Victory for diabetic Hector has huge significance

Point-to-point horse racing at Ampton. Picture: Phil Morley

Point-to-point horse racing at Ampton. Picture: Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Diabetic jockey Hector Barr landed a ground-breaking victory when getting off the mark in thrilling style as the Dunston Harriers Point-To-Point provided a decent crowd with some superb action at Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds.

Having just his ninth career ride, 17-year-old Barr got the better of a three-way battle with William Money and Farmer Matt as his mount, Finnegan's Hollow, landed the Novice Riders Race which brought the curtain down on a seven-race card.

This was a massive moment for Barr and his onlooking family from Fordham, near Colchester, and Finnegan's Hollow's owners, Carol Lawrence, from Stratford St Mary, and Jan Derbyshire, from Stoke By Nayland.

But it has a wider significance as, just like his father, Stephen, who was forced into retirement from race riding when diagnosed aged 29, Hector has type 1 diabetes and was initially told that, along with various other occupations and activities, taking part in Point-To-Pointing would not be allowed.

He refused to take 'no' for an answer and, following pioneering work from Sir Steve Redgrave's expert diabetologist, Dr Ian Gallen, and staff at Colchester General Hospital, he was, after all, deemed eligible for an unrestricted Point-To-Point riding licence.

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Finnegan's Hollow was returned a 16-1 outsider on a day of surprises when all but two of the race favourites were defeated.

One market leader who did prevail was Steeles Terrace, trained within sight of Ampton Racecourse by Andrew Pennock and ridden by Evan David. He landed a division of the Maiden Race by eight easy lengths and looks to have a bright future.

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The only other well-backed winner was Hawkhurst – owned by the ebullient Keith Loads, from Thursford in North Norfolk – who positively scooted home to land the Intermediate Race with any amount in hand.

This victory completed a quickfire double for the father and son trainer/jockey combination of Alan and Joe Hill, from Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire. Half an hour earlier they lifted the Restricted Race courtesy of a wide-margin score from Allie Beag, who was newly adorned with sheepskin cheekpieces and was running for the first time since undergoing a wind operation.

The fastest time of the day was clocked by Warden Hill, trained on the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border by Helen Connors and ridden by Tom Chatfield-Roberts.

He left his toiling rivals 15 lengths and more in his wake when landing the Timico Mixed Open and, given that only three years ago he was chasing home the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Coneygree, in a Grade 1 contest at Kempton, should be able to make his mark in hunter chase company in the coming months.

The other division of the Maiden went to the gritty front-runner, Summer Sounds, trained in Warwickshire by Francesca Nimmo, while the opening Veterans Race witnessed another pillar-to-post victory as the Wiltshire raider, Broadway Symphony, trained by Tracey Bailey, held off the favourite, Foxcub, by a length.

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