by Richard Hall

Horseheath is like a giant suet pudding bowl, with the racecourse marked out along its one and three quarter mile rim. As we walked it before racing, we felt like time travellers looking down on a summer fayre from a bygone world. Children played on the swings and merry go rounds, watched by adults seated around picnic tables laden with wine and sandwiches. Huntsmen in traditional coats displayed their hounds proudly in the paddock before leading them, horns aíblowing, on a canter around the perimeter. Meanwhile cars kept streaming into the vast arena. East Angliaís biggest crowd of the season had gathered.

With the memory of that great battle between Alpha Man and Pampered Gale at the previous Horseheath meeting at the beginning of the month, I was eagerly awaiting a return match. Both had been entered for the Intermediate. My hopes were soon dashed, however, when connections of Alpha Man chose to duck the contest and declare their charge for the Members instead.

Bookmakers duly installed him as the one to two favourite in the four-runner field, and many saw it an opportunity to buy ammunition for the more difficult contests ahead. Alpha Man duly obliged, but the manner of his victory was hardly impressive. He was helped by the early exits of both Mackoy (unseated rider) and Ballad (fell), leaving the inconsistent Thunderbird as his only rival. Despite jumping badly left on occasions, Alpha Man led throughout and, although the winning margin was five lengths, he looked a tired horse on the run in. There didnít appear to be much left in the locker this time! Maybe he didnít like the firmer going; maybe he didnít like making his own running? Either way he didnít look half the horse he did four weeks ago.

Pampered Gale, on the other hand, easily landed the nine runner Intermediate for the J Turner / A Sansome combination. Another opportunity to buy money, at six to four on! Hunted around for the first circuit, he took closer order a mile out, waited in the lead for a couple of fences, before changing up a gear to come home with a cosy advantage and without having to be asked a serious question. An eight year old, he is undoubtedly still improving and has shown that he can act on all types of going. In my opinion he is probably the best horse on the East Anglian circuit at present, and I would love to see him tackle an Open, or even a Hunter Chase, before the season ends.

Imperial Mist showed improved form to run on strongly to deprive Manna Brave, who had been prominent throughout, for second. He may have been a shade fortunate, however, as Society Lad had come to join the leaders four from home and looked booked for the runner up slot until depositing Annie Bowles through the wings of the penultimate fence.

After two odds on shots it was refreshing to have a five to two favourite in the Ladies Open. Ruthís Boy very nearly landed the odds, having led for most of the final mile and a half, but the gamble was thwarted by Prince of Saints who defied his advancing years to provide the Turnerís with a quick double. Borrow Mine, under strong driving from Lisa Marriott, battled bravely on the run in but was a neck short of collaring Ruthís Boy for second.

Senso, having his sixth outing of the season, managed to avoid the fourth unseated rider form figure of the year but, after racing prominently for the first mile, showed he was unsuited by the firmer going as the pace quickened, and was eventually pulled up.

It was back to odds on again for the Menís Open. This time a less than generous two to five. Fair Exchange never gave backers a momentís worry though, making every post a winning one to record his third Open success of the year in a very fast six minutes sixteen seconds. Second favourite Weavers Choice jumped badly, losing a length at virtually every fence, and trailed in a disappointing fifth.

The Restricted was probably the most competitive race of the day, and it certainly provided the closest finish. Market leader Joshís Choice dropped out tamely when the race began in earnest. Second favourite Mossy Buck was unruly leaving the paddock, kicking out at helpers and reversing George Cooper into a wooden railing, and never looked as if he wanted to be there. Third favourite, Marmalade Mountain, was struggling after just a circuit and was another unable to adjust to the change in going. Turning for home it looked as if Holy Moses, who had caught Grey Fusilier in the last strides of a poor Maiden on heavy going at Ampton a fortnight earlier, had the race at his mercy. Jockey Rachel Barrow had taken up the running six out and injected pace to leave the field strung out behind. Three fences out he held a four-length lead and, despite a bad mistake at it, he still held a two-length advantage over his only serious rival, Bruan. At the last the gap was still two lengths. Holy Moses jumped it to the left, giving Andrew Sansome the little encouragement he needed to ask Bruan to dig deeper. Two tired horses battled up the long run in. Bruan ran straight. Holy Moses wandered to the left, clearly tiring. At the post Bruan prevailed by a neck, giving his jockey a double and completing a treble for the Turner stable.

If the race does not take too much out of them, the first two should be backed when turning out again. Both had failed to complete this year before winning on their previous outings, and both had respectable horses well behind them this time. Bruan, hitherto a suspected short runner, will, I believe, be better still when returned to a less stamina sapping course.  

Division One of the Maiden cut up badly and only three went to post. It looked as if anybody could win it when, at good racing pace, they jumped the twelfth as one. Before they reached the thirteenth, however, Andrew Braithwaite had decided that his mount, the Sporborg trained, five year old, debutant Mister Ringa (much touted on the East Anglian website) would not benefit from being pushed too hard. He eased off the throttle and pulled up two fences later. This left the favourite, Stick or Bust, to stay on stronger than the tiring outsider Teeton Fizz and make it four out of four on the day for odds on backers.

Division Two attracted a more respectable seven runners. It was another odds on victory though, this time in the shape of Teeton Priceless, who completed Andrew Sansomeís treble on the day. By far the pick of the paddock, she took up the lead two out and won a lot more comfortably than the official margin may suggest. Tell Monty ran in snatches but finished fast to grab second, just ahead of Dream Weaver who looked far from fully fit in the preliminaries. After running far too freely in his previous outings Paul Taiano finally managed to restrain Pharout, albeit in front, and his mount finished a respectable fourth. Only a six year old in his first season, he may benefit from the experience and could win a small maiden before long.