First AGA race of the season lives up to expectations, huge crowd enjoy nine quality races, lots of talking points, Khyber Kim brings a touch of class, the sun shines all day and new AGA hats are all the rage!
The weekend edition of Pointing Plus (an 8 page pull-out in the Racing Plus) had given the AGA Ladies Open top billing, this included an excellent preview and a full page colour racecard. The ‘Big Race’ tag was well deserved and the huge crowd enjoyed an incident packed race with a big priced winner, but we’ll come back to that later.
With the season a month old this was my second trip to Cottenham, although I have to admit that we set off later than anticipated and to say we were cutting it fine would be an understatement. ‘Slightly flustered’ would just about sum it up, so I was very grateful to hear that the start had been delayed by half an hour to allow the frost to come out of the ground.
While Can Mestret was strolling to victory under Gina Andrews in the Restricted I was in the sponsors room having a cup of hot tomato soup. ‘AGA man drinks soup at a point-to-point meeting’, hardly newsworthy you might be thinking, until I tell you that this pair had also won at the opening fixture of the season – and I missed that victory as well!
A quick dash to the winners enclosure had me blowing a bit and confirmed what everyone already knows, I need to get fit in 2014!
An impressive win at 14/1 for Brunswick Gold (Stuart Robinson) in the mens open earned Stuart and his co-owner Dr Caroline Hargreaves 10 valuable AGA championship points.
Next up we had the novice riders race with the much anticipated pointing debut of 2010 Champion Hurdle runner-up, Khyber Kim, piloted by Camilla Henderson. It’s great for point-to-point racing to have horses of this calibre competing and there’s no disputing that Khyber brought a touch of star quality to the day, the question now was could the duo produce the goods on the course.
I decided to watch this one from the middle of the course so for the second time today I had to be nimble on my feet (an amusing sight I must say).
What was the question? Could the duo produce the goods on the course? The answer was an emphatic yes, and they strolled home 20 lengths clear of L’Eldorado for an easy win. I’m now hoping that we’ll see them in an AGA ladies open at some point this season … fingers crossed!
Next up it was the ‘Big Race’, the AGA ladies open, and with 13 declared it looked a decent contest.
There’s a lot of photos in this update and I think I may have overdone it, but I didn’t want to miss anything (or anyone) out.
Spare a thought for Jade Pringle who was taken to hospital after Strathcal (beige colours with black chevron & cap in the photo above) fell at the third fence. The good news is that she’s been released from hospital and is recovering at home with her mum and dad.
Qrackers (trained by Victoria Collins) romped home by an impressive 10 lengths, prompting joyous scenes in the winners enclosure, and both the trainer and the owner – Sarah Dawson – were celebrating exuberantly. Both were also keen to proclaim that they would like to win the new AGA Championship for owners of open horses – first prize is a brand new AGA!
This was a third AGA ladies win for Ally – who works for National Hunt trainer Fergal O’Brien – but she only picked up the ride at the last minute as regular pilot Hannah Watson broke her ankle out hunting on Christmas Eve. Hannah will get the ride back when she is fit.
Qrackers was led up by Tor’s fiancé Carl Evans – a familiar face to point-to-point enthusiasts as he writes a weekly diary for the Pointing Plus, which is published every Saturday in the Racing Plus paper. He’s also very shrewd and was probably the only person on the course to have had a bet on the winner!
I’m a bit light on photos from two of the last four races as we were doing the rounds in the lorry park, catching up with people and taking one or two photos of people wearing their new AGA bobble hats. As you can see, they were quite popular!
Well, that was a great start for our AGA series and a great days racing, well done to everyone at Cottenham for cramming it all in, that was some effort! As you can see, we enjoyed our day, and we also had tremendous fun with the hats, and I’ve had to order some more (including lots of pink ones)! The headlights were on when we left and it was gone 8pm when we got home (we did stop for a bite to eat), but the long day was worth it and we’re going to have a good season, I just know it!