Event reports

Report: Dunston Harriers at Ampton - Sunday 9th January

  • Posted: Wednesday, 12th January 2022
  • Author: Mike Ashby
  • Photo: Graham Bishop

Racing returned to Ampton after nearly two years on a fine winter’s day, with a cracking meeting which was fully appreciated by an above-average attendance.

Tom Ellis, the Warwickshire-based trainer, sent out three winners, although Tom himself was in attendance at Alnwick where he saddled two further successes. Sam Davies-Thomas was the man in charge of the Ellis’ runners and would have been pleased with the number of winners he oversaw on the day.

The Maiden race saw Master Templar and Will Thirlby start the winning sequence for trainer Ellis when seeing off 11 other rivals with a well-timed challenge and finishing eight-length victors.

The pair were always handy and shared pole position during the race mainly with Megaboost, who showed improved form, whilst the joint-favourite Ninth Wave, under Will Biddick, was never far away but always chasing the leaders. Master Templar saw out the closing stages in fine style after Will Thirlby just needed to offer him a, “squeeze, which brought him straight back on the bridle.”

Will has been riding and schooling the horse at Tom’s yard and was confident enough of his chances to cancel a skiing holiday in order to partner the seven-year-old. Any direct celebrations after the win were sensibly put on hold as Will was booked in for his HGV driving test on Monday.

Tom Ellis’ two other training successes provided Natalya Irvine with her first double of her career, initiated by Blazing Tom in the Ladies Open. The 11-year-old was recording his fifth straight win, with the previous four registered last season, after the odds-on Back Bar was pulled up after two circuits. Alan Hill, the trainer of the favourite, was as bemused as anyone for the abject performance, saying; “No excuses. We’ve had him checked over by the vet and everything seems fine. Izzie did say, however, he just didn’t give her the same feel as she normally expects from him.”

In the race, Natalya was content to keep Blazing Tom behind Back Bar, who led the contest until starting to lose ground after the second circuit. After the favourite departed, the remaining rivals Killiney Court and Michaela Tallett, to their credit, matched Blazing Tom and jumped the third last in unison. But a mistake at the penultimate fence handed the advantage to the Ellis representative and the judge assessed the final winning distance as nine lengths.

Natalya, who is based with Tom and Gina, is gaining more experience with every day at the yard and that is evident in her race-riding. Her partnership with Blazing Tom has been the highlight of her career to date but there is another important person in this success story in Meg - a special groom at the yard, who is vital part of this winning jigsaw.

In the concluding PPORA Club Members Conditions race for novice riders, Natalya rode her second winner of the meeting on Fox Valley. This honest mare is owned by the Signy and Marriage families who were delighted with this seasonal debut, but her racing record shows she always runs best when fresh. The partnership challenged two other rivals off the final bend and these three horses battled it out over the final two obstacles, with the winning distance eventually being four lengths. In a day where some great action had been witnessed, this culminated in a particularly close tussle with Earlshill, Occupied and the winner all locked together over the final fence. What a race to finish the day and what an experience for these young novice riders. Take a bow Lucy Burton, Toby Steele, and the ultimate winner on the day, Natalya Irvine.

The Irvine family were there to offer their dedicated full support. Mum, sister and Dad, who owns Blazing Tom, were all up early and on the road from their home in North Yorkshire.

There were also two successes from the East Anglian region for the local enthusiasts to cheer home. The first local East Anglian-trained winner came courtesy of Tullys Touch in the Mens Open, who again excelled on a course where he has now won on all four visits. Trainer John Ibbott, based near Halesworth, made the excellent decision in booking the experienced Will Biddick for the ride, who made his first-ever visit to Ampton a winning one.

Having used Gina and Jack Andrews for past seasons, John’s dilemma was eased when Gina suggested the possibility of Will’s availability. Will himself had decided to give the North Cornwall fixture at Wadebridge a miss and had been on the telephone in an attempt to arrange some rides in deepest Suffolk. With Will’s availability, Gina’s advice and trainer John’s need for a top jockey, the whole thing came together with the perfect result.

In the race, Diplomate Sivola was sent on by Ben Sutton, who had started the day with a winner himself, and the partnership pushed on going down the hill for the final time. In this race and the Ladies Open all obstacles were jumped, after earlier and later contests were affected by the low-lying sun, resulting in certain fences being dolled off. Tullys Touch and Will Biddick coolly stamped their authority on the race from three fences out and the final result was never in doubt from there, with the winning margin being some six lengths.

John continues to assess Tullys Touch as the best horse he’s ever had in his training care and was confident the nine-year-old was showing him and his wife, Melanie, that fitness-wise he was spot on, with the only concerns being the ground before and beyond the open ditch. So, another Ampton success on Tullys’ CV and he probably heads to Horseheath for his next outing at the end of the month.

Rob Cundy trains at Semer, near Hadleigh, and saddled Castle Trump to follow up his two-and-a-half-mile maiden race victory at Charing last month. Alex Chadwick had the winning ride there and the partnership teamed up once again and the pairing was never headed, securing the Restricted race by an impressive 30 lengths.

Outlaw Dream was made favourite, who also won at Charing at the same meeting but over the three-mile trip, but was stone last and being pushed and cajoled by Ben Bromley from the early stages. Meanwhile upfront, Castle Trump, sporting cheek-pieces on this occasion, was jumping efficiently and setting a strong pace, which would prove decisive to the overall result. When suggested to owner Charlie Buckle that he and trainer Rob had found the key to this ex-Irish import, his immediate response was, “No, it was putting Alex in the saddle rather than myself, as I kept falling off him!”

Probably not far from the truth if assessing Castle Trump’s form before this season, which was UFF. Charlie added that the horse had been very immature for a seven-turning-eight-year-old, but is delighted that he is now proving to be an exciting prospect for the remainder of the season and beyond.

The opening Veteran Horse Conditions contest witnessed 14-year-old Sir Mangan make light of his years when providing the owner’s son, Ben Sutton, with another success after their five wins together last season. The winner took up the running going out onto the final circuit, after Trojan Star had led the field of six initially, and was always in command. The pairing’s closest rival at the finish was Wounded Warrior, who was nearly two lengths behind at the line, while Knight Batchelor was a further 18 lengths back in third. The winning jockey, Ben, was landing his first winner of this season after securing the novice gentlemen riders’ championship with 11 victories last campaign.

The two meetings held in East Anglia over the last 10 days have been a credit to the organisers and enjoyed tremendously by racegoers, which augurs well for the future.