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28 February 2012 Scene & Heard: Essex Farmers & Union - Marks Tey

by Carolyn Tanner

JOHNSTOWN CASTLE: Proved to his owners that racing is far better than football!
photo: Racehorse Photos

There was no more popular winner at the meeting than the Confined scorer Evening Echo, the first leg of a double for jockey Andrew Braithwaite, his trainer wife Lauren, and owner Roy Green.

Despite being nearly carried out at halfway in an eventful race described by one rider as "like a day's hunting with the Cambridge Drag," Evening Echo had enough in hand to hold off the gallant teenager Carapuce, who was giving him 6lbs. It was a first success for the Braithwaites from their new yard at Crockfords Stud in Newmarket.

"He's the stable favourite," admitted Lauren. "He's a dream to ride at home now, as he's relaxed and grown up - he was very sharp for two seasons."

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The triumph came as a shock, albeit a pleasant one, to the owner, whose prize money, it seems, will be used for feed, not for the horse but for the trainer. "I told her he'd be placed a few times but she'd never win another race with him," Roy confessed. "I said that if she did she could eat and drink as much as she wanted."

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"It could be Barbados now!" Lauren was told by a delighted Roy after the stable's double was completed in the first Maiden by Johnstown Castle. He is owned in partnership by Roy with Simon Mills and Alan Escott, although the latter, a stalwart Norwich City supporter, was watching his team going down to Manchester United.

"He's a professional little horse," said Lauren of the five-year-old, who jumped much more fluently than he had in his initial outing at North Carlton. Bought at Doncaster in May for £5,000, Johnstown Castle's victory brought up Andrew's career half-century, 49 of which have been between the flags.

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The meeting had started with a bang when a small gas cylinder blew up in the sponsors' tent (the only casualty was the soup which was due to be heated), but proceedings quickly quietened to a whimper with the non-appearance of the doctors, which led to a delay of one hour before racing got under way.

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Overheard comment from frustrated owner. "The ground is now good to firm but it will be hard by the time the first race takes place."

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When the action eventually commenced it was George Cooper and Rupert Stearn who struck the first blow, landing the Hunts' Club Members' with Mambo Ruler, who was equipped with a first-time tongue-tie. "When he was four I thought he was going to be the best horse I'd ever had," declared his owner-breeder, "but his wind has stopped him."

Mambo Ruler, who was stopping to nothing in his races, is getting the distance better since a tie-forward operation to help his breathing.

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George and Rupert doubled up in the Restricted with Mambo Ruler's half-sister Midnight Ruler, about whom George confined himself to saying "I think a lot of her - she could be quite nice."

He bred the pair out of Springlark, who was placed between the flags in the nineties when owned by Nigel Wrighton.

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It was not all plain sailing for Rupert, who had a hair-raising time in the Confined when Corporate Account's bit broke after jumping the first and he was unable to pull up until his mount veered into the box park at halfway.

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David Kemp, whose day thus far had not been one to remember - his Members' race runner finished lame, and Cheyanwe, favourite for the Confined, was carried out by Corporate Account - ended the afternoon on a high note by winning the Maiden Division Two on Chief Of The Park, owned jointly with his father Malcolm.

The grey, whose dam died foaling him, was formerly in an eventing yard but had proved to be less than proficient at the show-jumping phase. It was Louise Allan who recommended him to the Kemps, and he cost just £2,000, "Though now he's won I owe [vendor] Peter Clark another grand," smiled Malcolm.

Chief Of The Park, whose jumping was faultless, settles better when he's in front than if he's held up, elaborated Malcolm, whose main concern had been the ground which was faster than the eight-year-old would have wanted. "If I can keep him sound we'll have some fun with him," David prophesied.

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"Ditcheat." David's tongue-in-cheek reply to a reporter's question "Where do you train?"

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Caveman continued his love affair with Marks Tey, scoring his fifth course victory in the Men's Open under a good ride from George Greenock. Trainer Nibby Bloom revealed that he himself had nearly parted company with Caveman earlier in the week. "I schooled him over a couple of fences - he winged the first and then went up another two gears when I wasn't concentrating," he admitted.

"He never gives up," he added of his charge. "He'd race a fly up a wall if he had the chance."

It was back to work that evening for George, who not only works for Norwich estate agents Jackson-Stops but keeps 16,000 chickens at his home near Fakenham. "Most of the eggs are laid in the nest-boxes but there are always a few hundred to pick up off the floor," he explained.

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"Isn't it time you got me a Caveman?" Nibby's son Jack puts in a plea for a schoolmaster of comparative quality, although he is currently off games, being lucky to escape with only a broken arm after his car came off a very definite second best in an argument with a tree.

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A four-and-a-half hour journey from Somerset proved worthwhile for Alex Dunn, who gave Rainbow Tree a bold front-running ride to take the Ladies' Open. As usual, Rainbow Tree was a bit wobbly in the unsaddling enclosure, but quickly recovered after being kept on the move and with the addition of some buckets of water thrown over him.

Alex, who was celebrating her 25th birthday, has a 100% record from her new yard near Wellington, having scored on both her runners since her recent move.

"Stupidly I didn't enter for Howick so this was the wettest ground we could find," laughed Rainbow Tree's owner, Alex's mother Katherine Smith-Maxwell. "He's wonderful," she added of the 12-year-old. "You can hold him up or front run."

"And he stands still so you can drink port on him!" interjected her daughter, who had taken him hunting three days previously.

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Alex may have some competition for the ride next season, as her brother John, who will be 16 in September, has his eye on Rainbow Tree as a schoolmaster. "No chance," stated Alex firmly. "He needs a girl's tender handling!"

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Sam Davies-Thomas, who took a heavy fall in the Restricted, was kept in hospital overnight after a scan revealed that he had fractured both his cheekbone and eye socket. He is due to have the injury plated but the operation cannot take place until the swelling has gone down.

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