second fixture of 2005.
I followed his progress avidly,
but found little sign of the talent he had shown four years
earlier. Emma Bell’s services were no longer called for, and
a succession of top name jockeys all tried in vain to rekindle his
flame. They all failed. I gave up both backing and watching him
after a disappointing run behind McAttack at Ampton’s second
meeting. He had obviously joined the ranks of sour, old, has-beens
whose owners persevere for a short while before cutting their loses
and eventually selling them off.
At Cottenham’s Aldenham
Harriers meeting on Saturday 16 th April my opinion appeared to be
vindicated. He never went for Nick Pearce and was pulled up after
thirteen fences in Coole Glen’s Restricted. That, surely, was
it and I doubted if I would see him again. You can imagine my
surprise when, the very next day, I was flicking through the
Jumpingforfun Message Board and discovered that Parsonhumfrywebber,
this time partnered by James Owen (who apparently rides him at
home), had, within twenty four hours of his Cottenham outing, just
ran a close second of eight to Lord Trix at Mollington! I literally
could not believe it was the same horse.
I happened to be at Dingley on
Sunday 1 st May to witness the Parson’s next racecourse
appearance. James Owen was on board again and he was priced at an
attractive 10/1. I had been winnerless up until then and the day
was fast becoming expensive. As a sop to the (well hidden) romantic
optimist in my soul, I decided to wager one of my last remaining
twenty pound notes on him.
He hardly raced on an even keel
throughout, and frequently had to be niggled to keep a position. He
was, however, still with the leading group as they went down the
back straight for the final time. Three fences from home, Mr Owen
signalled for him to go and win his race. The Parson needed no
further encouragement. He pulled away from the opposition. Not
spectacularly, but steadily, and with a little bit up his sleeve.
At the line he held a seven length advantage over Persian Silk,
with the subsequent winner Barrshan a further eight lengths adrift
Parsonhumfrywebber, Mike Burman, Kelly Smith and James Owen have
all done credit to their patience and their skills. Their charge
will campaign as a ten year old in 2006 but he is far from over the
hill and, given how comparatively lightly raced he is, he may well
repay them by showing further improvement. I hope he does. The
romantic in me is hoping that one day I will one again witness that
electrifying burst of pace last seen at Fakenham in April 2001.
Tartar Sabre – all
What a marvellously genuine and consistent animal
– seven outings, one fall, a third, four seconds and a win!
There are not many on the circuit that can match that! The really
exciting thing about him is that, as he has only had one hard race
in his entire career (over a year ago at Horseheath, when second to
Filou De Bouis), he is, both mentally and physically, completely
unspoilt. I genuinely believe that, given the right assistance, he
has the potential to be a very good horse in 2006.
I am not, however, retaining my
share in him. With an Atlas load of other financial commitments,
including a dependent child on her way to university this autumn
and a Chancellor unsympathetic to those of us earning more than the
official “cut off” figure (regardless of any
extenuating circumstances), I have no choice but to reduce my
outgoings. To be fair, the decision was made easier when
Sabre’s annual statement landed on the doorstep. Even though
we were lucky enough not to incur any vets bills, it still cost
just a few pounds short of six thousand to keep him for the year,
and that was nett of all prize money won! Depending on how you
benchmark it, that equates to either £1,000 for each completed
race, £330 for each mile run, £53 for every jump
negotiated, or £150 for every minute Sabre was on the
racecourse! Whichever one you use, and even allowing for the fact
that I only paid a quarter of it, the return on capital employed
appeared low and, at best, needed reviewing.
It was a depressing realisation,
and one that set off a spiral of negative thoughts. This was my lot
in life. Unlike others, I do not have the amount of capital or
income to allow me to lightly dismiss such a comparatively small
sum. What’s more, short of a lottery win, I never would have.
In a moment of pathetic self pity I thought of the John Cleese,
Ronnie Barker, and Ronnie Corbett sketch about class. I was the
Ronnie Corbett character at the bottom of the pile “I’m
working class, I know my place”.
