Category Archives: Features

A Feature on an aspect of Point-To-Pointing in the Devon & Cornwall area

Cornelius Lysaght TO LEAD DEVON & CORNWALL LIVE STREAM PRESENTATION TEAM

Cornelius Lysaght
Cornelius Lysaght

Internationally known horse racing broadcaster Cornelius Lysaght will head up the Devon & Cornwall live streaming presenting team when the 2020/2021 point-to-point season gets under way with the East Devon races at Ottery St Mary on Saturday 24th October, writes Granville Taylor.

With the meeting set to take place behind closed doors (BCD), the Devon & Cornwall area organisers work during the extended close season looks to have paid off. Anticipating the likelihood of racing BCD, the committee have used part of a £10.000 grant from Totnes and Bridgetown Racing Company Ltd to purchase live streaming equipment, and the area, with the approval of the British Horseracing Authority and the Point-to-Point Authority, is set to be the first in the UK to broadcast all their 25 meetings in the area for the coming season.

Announcing the initiative, Frank Yeo, Area Chairman said, “It is hoped this new venture will be able to bring the atmosphere and excitement of point-to-point racing to everyone at home. We are delighted that Cornelius Lysaght, with nearly 30 years experience as BBC Racing Correspondent, will be the lead presenter.”

The live streaming programme will include coverage of all the races, plus pre-race and post-race information, interviews and analysis. The long established West Country Videos team will be operating two cameras at each meeting.

Frank Yeo added, “We are very grateful to all those who have helped us get this off the ground, especially Totnes and Bridgetown Races Company Ltd, whose generous £10.000 will also boost race sponsorship in these difficult times.”

corneliusracing.com

Financial Support packaged Launched for Devon & Cornwall Point-To-Points

Totnes and Bridgetown Races Co. Ltd. is delighted to announce the launch of a special £10,000 financial support package to kick-start the 2020/2021 Point to Point season in the Devon and Cornwall area. 

The Company has long been associated with support for Westcountry Point to Pointing, and for next season the funding will be provided in addition to their existing sponsorship of four Hunter Chases and four Open races; including the prestigious Area Classic at Buckfastleigh, ‘The Westcountry Champion Chase’, with a purse of £1000.

The aim of the new support is to underpin Devon and Cornwall Point to Pointing at this difficult time, following the disappointment of the early abandonment of racing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A real consequence of this loss was the individual financial hardship with so many rural jobs reliant upon a successful horseracing industry. In addition the Hunts’ and Point to Point Committees faced unprecedented losses of their income derived from Point to Point meetings.

The Devon and Cornwall Point to Point Secretaries Association has worked extremely hard in conjunction with Totnes and Bridgetown Races Co Ltd director George Welch to produce a plan utilising the extra £10,000 to best effect. Race sponsorship has always been the Company’s core area of support, and again this will form the bulk of the new assistance with additional sponsorship of 12 x £500 races, spread right across the Devon and Cornwall area. Furthermore every Point to Point fixture will receive a grant to help offset the cost of providing contactless card readers for entrance gates, an additional requirement for racing in the ‘post covid’ environment.

 Finally, the support will extend to purchasing technical equipment to enable the provision of live streaming of racing through social media. This is an initiative which the area organisation is keen to explore with great potential to broaden the sports accessibility, marketing and even revenue earning for the future.

 The Devon & Cornwall Point-to-Point Secretaries Association Chairman Frank Yeo said, “On behalf of our 25 horse racing fixtures in Devon & Cornwall, we are fortunate to have this invaluable sponsorship from the Totnes and Bridgetown Races Company at this very challenging time during and post Covid 19. Our own Association and the Races Company has helped to create the opportunity to maintain the sponsorship of Open races for 12 fixtures and provide the option of using contactless card readers instead of cash. The Races Company foresight and financial support has also allowed the Area to develop live streaming of all the race meetings to be accessed by older and Covid-vulnerable racegoers direct to their mobile phone or TV, plus our sport access to many potentially new racing enthusiasts through social media and present our exciting sport to a much wider audience.”

Looking ahead to next season, plans are in place to run the inaugural Totnes and Bridgetown Point to Point at popular Flete Park, after last season’s plans were thwarted by the health crisis; this will be made possible by the generous support of the Flete Estate and the hard work of the Dartmoor Hunt Point to Point Committee. The Company’s share of the profits from the meeting will be donated in their entirety to the Devon and Cornwall Point to Point Area providing sustainable ongoing financial support year upon year.

Totnes and Bridgetown races can trace its history back to the 1780’s. The original Race Committee was superseded by the formation of a Limited Company in 1928, and although the last Totnes and Bridgetown race meeting took place at Totnes in 1938, the company continues to offer its generous support to this day.

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – TORRINGTON FARMERS

“The roar of the race-course died behind them, in front were their fates, they rode to find them….”

John Masefield, 1878 – 1967, poet laureate from 1930 – 1967

So that’s it then. A point-to-point season of two halves. It all started well in Devon & Cornwall with the opening of the new Dunsmore course on November 17th 2019. However after some exciting racing the final whistle was blown at Buckfastleigh in mid March, culminating in the loss of 15 area fixtures and of course the remainder of the British season.

