The Riders Qualification Certificate page, http://www.pointtopoint.co.uk/go/riders/rqc_2013.html, states that applications for those wishing to ride on 1st December (including the Black Forest Club at Black Forest Lodge meeting) must be received by the PPA Office NO LATER than Friday 15th November 2013 to have the best chance of being cleared in time. So make sure your applications are submitted nice and early.
Alex Dunn has been based in West Buckland, Wellington for two seasons since moving from Worcestershire. The yard has been extensively developed during that time period. Ten stables have been built, making sixteen in total in the American Barn.
There has also been a brand new surface put down by the Dunn’s on the all-weather.
Alex Dunn now holds a full trainers license, however keen not to forget her pointing roots she still will train her family’s point to pointers. DOUBLE MEADhas been a fantastic mare, who is now the winner of eighteen races, including five hunter chases.
LION ON THE PROWL, son of Saddler’s Wells is another Ladies open winner, is also under Alex’s care
Holnicote winner ALROYAL will be ridden by John Smith-Maxwell for another season. PERICOLOSO, ALL FOR CASH and KEELE ROAD will also be aimed at Point to Points, but at the time of going to print it is unsure whether they will be trained in Somerset or by Alex’s Mum, Katherine Smith-Maxwell.
Those attending the Jess Westwood Racing & Westwood Pointing Open Day on Sunday October 13th were treated to a fabulous afternoon. Over 100 people attended the open day where they got to meet the six horses currently in Jess’s charge. Monkerty Tunkerty we are all familiar with following his wins at Wadebridge and dramatic hunter chase win at Warwick two seasons ago. Monkey had a mixed season last time out where the Cheltenham festival was the target, starting well winning at Wincanton & Doncaster as well as finishing seventh in the JLT at Cheltenham, but suffered from a few niggles and minor injuries. This season he will be targeting a longer distance handicap.
Geton Xmoor was intended to go pointing last year before suffering a minor leg injury and will now be targeted at novice hurdles in April, ForrardOn Xmoor is related to Rag Trade, one of the few horses to beat Red Rum in a Grand National, and Jess thinks he might be a future national horse himself, but he will be starting in novice hurdles this season. Also paraded were Bless Me Jim an exciting 3 year old by Babodana out of a Double Trigger mare, winning Young Stock Champion as a foal and will aimed for some EBF Bumpers before Christmas. 3 year old Sirop De Menthe a new recruit from France whose name Jess has been learning how to pronounce and comes to the yard on the back of good form in France and England. Exmoor Challenge completes the sextet and is regarded as one for the future, being given a bit of time to mature and should run in the spring.
Jess believes to get the best out of your horse you have to have Happy Horses, happy staff & happy Owners. The guests were treated to delicious soups, scones and an inviting array of cakes and given an opportunity to donate to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. Jess is excited about her prospects this season and will certainly build on the 11 wins since starting out in 2007, whilst intending to remain a small yard who can devote one on one attend to their horses, Jess does plan to expand and fill more National Hunt and Point-To-Point boxes.
Seeing young horses and young jockeys rise through the point to point ranks is one of the things trainer Leslie Jefford enjoys about being a trainer.
Based at Mead Stables, Payhembury near Honiton in Devon Leslie, and his wife Lisa, will have between 15 and 20 horses in training this season and are looking forward to the new season starting on December 1.
Leslie, who hails from St Ives, from a non-racing family, started his race riding career at 18, after a chance meeting between Pipe and Jefford’s then riding instructor saw Jefford join Pipe’s yard at 16. His first point to point ride was on Alfie Stuart’s MAXINE’S LASS, a mare who provided him with his first winner the following season. He rode around 220 winners in 18 seasons and was national point to point champion in 2000. He also rode all over Europe in the FEGENTRI series and travelled the world with racehorses.
He said: “ It is really useful to see the variety in the ways people train, there is always a different way of doing things and if it ends up with success on the track that’s great.”