It was a classic battle of head
versus heart. On an emotional level I wanted to retain my
involvement, yet my instincts were telling me it had to be
sacrificed. In a last ditch effort to bring the two together I set
about formally listing the benefits:
a) Free admission to the
racecourse? Not very often, there was only one pair of tickets for
each Entry we paid for.
b) Freedom to enter the parade
ring before racing and the unsaddling enclosure after it. Yes. Nice
one, a definite benefit.
c) The opportunity to win prize
money that would make the whole thing cost neutral? Hardly. With a
maximum reward of £150 for coming first, even a victory in
every race contested would fail to cover just the season’s
d) The chance to ride him? No,
we bought a share in a horse that would either be in training or
resting on summer grass.
e) Involvement in his training?
Not really. We only ever received two such invitations, and they
were both to just watch him work on the Newmarket links. We went,
of course, but it was a bit of an anti climax – a half dozen
schooling fences and a gentle gallop for just over a mile. The
whole thing was over within fifteen minutes and barely justified
the two hour drive or the money we were billed for the
f) An input into his racing
career? Possibly. I did enjoy several phone calls and discussions
on the subject. Looking back, however, the only real influence I
had concerned post mortems and an analysis of the opposition.
Although I made my views known with regard to targets, strategies,
and tactics I felt they carried little weight.
g) A “feelgood
factor”? Definitely. Sabre’s success certainly made
life more enjoyable. Once, however, I realised that my contribution
towards it was limited entirely to the provision of money, I felt
foolish and, to a certain extent, conned by my own delusions of
importance. I had so much wanted to be part of the scene that I had
willingly and wantonly chucked cash away in order to kid myself I
was. In reality my involvement had absolutely no substance
whatsoever, and was merely the equivalent of vanity publishing.
It really was a “no
brainer” and, once comfortable with the decision, I set about
communicating it to my co-owners. As it happened I was not the only
one of us unsure about continuing the arrangement. Despite verbally
making provision for such an eventuality when we initially formed
the partnership two years ago, we lodged nothing with solicitors
and what eventually got written down and passed amongst us was so
loose it was virtually meaningless. It was a classic mistake and we
really should have known better. As a result it was a few weeks
before a rather unsatisfactory solution could be agreed.
Despite my current feelings, I
am sure I will look back on my involvement with Tartar Sabre with
pleasure. The exhilaration that devoured me at Cottenham one
Saturday in March 2004 will, without doubt, rank close behind the
birth of my children and scoring the winning goal in a Cup Final as
one of the most intense bursts of emotion I have ever experienced.
I suspect, however, that it was a one off and, by its very nature,
impossible to repeat. I was certainly happy when we visited the
winner’s enclosure again at Marks Tey this year, but I have
to admit that it was a pale comparison of the Cottenham
In the unlikely event that I
will ever have the means to contemplate investing in a partnership
again, however, there are a number of factors that I have resolved
to consider very carefully first;
a) Can I afford to own it
outright? This is the only guarantee of getting as much (or as
little) involvement as I like. Unless I was able to take out a
trainer’s license though, I cannot help thinking that I would
be daft to buy a pointer. Nowadays they cost as much as Flat or
National Hunt stock but race for less than 5% of the prize
b) Are all partners equal or are
some partners more equal than others?
c) Do the other partners have
the same ambitions for the partnership as I do?
d) Is there a formal contract in
place to bind the partners? As a minimum, it should cover areas
such as training arrangements, decision making, vets bills, billing
arrangements, and a clearly defined procedure for terminating the
Viscount Bankes –
This one is on the list simply
because it made me feel smug and was one of the few decent bets I
actually struck during the year. It was also returned at a very
I had kept an eye on Viscount
Bankes ever since he literally ran away with a division of the
short Maiden on the opening day of the 2003 season. By the sprinter
Crofthall, he quickly pulled his way to the front, looked
completely uncontrollable, but nevertheless managed to find the
stamina to last home without ever seeing another horse.
