The term cricket weather might have been stretching a point, but the Oakley point-to-point warmed the hearts of county enthusiasts on Sunday at Brafield and at least the presence of England cricket captain Alastair Cook proved an unexpected bonus.
Twelve months ago the Brafield fixture fell victim to the ravages of snow and ice but in 2012, the first year when an on course screen proved a welcome addition, conditions were more akin to a heat wave.
Veteran French-bred runners proved the answer to the men’s and ladies opens on the eight race card with the 13 year-old Noakarad De Verzee conjuring up an unlikely late rattle when all seemed lost, to deny eight year-old Realt Ag Leimt in the men’s contest while 11 year-old Palypso De Creek’s latest success for Claire Hart only came after a spirited examination of the winner by Tinker’s Burrow, as trainer Stuart Morris’s bid to have a winner on his 36th birthday for owner Judy Wilson was narrowly thwarted.
Popaway, trained by Pauline and Doug Harkin near Chipping Warden, was an odds-on winner of the confined, coasting to a comfortable success from Joe Docker although Jo Messenger’s Life Long, ridden by Faye Conway, rallied well for second place.
Gerald Bailey’s Holdenby North Lodge team also notched a home success with Dig Deeper under Sam Davies-Thomas in the second division of the maiden, another thrilling finish just seeing the five year-old Overbury gelding defy Milemilia to reward Harlestone owner Caspar Shand-Kydd.
The mother and daughter training combination of Sandra and Caroline Fryer proved the successful link between Sunday’s Oakley meeting and Towcester’s fixture, 24 hours later.
Festival Bound, formerly trained by Caroline Fryer under Rules at Wyondham in Norfolk took the novice riders event at Brafield. Less than 24 hours later it was the younger member of the Fryer training legions who entered the winner’s enclosure, 3/1 co-favourite Riddlestown prevailing by a neck from Todareistodo.
Jockey Harry Skelton had to get serious with the seven year-old, who needed cajoling a fair way from home and Fryer laughed: “The horse doesn’t always want to do it... but luckily Harry made his mind up for him. I think the horse might wear a pair of blinkers next time!”
Edgcote trainers Alex Hales and Ben Case were both delighted to saddle the second and third horses home in Towcester’s 16 runner National Hunt flat race behind the Nigel Twiston-Davies winner Ballyboley.
Hales has been the man to follow in the final race of Towcester’s last three meetings having had a bumper winner with Big Jim, a hurdling scorer with Fidelor, and now a 50/1 runner-up.