At Mead Stables the Jeffords have just had another good season, including a hunter chase winner, after having their best season of 11 winners and lots of placings in 2011/12. Their best day at the races was a memorable treble at Bratton Down with SILVER COMMANDER, JEWELLERY and DELTA BORGET, and their favourite course would have to be Ottery St Mary, where they are rarely without a winner. Their aims for the coming season are to see the young horses they have in training come through and realise the potential they are showing, with the older horses maintaining the consistent form they have shown.
Leslie said: “ We are lucky to have good staff to work with and several keen young riders who should soon be successful. Jo Buck and Ed Barratt will be riding for us along with novice riders Emma Greenslade and Will Gordon. Alistair Harvey (Sue Trump’s grandson) came up through the ranks last year.
“It is good to see that there is more help available now for those just starting out in the sport. People are realising that they have to teach the youngsters more rather than relying on them to do it all themselves. It is great to see youngsters getting more chances.” To that end Leslie helps with the pony racing in the area when called on and instructs at the Pony Racing Authority training days.
At Mead Stables the facilities include a sand canter track where all the horses work and can be schooled if the weather precludes schooling over the fences out on grass, There is a wide selection of grass gallops and plenty of local all weather gallops which are used in extreme conditions. There is a horse walker and the horses are kept in large airy and modern American barn stables. There are also plenty of hills for a variety of roadwork.
The attraction of point to pointing? That would be watching young horses and young riders progress and the camaraderie of the sport which has seen Leslie and Lisa make a lot of good friends. Winners are always celebrated – witness the lady members of Delta Borget’s ‘Here Come the Girls’ syndicate who can always be seen sporting something pink (DB’s colours are predominantly pink) and celebrating with pink champagne!
Forty years ago pointing was a more regional sport, and more local within regions. True, things were changing: hunts could now stage both a mens’ and a ladies’ open, and those who wanted a sixth race (some still didn’t) could have a restricted open. But you could go as little as thirty miles and see completely different horses and riders from those thirty miles the opposite way the previous Saturday. There was some border-crossing, but not usually by very far.
Based in east Dorset, I paid for my pointing by reporting for some of the numerous publications and form guides then operating, all of which engaged their own racereaders. The late Eric Dymott lived nearby and we travelled together if we were covering the same meeting. The Taunton (now Wessex) Area was riding high and we looked down on Devon and Cornwall, our stereotype featuring yokels on weedy little horses in races well under three miles, on violently undulating greyhound tracks with narrow, rickety fences. We regarded the organisers as penny-pinching tightwads who put on just five races and refused to divide if declarations were only a couple over the safety limit. Like most stereotypes, there was a small grain of truth in it: intrepid explorers penetrating as far as Lemalla returned with horrific tales, but some Wessex meetings were hardly Cheltenham either.
Though in Devon, the Axe Vale, in mid-week in early May, was a Wessex meeting then. Taking time off work to go there gave a delightful sense of illicit pleasure, and my memories are of good racing amid sunshine, sea air and the smell of warm gorse. Anything beyond Stafford Cross, however, had an edgy feeling of travelling to an alien planet. We did know Charles and Bill, correspondents who sometimes came into Wessex from Devon, and they were very friendly to us, though they always liked to maintain a psychological advantage: whenever we arrived they would ask which way we had come and, whatever the answer, it would be the Wrong Way. Once we went to Umberleigh via last year’s Right Way, only to find it was now the Wrong Way!