Unsurprisingly he found three miles in a higher grade completely
beyond him and, as he did not quite have the speed to cope with
specialist two mile Hunter Chasers, was somewhat caught between two
stools in subsequent outings.
In 2004 Andrew Martin, for some
reason, stopped riding him. With a novice on board progress was
virtually non existent. On his opening run at Higham in 2005,
however, I picked up the first signs that he had finally learnt how
to settle. Although obviously keen in the preliminaries, he raced
with the pack for two miles and only kicked on when given the
license to do so. In immediate terms it was hardly a critical
manoeuvre, as he tired quickly and was easily passed a couple of
fences later. The signs for the future, though, were clearly
At Cottenham on 16 th April,
finally re-united with Andrew Martin after disgracing himself with
his regular pilot in a two mile Hunter Chase at Leicester, he ran a
cracker against the hot favourite Jemaro in the Mens Open. Steadied
for the first two miles he moved smoothly to challenge the habitual
pacemaker three quarters of a mile from home, and then readily
established a clear advantage. Two fences out, he found himself six
lengths to the good, only for his stamina gauge to hit the red in
the home straight. By the final fence Jemaro had reduced the gap to
a couple of lengths. Despite battling gamely on the run in,
Viscount Bankes eventually went down by a head. I thought this was
solid form, and made a mental note to have a decent bet should they
ever run him over two and a half miles on an easy circuit with
Andrew Martin on board.
Those combination of conditions
finally came together for the opening race of Huntingdon’s
Hunter Chase evening. It was one of those rare occasions where
everything went just as I imagined it would, with Mr Martin
delivering his challenge between the last two and sprinting clear
on the run in. If only I had the ability to predict the outcome of
a few more races quite so accurately!
Present Moment –
Sizeable though their string may be,
quantity proved no defence against the drought owner Anthony
Howland Jackson and trainer Ruth Hayter had endured prior to this
fixture. Less hardy, resourceful, patient, or, some may say
idiotic, individuals would have undoubtedly given up long ago and
found something more rewarding to do with their time and money. But
they stuck it out. I could not remember who their last winner was
(Village Copper at Cottenham?) but it had been at least seven
hundred days since they had greeted a victorious jockey back into
the unsaddling enclosure. When Present Moment showed his awkward
side and gave a ten length start to his nine opponents in the
Restricted, I could just imagine the “here we go again”
looks they must have exchanged.
Much of the credit for finally
striking oil must go to Andrew Braithwaite. He kept as cool as a
cucumber to gently coax Present Moment back into the race, coming
with a wet sail to take up the running two from home. It
wasn’t all without drama though, and Andrew Braithwaite had
to call on all his prowess to fight the renewed challenge of John
The Mole on the run in. Luckily there was enough petrol and
adrenaline left in reserve to repel it, and thereby ensure
connections of at least one pot of first prize money (£115) to
help offset their costs for the season.
Thirty five minutes later those
of us who believe (and invest in) the “cluster theory”
were also rewarded. Gatchou Mans, in the hands of Alex Merriam,
doubled Ruth Hayter’s tally for the season and put another,
much needed, £160 into Mr Howland Jackson’s bank
Winner number three, however,
never came. Maybe it will all even itself out in 2006?
Victories for the
These are always worthy of a
mention and, for me, each one captures the justice in the
optimistic platitude that we pass to our children as encouragement
against insurmountable odds; “every dog has its day”.
Somewhere, after forty, you of course realise that it
doesn’t, but that just makes those David v Goliath times all
the sweeter. If money engulfs the sport to such an extent that they
stop happening, then we will all be the poorer for it.
