GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – STEVENSTONE

“I wasted time and now doth time waste me. For now hath time made me his numbering clock…”

William Shakespeare – Richard II

It would have been the 25th anniversary of point-to-point racing at Vauterhill, Devon, this season. The Stevenstone had chosen the VE day Bank Holiday Friday for this occasion, but unfortunately there will be no activity this season at this North Devon track.

The Stevenstone have raced at many locations over the years. The earliest meeting I can find was on 1st April 1908 at Melbury near Bideford. Most fixtures before 1939, with the odd exception, were held at Cranford St Giles near Torrington and this arrangement continued after the war. A joint meeting with the Torrington Farmers took place from 1947 until 1949 at Cranford until those hunts’ went their separate ways in 1950. The Stevenstone’s meeting in 1951 is recorded as being at Monkleigh, but it was at Cranford again from 1952 until the closure of that course in 1961 when foot and mouth disease saw that year’s meeting cancelled.

It was during the 1950’s that a remarkable pointing record was set up that may never be broken. Lonesome Boy won the same race, the Adjacent Hunts’ Ladies at the Stevenstone, for eight successive years from 1952 until 1959. When that superb East Cornwall horse retired he had won 65 races, 53 of them in succession over a variety of steeplechase fences and banks. Jumping technique on to and off the banks was an important attribute and I could not believe how steep the banks were until looking at the recently released vintage West Country Videos DVD which features some of the bank races at Cranford. Another prolific winner of that era was the mare Delilah who won 48 pony races, some of them at Stevenstone meetings. The 1962 meeting at Horwood included such riders as Grant Cann, Sue Aston (16 years old then), Bertie Hill and Frank Ryall. Horwood continued to host the fixture until a single meeting at Worlington in 1969. There was a meeting at Bishopsleigh in 1970 until a move to Bratton Down which lasted until 1976. It was on to Crimp Morwenstowe in 1977 until 1989 when they moved to Stibb Cross, and then to Vauterhill 25 years ago.

I have two recollections of Crimp. My first trip there was in 1984 on very firm ground when John Weldhen’s Moon Step won the Ladies’ under Janine Mills and his stable companion Moonbribe slipped up on a bend with Mike Biddick in the Open. Blue Beans and Grant Cann went on to win. The other was when racing was abandoned due to thick fog after waiting all afternoon for the fog to clear. I cannot remember which year that was.

One recollection of the quaint undulating little course at Stibb Cross is still quite clear and makes me smile when I think about it. I was asked by a top jockey if I would overlook when publishing the results the overweight she weighed out at (about 4 lbs I think). I suggested to her something like a visit to weight watchers, but I am afraid her response was unprintable.

The compact layout at Vauterhill is aptly illustrated in MacKenzie and Selby’s Annual covering the first meeting there in 1995, “so compact that a sweet stall stuck right in front of bookies enables purchases of sweets and a bet by just turning round”. The layout is better nowadays at this friendly venue.

STEVENSTONE AT VAUTERHILL – MONDAY 8TH MAY 1995

Going: Firm

HUNT

1 Tranquil Waters (Gerald Penfold
2 Romany Anne (Susan Young)
4 ran; only two finished; won by a distance: 7m 27s SP 2-9 fav

OPEN

1 Olveston (George Turner)
2 Pere Bazille (Ian Widdicombe)
2 ran; 12l; 6m 28s SP 2-5 fav

LADIES’ OPEN

1 Khattaf (Joanne Cumings)
2 Searcy (Linda Blackford)
3 Gan Awry (Mandy Hand)
7 ran; 2l; 20l; 6m 27s SP 10-11 fav

CONFINED

1 Horwood Ghost (Ron Treloggen)
2 Walkers Point (George Turner)
3 Oneovertheight (Neil Harris)
5 ran; 6l; dist; SP 5-2

RESTRICTED

1 Magnolia Man (Neil Harris)
2 Querrin Lodge (Tom Greed)
3 Rasta Man (George Turner)
9 ran; 20l; 20l; 6m 30s SP 6-4 fav

OPEN MAIDEN DIV 1

1 Northern Sensation (Leslie Jefford)
2 But Not Quite (Philip Scholfield)
3 Wadebridge Fair (Charles Crosthwaite)
10 ran; 1l; 3l; 6m 42s SP 4-1

OPEN MAIDEN DIV 2

1 Gypsy Luck (Joanne Cumings)
2 Good Appeal (Linda Blackford)
3 St Morwenna (Joe Creighton)
10 ran; 6l; 4l; 6m 43s SP 9-2

The Vauterhill course is adjacent to Graham Heal’s Vauterhill Stud, with scenic views across the North Devon countryside. It is worth the winding journey round country lanes. The course is right handed with a short run in, slightly undulating, and on the turn for much of the way. Viewing is best on the inside of the course.

It was a low key start to the first meeting there, with four runners in the opening Hunt race and a match in the Open. The Hunt race winner Tranquil Waters (Gerald Penfold) had been a decent horse in his younger days and enjoyed a brief revival for owner Carol Lawrence in 1995. This race was pretty dire, but earlier in the season he had landed a gamble in a 17-runner Confined at Kilworthy with Gerald Penfold in the saddle.

Olveston beat his sole opponent easily to win the Open ridden by veteran George Turner from his daughter Pauline Geering’s yard. Olveston had been in one of the regular batches sourced from New Zealand by David Barons and had started life in England with an unbeaten hat trick in bumpers before several successes over jumps. He won three Opens for Pauline Geering in 1995. George rode winners until he was nearly 60 and continued to be seen at the races until, sadly, he passed away last year

Khattaf was undoubtedly the star of the day. Trained by Keith Cumings, he was in the veteran stage now and had to be ridden out by Jo Cumings to beat the useful Searcy (Linda Blackford) . I vividly remember Khattaf as a five-year-old striding clear down the hill at Nedge to win his first point-to-point impressively when ridden by Rosemary Vickery. He was a top class Ladies’ pointer and won a total of 26 point-to-points, mostly under Jo Cumings, who also won a clutch of races in the early 1990’s with the mare Flame O’ Frensi from her father’s Bishops Nympton yard.

Khataaf

Khataaf

So that was three odds-on certainties in the bag and it seemed a very nice course…..Walkers Point and George Turner looked the ticket in the Confined, but my betting note book still shows a red mark for this race as Horwood Ghost zoomed round to score unchallenged. The almost white gelding was partnered by Ron Treloggen in the familiar colours of Andrew Congdon.

Magnolia Man was in his second season and won the Restricted well under that fine rider Neil Harris. Trained by Debbie Cole, he kept his form well and won the Land Rover Champion hunter chase two years later.

Despite the fast ground the Open Maiden was divided. My memory of the first division is jockey Claire Wright being injured in a fall at the fence in front of the enclosures. The race was won by Northern Sensation, well ridden by Leslie Jefford, destined to become National champion jockey five years later.

Jo Cumings completed a double when Grant Cann’s lightly raced mare Gypsy Luck won the other division, mastering Linda Blackford’s mount Good Appeal in the closing stages.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  • Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers, various years
  • Horse & Hound Year Book, various years
  • The Pointer
  • The Continuing Story of Point-to-Point Racing, Michael Williams
  • Mr Michael Kutapan, Point-to-Point History & Research, Jumping For Fun
  • West Country Videos – Jeff Guyett