GOLD Cup-winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen and London 2012 eventing silver medallist Zara Phillips leant some star quality to the opening of the Cocklebarrow point-to-point near Aldsworth on Sunday.
Despite foul weather, the estimated 6,000 crowd were well entertained at the Savills-sponsored Heythrop Hunt card, not least in the feature race.
The Lord Ashton of Hyde’s Cup was contested over the marathon distance of 3m6f and yet the winner Rumbavu and runner-up King Fontaine were separated by just a neck at the line after a thrilling race.
Rumbavu, the mount of Waley-Cohen who triumphed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Long Run in 2011, was providing his famous orange and brown silks with their second win in this prestigious race. Irilut, also owned and trained by Sam’s father Robert, won it in 2008.
Zara was not so lucky as the most fancied of the three runners she trained on the card, Devils Boys, fell heavily when leading the Restricted race with four to jump, also bringing down principal rival Rye Cross.
How the heavily-pregnant Zara would have coped with the excitement of a close finish we will never know.
Cocklebarrow’s debut proved a professional and personal success for Nick Phillips, clerk of the course and racetrack designer on land his late father John used to farm.
Nick rode the winner of the 2m4f maiden on Cousin Pete, home-bred by his father and named after his Ablington-based cousin Peter Mason, another pillar of the local point-to-pointing community.
“I knew Cousin Pete had ability but I thought his lack of experience might count against him,” said Phillips.
Of the meeting as a whole, he said: “It all came together and there no real dramas.
“We could not do anything about the weather but I was delighted with the crowd and there was a brilliant atmosphere. The trade stands did great business in hats and wellies and the KidsZone was a real plus as parents could entertain their children in the warm.
“We are already looking forward to next year.”