Airpur Desbois & James King (Treble)

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – TIVERTON STAGHOUNDS

“Over 1000 feet above sea level with grand view of Exmoor,but grazed by sheep with resulting hazards for unsuspecting racegoers and falling riders”

MacKenzie and Harris – Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers

Despite the sheep droppings this is a grand point-to-point course, well suited on moorland turf for late season fixtures. The Tiverton Staghounds point-to-point would have been the penultimate fixture this season in the Devon & Cornwall area. For well known reasons this has not happened, so I am delving into the history books again to unearth some action from the past.

My first personal recollection of this hunt’s point-to-points was in 1980 when they raced at Bishopsleigh (40 years ago – seems like yesterday). The move to Bratton Down took place in 1988, but the point-to-point had taken place at many different locations going back well over a century
So in place of my usual race report for this week we go back to April 1991:-

TIVERTON STAGHOUNDS AT BRATTON DOWN 27th April 1991

Going; Good to firm

HUNT

1 Sell Up (Richard White)
2 Cricklewood Chris (Stuart Kittow)
6 ran; only two finished; won by a distance; 7m 1s; SP 5-1

OPEN

1 Ballyeden (Philip Scolfield)
2 Connate (Justin Farthing)
3 Another Lucas (Ian Widdicombe)
12 ran; 2l; 6l; 6m 9s; SP 5-1

LADIES OPEN

1 Thrales (Polly Curling)
2 Fandango Boy (Linda Blackford)
3 Tijuca (Mandy Turner)
6 ran; short head; 2l; 6m 9s; SP 4-7 fav

ADJACENT HUNTS

1 The Doormaker (Polly Curling)
2 Life Peerage (Steven Slade)
3 Archie’s Nephew (Justin Farthing)
12 ran; 2l; 1l; 6m 9s; SP 11-4

RESTRICED OPEN

1 Just Joshua (Alison Handel)
2 Master Tuesday (Chris Down)
3 Seal Prince (Justin Farthing)
18 ran; 1l; 1/2l; 6m 10s; SP 25-1

ADJACENT HUNTS MAIDEN

1 Happy Padre (Vivienne Nicholas)
2 Sailor’s Shanty (Rupert Nuttall)
3 Lady Ling C Burnett-Wells)
14 ran; 5l; 6l; 6m 10s; SP 11-4

The opening hunt race proved eventful as the two leaders missed a marker on the final circuit and gifted the race to Richard White on Sell Up, trained by his mother Tessa. Cricklewood Chris would probably have won but for running out and having to re-trace..

Justin Farthing (total of 26 winners) and Philip Scholfield (23 winners) fought out the jockeys title in 1991, but it was Philip who came out the best in the Open on the useful East Cornwall mare Ballyeden, from the yard of Ben Messer-Bennetts. It is great to see Philip’s son Nick Scholfield doing so well in the professional sphere. Connate was attempting a four-timer and was caught on the run in. This grey was saddled by Richard Barber for Commander Peter Longhurst, who trained as a British astronaut back in the day.

Polly Curling needs little introduction to pointing followers and was in the early stages of her career in 1991. Her double here was initiated by course specialist Thrales, who caught Fandango Boy in the last stride. The latter’s rider Linda Blackford went on to claim the lady jockey’s area award with 13 winners. The Doormaker also came with a typical late flourish up the stiff finishing climb to beat Life Peerage and Archie’s Nephew. Life Peerage was owned by Arnie Sendell who later owned Kingscliff. Archie’ s Nephew had given David Pipe his first race ride at Great Trethew. Polly’s two winners came from the local yard of the late Mike Trickey (himself a successful amateur jockey in his day). The Doormaker ran in the colours of Captain Tim Forster who loved his pointing in the Westcountry.

Subsequently three times champion jockey, Polly Curling rode 220 point-to-point winners in her career, plus prestigious hunter chases such as the Cheltenham Foxhunters ( Fantus).