Apologies if I have missed any,
but those springing immediately to mind are:
Using a playground analogy from
childhood, Martin Ward’s string, although reasonable in size,
lacks any horses the captains would have rushed to pick first. They
are always impeccable turned out, however, and invariably fit
enough to perform to their true ability. Berewolf’s win in a
twelve runner Maiden, at the tender age of eleven, came completely
about of the blue. Four fences from home he looked destined to
record another formline reading of “alwys bhnd, pu 2
out”. That day, for some inexplicable reason, he found a
hitherto unseen change of gear to miraculously provide his
supporters with much more palatable reading around the Wednesday
morning breakfast table. Officially it is recorded as “bhnd
til stayed on frm 3 out, led app last, sn clear”. I have no
idea what inspired it, and can only suggest that the heavenly
scriptwriter that day liked platitudes. Whatever the reason was,
though, it was thoroughly deserved. Hopefully it gave something
positive back to the Ward family who have contribute so much to the
Double – Northaw 02.05.05
I was not there to see
it but my heart lifted when I read it; Judge Reilly taking the
Restricted by a distance and, in another vindication of the
“cluster” theory, James Pine taking the very next race
by a neck to record a 168/1 double. They were Patrick’s only
winners of the year, yet he must have had runners somewhere around
the country on almost every racing day of the season! Whatever way
you put it, Patrick Millington is totally unique; from his style in
the saddle, to the way he selects his horses (buying only those
that nobody else will bid for). The sport is much richer for his
presence though, and it will be a sad day for Pointing when he
finally does hang up his boots.
Best Ride by a Lady
Hannah Grissell came close for
her ride on Little Worsall at Ampton in March, but the prize really
has to go to Zoe Turner for forcing the issue all the way on
Leatherback in the Ladies Open at Cottenham in the middle of April.
It was completely alien for the horse, who had always enjoyed
plenty of cover before, but it frustrated to perfection the
preferred tactics of both market leaders, Gray Knight and Highland
Rose. If there ever was a case of a race being won in the saddle,
this was it.
Best Ride by a Male
Plenty to chose from in this
category, but in the end my vote has to be for David Kemp’s
supremely confident handling of Madmidge at Horseheath’s
Thurlow meeting on 26.02.05. He had the courage to sit a long way
behind the pack when he believed the pace to be too strong, and he
did not panic when they failed to come back to him a mile from
home. He made the ground up steadily and, without the assistance of
the whip, left only Minino ahead of him at the top of the final
hill. That opponent was passed at will in the home straight and, at
the line, Madmidge barely knew he had been in a race.
David Kemp’s style is very
much an understated one. You will not see him bouncing up and down,
flaying his whip like a madman to squeeze the last drop of energy
from his mount. He moves very little in the saddle, achieving an
easy balance which the horses clearly appreciate. He is always
calm, always confident, and never asks for more than is necessary.
I believe that this one factor is the main reason why the Kemp
charges both keep on improving and seem able to take a lot more
racing than those from other stables.
No question about this one -
Stick or Bust in the Members at Cottenham on 19.03.05. Although
only three contested the race, you would have been inundated with
people willing to offer 1,000/1 against him had Betfair been
covering it. Never travelling well, he was twenty lengths behind
the second horse, Brave Emir, as it approached the last. He, in
turn, was ten lengths adrift of the favourite, I’ve No Say,
who had never come off the bridle and just needed a steady jump to
seal a facile victory.
The leader cleared the final
obstacle like a stag. In fact, he probably cleared it too well as
his rider came out the front door and hit the ground with the
unceremoniously thud of a sack of potatoes. Tony Williams on Brave
Emir could barely believe his luck, and set about riding his mount
to the line. Brave Emir, however, had little left to give. The ex
flat horse had set a blistering pace and it was taking its toll. As
Tony Williams asked for more, Brave Emir wandered under pressure.
His legs were like jelly.
Matt Smith picked up on this
and, although he still had a mountain to climb, decided it was at
least worth a try. He gathered his reins and gave it all he had.
Stick or Bust stays forever, and he does keep to a straight line.
It was enough. Much to the astonishment of those who had backed him
(and had already thrown their tickets away) he collared his one
remaining opponent a few yards before the post. As we waited for
the judge to confirm it, I spotted more than a handful of people
retracing their steps with their eyes anxiously scouring either the
floor or the dustbins!
