Horseheath welcomed racing back to its landscape with a bang, with some thrilling contests on Sunday during the Cambridgeshire Hunt with Enfield Chace Point-To-Point.
It was well-attended by both contestants and spectators, with 83 horses taking part across seven steeplechases — with the Ladies and Men’s Open as particular crowd-pleasers.
On the chilly February day, quality racing — some of the best seen all season — led to tight finishes that sorely tested the judges during the event.
But the excitement helped keep a decent crowd warm, as Horseheath enjoys growing interest in its equestrian events.
The closest finish of the day was in the Young Maiden, when outsider Tricky Silence just got up by a neck to beat the favourite Steeple Head — whose trainer Andrew Pennock from Timworth, near Bury St Edmunds, had a frustrating day of almost-victories, with two second places and a third-placed finish.
The other local success of the day came in the Open Intermediate, for Badlingham trainer Nick Wright, whose horse MacLennane and son Archie teamed up to romp home first.
Wright credited his team with the idea of sheepskin cheekpieces to calm MacLennane, which worked wonderfully as he proved much better suited to the galloping track of Horseheath.
Nearly coming a cropper on the final fence, he managed to survive on his way to beating Allie Beag by a length.
The Ladies’ Open saw a masterful display by National Ladies Champion Gina Andrews who, at the last fence, snatched the lead on Blue Mountain Boy to come away with a narrow victory.
They overtook favourite Goodnight Vienna and Oh Toodles, who had made nearly all the running until being pipped by three-quarters of a length.
Meanwhile, in the Men’s Open Race event, Hazel Hill finished a comfortable three lengths ahead to record a perfect 10 wins from 10 starts since moving from Ireland in 2014.
Despite a 7lb weight penalty, he galloped home well ahead of runner-up Ardkilly Witness.
And in the Restricted Race, Andrews fell short of a second victory with Kalabaloo, but a disastrous third fence left her clinging to her mount — recovering to finish a length behind in third — while Welsh’s Castle took the win.
Thetford-based trainer David Kemp pointed out that his winning charge was in his seasonal debut and would come on as the year progressed.
And Bayley’s Dream’s long journey from Oxfordshire paid off, with a win in the Novice Riders race, once again making the bookies’ day by defeating the favourite Just Cause.
The finale, the Seven and Over Maiden went to Keel Over.
Racing returns on Saturday, March 3, for the Thurlow to Horseheath event.