At first, our Devon trips were just non-working excursions to the final meeting of the season, initially the Exmoor, but soon the Torrington. In 1976 and 1977, however, for reasons never clear, I found myself sent (alone) to several Devon meetings. The first, the Tiverton Foxhounds at Halberton in March 1976, was a baptism of fire. It was only a month into the season and there were 19 in the mens’ open, 17 in the ladies, and an Adjacent Hunts divided at declaration – so 15 in the maiden was a breeze. I knew few of the horses or colours and there was nobody to help: Charles and Bill were acting as clerks of the scales and, unlike Wessex, there was no racereaders’ “read through” afterwards, the others in that area regarding the information as their private property. Somehow, I scraped through. Halberton, though nothing particularly special, was untypical of the area and an ideal course for big fields – a big, flat oval with sweeping bends. My abiding memories are of the incomparable Grant Cann landing the odds in a division of the Adjacent on Kasim Baba, only to find his next odds-on mount, Oliver Carter’s Lucky Rock, unable to catch Killerby (David Jewell) in the Open. I felt the superiority of Wessex had been justified when Jane Atkinson won the Ladies on Romany Biscuit in colours long familiar to me, though, in truth, she only just scrambled home from a pack of locals.
The week after Halberton I visited Clyst Honiton, a charmless spot near Exeter airport. Cleverly squeezed into an unsuitable site beside the railway, it was left handed, but with a pronounced kink to the right in the straight. There was a long run with no fences round the top bend.
Lucky Rock, now ridden by Tim Holland-Martin, made up for the previous week’s blip in the Open, but the performance of the day was by Otter Way, on which Grant Cann retained the ride in the Adjacent. Though not always fluent, he landed the long odds-on by a distance. This was only a prep race! Five days later he ran in the Gold Cup, and five weeks after that he won the Whitbread. Sale and Mackenzie gave him at an exceptional 12-8, and with Lucky Rock at 11-2 and Devon Spirit on 11-0 some adjustment of our preconceptions about standards in Devon seemed necessary. Unusually, there was a restricted open, won by Maester Max (Ron Treloggen), another which finished the season with a high rating.
The next excursion into “Devon profonde” was to Bishopsleigh in May, a strange course, though less weird than Venford. I can only describe it as an undulating, wasp-waisted banana. Though left-handed, there was a ninety-degree right-hand bend after the third fence, only yards short of the back straight, which was actually entered via a hairpin bend after the next fence. Unsurprisingly, navigational errors sometimes occurred. The finish was up a narrow chute.
There was an unsuccessful Welsh raid in the Open, with Ronaheath backed off the boards, only to run out, taking several others with him, at the right-hander. He rejoined, but made up ground too fast to lead with a circuit to go and unseated when tiring three out on the deceptively testing course. This left Conchita (Ken Bosley) to win a neck from Liberty Man in a scrambling finish, which resulted in mutual objections (both overruled).
Local heroine and unbackable favourite Lady Christine nearly succumbed to another Welsh raider as she tried to make all in the Ladies’Open. Proud Pirate passed her four out and looked to have it won, only to run out at the penultimate. The Adjacent Restricted produced a storming finish, with Ruthmac, Highdowns Lad and Top Of The Pops all in it coming to the last. Highdowns Lad just prevailed, giving Robert Reddaway his first winner.
The 1977 itinerary was fairly similar, but less challenging, because fields tended to be smaller, and I was becoming acclimatised. However, some of our old prejudices revived when Eric and I went on our only visit ever to Buckfastleigh, where some of the racecourse buildings were still used. After rather humdrum racing we asked the secretary, as usual, for some unsold racecards. Most correspondents then reported by posting a marked card (there was still a Sunday collection), and secretaries were happy to oblige. Not this one, though: he demanded full payment! Appalled, we declined his offer and rummaged through the litter bins to find some serviceable ones.
This was in our minds when we gave a lift to Umberleigh to a well-known pointing pundit, who proposed to use his rules racing press pass to get us in for nothing. Fearing this idea would skin no flints in Devon, we had our money ready to avoid a scene. Amazingly, the gateman’s response was “Proper job”, and he waved us through. Little did I know as we drove happily home in the evening sunlight that in 1978 I would make the pilgrimage to Umberleigh from South Wales. Pilgrimage? To Devon?? Yes, that is what it had become!
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