No shortage of nominations here
– Tartar Sabre (three times) for example, or Cosmic Sky when
falling at the last in a Higham Maiden, are just two of the many
candidates. Most so called “hard luck stories”,
however, have a human element to them and, no matter how slight, an
error of judgement somewhere in the chain is usually
One instance where it was not,
though, was in the Area Championship Race at Fakenham on 24.04.05.
King Plato was ten lengths clear and had the race won on merit,
only to go badly lame between the final two fences. James Owen did
all he could to coax the Turner horse home, but even his skills do
not extend to defying nature and the combination were passed by
Deckie and David Kemp on the run in.
Catch On and Paul Taiano
- Horseheath 26.03.05.
Catch On was East
Anglia’s up and coming star. Building on last year’s
promising debut run, he had easily disposed of his thirteen rivals
in a Maiden at Horseheath’s opening fixture on 5 th February.
He quickly followed that with an equally effortless success over
the promising Restricted field put before him at Brafield on the
Green five weeks later.
I had gone to Horseheath that
day not really expecting him to run. He had been entered in a Club
Members race and had only animals well beyond their “best
before” dates in opposition. They were hardly in his league
and apart from a meagre £100 prize money there seemed little
to be gained in his participation. Surely he would be saved for
more meaningful opportunities later in the season? I must confess
that I was disappointed to hear his name when the declarations were
announced; at odds of 2/5, he had ruined the event as a betting
I watched the proceedings from
the third last fence, hoping to get scenic shots of the field
climbing the final stamina sapping incline. The loudspeaker is very
faint and muffled at that location and, to be honest, I was
concentrating more on the photographs. The result, after all, was a
forgone conclusion. At the twelfth I saw a horse challenging for
the lead hit the ground, and bringing down another in the process.
When the crowd groaned in collective disappointment, I assumed that
Catch On had to be one of them. This was confirmed when I failed to
spot him amongst the runners passing me for the final time.
As I made my way back to the
parade ring somebody told me that Catch On had been destroyed. I
found it hard to believe. A couple of years ago I had wrongly
reported a horse suffering a fatal fall and, wearing my responsible
correspondent’s hat for once, felt I needed to check this
statement out before I could include it in my review. People were
still milling around the fence where it had happened (presumably a
jockey was still being attended to) and I decided to go there and
I knew fairly quickly from the
sombre atmosphere that the jockey’s injuries were serious,
and a quick look at his colours confirmed it was Paul Taiano. What
activity there was appeared to be focused on keeping him still and
calm. The hushed tones were interrupted by a walkie talkie
announcing that the Air Ambulance was on its way. Someone relayed
this to Paul and asked if he could feel anything in his limbs. The
reply was very matter of fact. There was nothing in the legs but he
could feel a tingle in the hands, even although he was unable to
Fifteen minutes later the
helicopter arrived. It’s medical team emerged and set about
their task with clinical, yet sympathetic, efficiency. They
inflated an air bed to lay the patient on, then supervised a group
of burly helpers in conveying this makeshift stretcher to the tiny
space they had cleared in the cockpit. After a quick pause to check
that they hadn’t left any equipment behind, the doors were
shut and the engine started.
Sadness and empathy radiated
from the hundreds eyes that witnessed its departure. It seemed to
hover for a second, like a bird of prey after raiding a nest,
before darting to its destination on full throttle. It is unlikely
that Paul Taiano’s life will ever be the same again.
To those of us who just pay the
entrance fee and risk little more than a few quid in pursuit of our
sport, it was a grim reminder of the price demanded of others. Alex
Embiricos and George Cooper were just two more jockeys who spent
time in hospital after racecourse spills, whilst the following
horses all lost their lives;
Ikrenel Royal – Cottenham
Will Hill – Horseheath 26.02.05.
Hoot for Hunting – Higham 06.03.05.
Catch On – Horseheath 26.03.05.
Manhattan View – High Easter 02.04.05.
