For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 – 1882
The Exmoor Hunt was started by Mr Nicholas Snow of Oare in 1869, but I have no trace of any Exmoor point-to-point races until 5th May 1934. Kildare, ridden by Mr T Tozer of the Silverton won the Nomination race that year (basically the Open) from 15 opponents. He also won at the South Devon and Mr Spooner’s that season. The 1934 Exmoor fixture, and those of 1938 and 1939, took place at Bratton Down according to the form books. I am not sure whether it was the same course as today.
No further Exmoor hunt fixtures were held until 1953 when they raced at Thelbridge, which is between Crediton and South Molton. Another meeting was held at Thelbridge in 1954, but it was held at Bratton Down again from 1955 onwards, I think on the same track still used today. That makes Bratton Down one of the longest serving point-to-point courses in the country.
An exposed hill top course with lovely scenic views of the moor, this popular track with the public is triangular shaped with a stiff uphill climb to the judge. Three late season meetings are held there nowadays, and the times on quick ground are often under six minutes, but should not be compared with each other because the racing line varies for each meeting.
This week’s reminiscence about past Exmoor point-to-points took place on Saturday June 1st 1974:
1 Credit That (Fred Rawle)
2 Heather Loch (Mrs P Johnson)
3 White Man (Gordon Edwards)
5 ran; 10l; 3l; 6m 8s
1 Jim Hardy (Jenny Hembrow)
2 Epaulonia (Capt Brian Fanshawe)
3 Culmleigh Heath (Martin Sweetland)
6 ran; 4l; 1/2l; 6m 13s
1 Cass (Kevin Bishop)
2 Moorland Venture (N Lethbridge)
3 Doctor Fred (Aubrey Fuller)
14 ran; 15l; 1l; 5m 53s
1 Marshalsland (Fay Geddes)
2 Knockabitoff (Pip Fisher)
3 Orient War (Terri Pattemore)
12ran; 12l; 3l; 5m 48s
1 Evens Bar (Capt Brian Fanshawe)
2 Liffey Breeze (Mark Reeves)
3 Perfidia (Michael Trickey)
7 ran; 10l; 10l; 6m 1s
Credit That was a good thing for the Hunt race, coming off his recent Holnicote win. Fred Rawle rode plenty of winners at Bratton and sailed clear on this promising youngster round the final bend.
Taunton based Jenny Hembrow was one of the top lady jockeys of the day, and evidently one of the most patient owners since she persuaded her Jim Hardy to get his head in front in the Adjacents’ after 49 consecutive defeats.
The Open winner Cass was a remarkable little gelding. The form books relate that he was bought for only 200 gns at Bridgwater Fair. I once asked his owner/rider Kevin Bishop to confirm that fact and he said it was absolutely true. The combination won eight of their 14 races in 1974. I remember Cass as a gritty type and superb jumper. I think he also appeared in the film The Belstone Fox. The grey mare Moorland Venture ran a promising race and became a decent pointer but was no match for Cass. Aubrey Fuller’s Doctor Fred will be remembered for giving 13-year-old Jimmy Frost his first ever winner at Lemalla in 1972.
Marshalsland was a prolific winning pointer, well handled by Fay Geddes. When he retired he had won 43 races including 16 at Larkhill. I think I am correct in saying that Marshalsland held the course record at Larkhill for many years. Knockabitoff was a decent pointer in Paul Tyler’s familiar maroon and grey colours, and went on to win plenty of races. Orient War was passed by Knockabitoff for second place on the uphill run in. This useful ex-chaser had won his first four races in 1974.
I cannot recall the exact qualifications for the Adjacent Hunts’ Moderate races in those days, but I had seen the winner here Evens Bar, owned by Ivy Frank, beat Capelena and Sparkling Lad in a Maiden earlier in the month on my first visit to the old Holnicote course (much of the home straight at Holnicote on light plough in those days). This second win when rules were different from today was achieved carrying a small penalty for winning her first Maiden just three days before at Bratton Down ( Stevenstone meeting). Her jockey Capt Brian Fanshawe was of course associated with The Dikler in his early races.
I must mention that the Horse and Hound Cup on the same day at Stratford was of equal interest to West Country fans. In one of the best fields ever assembled for that prestigious race, the star Cattistock hunter chaser Stanhope Street, ridden by Barry Venn and starting favourite, beat other top performers in Weathervane and Shraden Sparkle. Horses of the quality of Lucky Rock, Indamelia, Mighty Red and Credit Call were unplaced. I remember seeing Stanhope Street, ridden by Gillian Fortescue-Thomas, beat Zanetta in the Heythrop Ladies’ when it was run at the much missed Fox Farm.
- Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers – Geoffrey Sale & Iain MacKenzie – various years
- Horse & Hound Year Book – various years
- The Pointer
- Sporting Life (Michael Williams)
- Baily’s Hunting Directory
- Michael Kutapan – Point-to-point History & Research, Jumping For Fun website
- Point-to-Point Calendar 1933 – 1938– Arthur W Coaten