I have plenty of personal anecdotes of Polly and venture to share just one or two here. I first encountered her when she was leading up a horse for Oliver Carter at Ottery St Mary as a youngster long before she had ridden in a race. I was taking paddock notes when Oliver Carter came up to me and said, “That girl leading that horse up will be champion jockey one day.” I thought what a stupid statement, have you been on the whiskey Oliver? However he had obviously spotted Polly’s early talent. How right he was.

A few years later I remember trying to interview one of the lady jockeys at the old Holnicote course. I was sneaking into the lady riders’ changing tent not noting their state of undress when Polly announced to her fellow jockeys, “Don’t worry girls it’s only Granville”.

Also, I won’t dwell on the time that Polly got a group of us thrown out of a pub near Exeter on the way back from the races. I think she was practising some rustic Anglo-Saxon language which upset the locals. Needless to say our group did not dare to use that pub again.

Back to reality, Polly’s double at Bratton was followed by lady jockeys cleaning up the other two races. Alison Handel on 25-1 chance Just Joshua held off the challenges of Chris Down and Justin Farthing to take the 18-runner Restricted Open. The Adjacent Maiden provided a first winner for Vivienne Nicholas on the family bred gelding Happy Padre, a half brother to that brilliant mare Mantinolas.

The history of the Tiverton Staghounds point-to-points goes back for well over a century. Under the title of Sir John Amory’s Staghounds, their early fixtures were shared with the Tiverton Hunt and Sir John Amory’s Harriers. In 1899 the joint meeting was held at Chevithorne Barton, and the following year at Gornhay, which included a water jump of the River Loman. A former Liberal MP, Sir John Amory was master of the Staghounds from 1896 to 1914. He changed his surname to Heathcote-Amory and, together with his family, will be well known in politics.

Joint fixtures continued up to the first world war at such locations listed in the books as Peadhill , Tiverton and Holmead. The 1912 to 1914 meetings saw a slight change of title to Captain H H Amory’s Staghounds with Sir John Amory’s Harriers and the Tiverton Hunt. No further fixtures were held until 1921.
The meeting on 9th April 1921 was the first time the name of The Tiverton Staghounds appeared on the card, combined with the Tiverton Hunt at Peadhill. This combination transferred their point-to-point to Pileywell, near Tiverton in 1924 and continued at that venue until 1939.
It was under the Tiverton Staghounds title only when the first fixture after the war took place at Thelbridge on 3rd May 1947. They raced at this venue until the course closed in 1958. It was on to Loosebeare Manor near Crediton until 1963, when they moved to Venford.

A further move took place in 1965, to Three Hammers, Worlington. The 1968 meeting there saw some top pointers competing in the Open. The winner Hope Again went on to win the Cheltenham Foxhunter in 1971; runner up Lizzy The Lizard (Tony Hartnoll) won the National Hunt Chase at the festival in 1969 ridden by Grant Cann, and third placed Far East II won a stack of races for Ivy Frank. Sadly Tony Hartnoll, the owner of Lizzy The Lizard passed away a few days ago.

The move to Bishopsleigh came on 16th May 1970, featuring a double for Grant Cann, with leading event rider Mary Gordon-Watson winning the Ladies’ on Barty. I remember my first visit to this rural course in 1980. Firstly I couldn’t find the place (only paper maps in those days), It was the middle of a dry spell and the ground was officially hard with very few runners. The favourite got beat a short head in the first. I backed the “winner” of the Restricted but it was disqualified and the two runners in the last both fell. On the bright side the Britton family had a double. The final Tiverton Staghounds fixture at Bishopsleigh was in 1987. They have been at Bratton Down from 1988 up to this day.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  • Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers – various years
  • Horse & Hound Year Book – various years
  • The Pointer
  • Sporting Life
    Sporting Chronicle
    History of the National Hunt Chase – Peter Stevens
  • Point-to-Point Calendar 1935 – 1938– Arthur W Coaten
  • Michael Kutapan – Point-to-point History & Research, Jumping For Fun website