Chicago City – Higham 09.04.05.
Jupiter George – Higham 09.04.05.
Federal Case – put down at home.
I guess I must be getting old,
and mellowing in the process, because I don’t have too many!
Perhaps those that I do have will reach sympathetic ears?
That the host hunt accepts
responsibility for staging at least six competitive contests. If
their Members Race is one of them, they should ensure that at least
five runners of comparable ability go to post. If they cannot do
this then they should introduce a new event (e.g. Novice Riders) in
its place. If, as a bonus, they still run the Hunt Members for the
two or three horses that will declare for it, they make it the last
race on the card rather than the first.
By doing this, particularly in
the earlier part of the season, if better subscribed races do
divide, the risk of having to ballot out horses that, in some
instances, have travelled several hundred miles to compete, is
greatly reduced. If something does have to be sacrificed to the
fading light it can at least be the race with the smallest number
of competitors and whose connections have made the shortest
Ampton and Higham rebuild the
“tin hut and trough” facilities they used to have where
Gentlemen could relieve themselves. The Portaloos are all well and
good, but they are slow and without dignity, and you can miss an
entire race queuing to use one. A knock on benefit in providing
this facility for men would be a reduction in the amount of time
the Ladies would also have to queue.
That Fakenham in particular
introduces an element of common sense when briefing officials to
keep the public away from horses. We all know that if a horse
gallops into us we are likely to come off second best. We are also
aware of the need for Health and Safety, and of the increased
chances of litigation against the organisers should an accident
occur. These risks, though, do have to be balanced against the
freedom to enjoy oneself, and it is absolutely ridiculous to employ
jobsworths to religiously lock the course crossing gates ten
minutes either side of a race, regardless of whether or not there
are actually any horses about!
That more Totes do Dual
Forecasts (Ampton, Marks Tey, and High Easter please note). This is
the one bet you can’t get with the bookies, and it offers the
chance to win a decent sum for a small outlay. I am sure revenue
would rise considerably if these courses offered it.
After their traditional earlier
season start, where they seemed reluctant to strike a bet in any
Maiden race, I have to say that, in the second half of the year at
least, I found them to be very fair.
Fields of six runners or less
offered the best value, with percentages commonly below 120%. What
struck me too was that the vast majority of them do not form
opinions of their own and base their odds (well, the opening ones
at least) entirely around the Racing Post or Pointerform ratings.
This, I believe, gives the regular punter a real opportunity.
The best illustration of this
was in the five runner Intermediate at Marks Tey on Easter Bank
Holiday Monday (ok, you could argue that the more astute bookies
were plying their trade elsewhere). As Pointerform had only a
couple of points difference between the top rated No Penalty and
his closest rival, Ardkilly Warrior, they priced the former up at
evens and the latter at 6/4. What a steal!!!! They seemed to take
little account of the fact that No Penalty was only an eight year
old, very much on the way up, and yet to see another horse pass
him, and that Ardkilly Warrior was twelve, had a history of
breathing problems and had not won since 2000. It has to go down as
one of the best value bets of all time!
The same meeting, though, gave
an insight into why bookies have a bad reputation amongst the
general public. They were accepting bets, albeit from only the more
gullible of the holiday crowd, without displaying, quoting, or even
recording, odds!! There is a part of me that says good luck to
them, if people really are that stupid then they deserve to get
ripped off. If they do want to be seen as respectable and honest
though, they really should be big enough to refuse the invitation
On my end of season visits to
the Midlands, I noticed that the bookies there are far more diverse
in the markets they offer. Several of them bet without the
favourite, and a few even offer odds without the first and second
favourites! In East Anglia are we really condemned forever to Frank
Warren’s monopoly of without the favourite betting? His books
are rarely below 150%, which makes any sensible investment
HORSES TO FOLLOW IN
The Kemp team introduced him in
the same Horseheath Maiden that they chose for Cantarinho two years
earlier, and he was perhaps unfortunate to meet something as smart
(and perhaps as forward) as Catch On so early in his career. He
travelled well and was not given a hard time when the winner had
flown, eventually finishing third, a half length behind subsequent
winner Erris Express. He was made favourite next time out at Marks
Tey, only to be bought down early in the contest. A return to
Horseheath quickly followed and he easily disposed of Cashari and
eight others, making himself ineligible for any future Maidens. It
would be no surprise to see both he and stablemate Crystal Dance (a
French import who landed a touch when cantering away with the
Fakenham Maiden on his pointing debut) follow in the footsteps of
Cantarinho, Madmidge and Deckie along the well trodden, continually
progressive, path to Hunter Chases next season.
