GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – SILVERTON POINT-TO-POINT

With the new point-to-point season fast approaching, here is another personal reminiscence, this time from Silverton Hunt fixtures past to whet the appetite for exciting days soon to come.

Baily’s Hunting Directory records Silverton Huntinformation from 1863. The Master then was Mr T Webber who held that esteemed office until 1895. According to my records, the first point-to-pointheld by the Silverton was on 23 March 1923 at Newton St Cyres. They raced there from 1923 until 1929 when the fixture was transferred to Shobrookenear Crediton.

Shobrooke was a stiff Devon track, right-handed with some plough and a long, hard pull up to the finish. The Silverton meeting was held at that coursefrom 23 March 1929 until their last fixture there on 3 April 1971, with a break in the war years. It becamea joint meeting with the Tiverton in 1964.Their final combined meeting at Shobrooke in 1971 saw wins in the saddle for Fred Rawle and Grant Cann, but Martin Pipe could only finish runner up ridingFaberstown in the Members’. Mr Pipe went on to carve out a successful career as a trainer!

There was no Silverton fixture in 1972, but on 28 March 1973 the point-to-point went it alone and moved to the East Devon course at Hayes Barton, Clyst Honiton.

The next move was to Thorverton in 1978. I remember going there in 1985 for the final meeting at that course. Chris Down rode a double on Holcombe Lass and Macnab’s Quest, as did Philip Scholfield on Sandsprite and Harvest Hymn. Sara Luxton won the Ladies’ on Isotip, and Philip Rawlerode Dull Light to win the Men’s Open. These were the good old days for us race readers with never more than five or six races.

In 1986 yet another move took the Silverton to Haldon. I must confess that personally I never enjoyed point-to-point racing on the inside of Haldonracecourse, although I had a good view for race reading from the pigeon loft which was the judge’s box in the centre of the course.  I had been used to National Hunt racing at “Devon and Exeter” (who changed it to “Exeter”?). Admittedly some good point-to-point racing ensued at Haldon with generally decent fields, but there were some funny results including in 1992 when a long odds-onfavourite was beaten after a questionable ride. I remember the brilliant Proud Son winning on his debut the following year. He later went on to win the Horse and Hound Cup. In addition such good Ladies’ horses such as Khattaf and For A Lark did their stuff at Haldon over the years.

And so the fixture was taken on to Black Forest Lodge in 1997. There are plenty of good memories of the fixtures at Black Forest Lodge on the Earl of Devon’s land which was a proper point-to-point course with the benefit of quick draining soil. At the early season fixture horses came from Wales and the Midlands which led to competitive racing. My racereporting always saw me on the hill side overlooking the last fence where the whole action could be seenwith a good pair of binoculars. There was only a single occasion when fog descended which forced me to go down between the last fence and the penultimate to see anything of the action. 

As 18-year-old Rachael Blackmore trudged back after her fall from Cheekyrun   in the Silverton Open Maiden on 27 March 2010,  nobody would have dreamt that the young Irish novice jockey would eventually become the first female to ride the winner of the Grand National. This is a true story however and Devon owner/trainer Gordon Chambers readily recalled the occasion, “Yes, Rachael was just getting started. I bought two horses from Ireland from a pal of mine which were ready to run and part of the deal was he would bring them over and stay with me and see them run, and could he also bring over a young girl who had been riding out for him and if I thought she was good enough could she ride them over here. She was very keen and had not had many opportunities. Having watched her, I thought she was good enough !”

It was a shame that this popular viewing course,superbly prepared under  Clerk of the Course Norman Chanin, should be lost for good after the 2018 season. The intention for the Hunt to race at the new Dunsmore, Silverton course was thwarted by the pandemic, although the closely associated DunsmoreClub managed an initial meeting there in November 2019.

Let’s hope that Dunsmore proves a successful new home. The Club meeting this season is on Sunday 14 November. The new season opens on Saturday 30 October at Ottery St Mary with the East Devon fixture.

GRANVILLE TAYLOR

Acknowledgments:

Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers, Sale & MacKenzie ,various years

.Baily’s Hunting Directory

The Continuing Story of Point-to-Point Racing, Michael Williams

Mr Michael Kutapan – Point to Point History & Research( Jumping For Fun web site)

The Pointer (David Coulton

Footnote:

A big gelding called Native Trail won a division of the Silverton Adjacent Hunts’ Maiden in 1983 with Jimmy Frost in the saddle. 

The unbeaten top rated two-year-old of 2021, Native Trail, won the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last week to become favourite for next year’s Derby. It looks as though Godolphin has stolen the name.