I’ve mentioned him
earlier and I do think he will continue to improve. He does appear
to need a few runs under his belt, however, so don’t expect
fireworks much before April.
In what was, by their standards, another poor season for the
Turner’s, this fellow gave a hint that he could fill the
vacancy of standard-bearer for the stable. He produced a
devastating burst of acceleration to brush aside Lord Valnic at
Marks Tey, and then quickly followed up with an easy victory at
Higham, before going badly lame when having taken Deckie’s
measure at Fakenham. Assuming he recovers, and he is not sent to
the Sales, I fully expect him to run up a sequence in 2006.
Josie Sheppard saddled only two horses this year, Catch One and
Rakatia. Both were well above average. Rakatia made his debut at
High Easter in February and, despite not knowing what was expected
of him, went into many notebooks for the ease with which he
travelled. He confirmed that promise with a smooth success in a
muddling Maiden at Higham, despite running green throughout and
idling as soon as he hit the front.
Catch On’s demise prompted
Mrs Sheppard to call it a day, and she sent Rakatia to pursue his
pointing career under her father’s guidance. He had one run
in the famous blue and white hoop colours, finishing four lengths
second to Magnolia at Detling, with the third twenty five lengths
away. He will be more of the complete article with another summer
on his back, and it would be a fitting tribute to both Mrs Sheppard
and Paul Taiano if he could fulfil that undoubted potential and
become a major force on the East Anglian circuit for many years to
This horse has never yet been beaten when completing, and, apart
from a few yards on the run to the first fence, has never even seen
a horse in front of him! He is a difficult to train, though, as he
gets very wound up before a race. He was being aimed for the Hiscox
Intermediate Final at Huntingdon but, for some reason, was unable
to take up the engagement. Providing he can be kept sound, and does
not worry himself into a breakdown, he should have no trouble
taking the step up to Open company. Oppose him at your peril!
Hunted with the Brocklesby and owned by the Dawson (Upham Lord)
family, Harrihawkan will probably never run in East Anglia. On the
off chance that he does, however, I have included him in my list. I
was fortunate enough to witness his racecourse debut at Garthorpe
on Melton Hunt Club day. He was late into the paddock, but as soon
as he entered all eyes were drawn to him. It was akin to Naomi
Campbell turning up at the local Weighwatchers meeting, and he
stood head and shoulders above anything else. He showed there was
substance behind the looks too, coming with a smooth run to
challenge for the lead only to fall three fences from the finish.
He made amends two weeks later on the same course, looking the
winner a long way out and never having to come off the bridle. I
think this is a serious horse, and destined for much better
The only one on my list still a Maiden. Mai Cure was given a gentle
introductory run at Marks Tey at the end of 2004 and returned to
that course this February to build on the experience. Obviously in
need of the run, she travelled as well as anything for fifteen
fences until lack of fitness took its toll.
Two subsequent outings told us
no more about her ability, as a slipping saddle caused her to be
pulled up on both occasions. Assuming Paula Twinn can get to the
root of that problem, Mai Cure should be capable of finally ending
her stable’s extremely barren spell in 2006. She may not be
their sole representative, though, as I understand that the highly
promising Mai Knight will be ready for a return to action after
spending over two years recovering from injury! Those punters
amongst us who believe in the cluster theory will do well to keep
an eye on this yard.
Copyright Richard Hall 3rd July