This is the last of my personal reminiscences of days gone by, albeit presented as a rather tepid substitute for some of the lost meetings in the Devon & Cornwall area. The Torrington Farmers Hunt has traditionally brought down the curtain at their course at Chapelton Barton, Umberleigh for many years. My first visit to the course was in 1977 when the country was celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Here are my comments on one of the early Umberleigh meetings:-

10th June 1978 – Going Hard

HUNT

1 Black Ace (Andrew Congdon)
2 Courageous Kate (Penny Ogden)
3 High Brooks (A Milton)
3 ran; 2l; dist; 5m 18s SP 7-4

OPEN

1 Zingarella (Eddie Whettam)
2 Cefn Solomon (Paul Hamer)
3 Last Gesture (Richard Mann)
10 ran; 1/2l; 4l; 5m 4s SP 14-1

LADIES OPEN

1 Oakey Coakey (Jenny Hembrow)
2 Torrid (Miss A Allard)
3 Money Penny (Katie Halswell)
9 ran; neck; 2l; 5m 2s SP 5-4 fav

RESTRICTED OPEN

1 Lady Maxine (Ron Treloggen)
2 Petit Homme (Robert Alner)
3 Running Rose (R Hicks)
10 ran; 10l; dist; 5m 2s SP 6-4

ADJACENT HUNTS

1 Moorland Venture (Sue Reynard)
2 Mistic Code (Penny Ogden)
3 Zauditu (Martin Keenor)
3 ran; 8l; 1l; 5m 11s SP 4-5 fav

ADJACENT HUNTS MAIDEN

1 Kensal (Mike Williams)
2 Royal Bella (Stuart Kittow)
3 Golden Flyer (Jimmy Frost)
4 ran; 4l; 7l; 5m 14s SP 4-1

The Hunt race winner Black Ace improved steadily throughout the season. He ran on well here and survived a mistake at the last A tiny gelding by the Schweppes Gold Trophy winner Rosyth, Black Ace gave his owner / rider Andrew Congdon a lot of fun over the years. His daughter Jenny was to follow in his footsteps in this race in later years

Cefn Soloman, in the colours of popular Welsh owner Dilwyn Thomas, was all the rage for the Open after his recent solid effort in a Stratford hunter chase. He was out jumped at the last by the winner Zingarella and had to settle for the runner up spot despite rallying near the post. Eddie Whettam was a very good rider and his family owned mount Zingarella was a useful pointer who found the ground and short trip ideal.

Oakey Cokey owed his solitary win of the season in the Ladies’ to Jenny Hembrow’s jockeyship. Taunton based Jenny was one of the most stylish riders in those days and won this with a sharp race winning move on the blinkered gelding on the final circuit.

The grey mare Lady Maxine enjoyed a profitable season and was scoring for the third time in the Restricted under Ron Treloggen. As a brood mare in due course Lady Maxine produced another pointing winner called Maxine’s Lass. Runner up Petit Homme was a fair pointer in the same Newman colours which can still be seen today, but he was ill at ease on the hard ground.

The consistent mare Moorland Venture was odds on and made all for Sue Reynard in the Adjacents’ before Kensal (Mike Williams) upset the favourite Royal Bella in the Maiden after Misty Express had fallen three out. Kensal was owned by Maurice Maude, one of my press colleagues in those days, and of course the father of Chris Maude. I seem to recall that Maurice told me that Kensal was from the family of 1950 Grand National winner Freebooter, but the memory is less sharp than it was and Maurice passed on many years ago.

From a historical point of view, the Torrington Farmers raced at Cranford St Giles from 1950 until the final meeting there on 27th April 1960. Their 1961 fixture was lost due to foot and mouth disease, and the fixture moved to Horwood, near Bideford the next year, where a succession of late April evening meetings took place throughout the 1960’s. I would think that Horwood was the shortest point-to-point track in the country with times regularly under five minutes.

The 1970 meeting was held at Crimp, Morwenstone, but on 28th April 1971 the long association with Chapelton Barton, Umberleigh began with an evening meeting. Mike Trickey rode the first winner on Barber’s Piece and other successful riders on that night were Chris Popham, Carol Handel, Tony Hartnoll and Charles Micklem.

A significant event happened in 1975 when after a postponement from April 15th the meeting was re-arranged to become the final meeting of the season (on 7th June). At that meeting four times lady champion jockey Sue Aston rode a double on Perfidia and Golden Scot, beating seven pounds overweight Robert Waley-Cohen into second place in the Adjacent Restricted. Sue Aston was an exceptional talent, light years ahead of her time.

From that time in 1975 the Torrington Farmers has retained the June date, with end of season festivities becoming the norm. If I remember correctly, when I first went to Umberleigh the start was near the top of the steep hill on the far side and there was usually some arable ground. The race times in those days suggest that the course length was about two and a half miles. The midsummer date naturally brings variations in ground conditions, mainly very dry, but occasionally very soft. In later years the course has been aggravated when necessary to ease the going. To be honest, it is not the best viewing course and to get a fair view you have to move around the top of the hill, rather like at the old Tweseldown course. The atmosphere is however second to none and it makes you wish the season could go on.

It would take a book to describe the happenings in the past 49 years. Some of the random highlights include a ten-race card in 1983, the year when the course was lengthened to three miles, featuring wins for Cheekio Ora (ridden by four times champion Peter Greenall) and Frevolity (Janine Mills); a Gordon Edwards treble in 1984; a Polly Curling treble in 1993. The little gelding Tijuca gained five Hunt race wins up to 1993. You might be sure that I backed him on another occasion when he unseated with the race at his mercy.

A lot of horses came from far afield over the years to run at the finale and quite a few Umberleigh fixtures decided the National and Area jockeys’ awards. In 2002 Evan Williams took champion jockey status when his Open win on Bonny Boy was enough to take the title from Julian Pritchard by 38 to 37. I remember that year well because when we arrived at the local pub that night, the Rising Sun, the Welsh boys were still singing and had eaten all the food. We ended up with bags of crisps to accompany champagne. It rained all the way home.

I remember chatting in the changing tent with Peter Greenall on the day he retired, not knowing that his sons Oliver and Tom would pick up champion jockey titles in future years. They were all quite regular visitors to Umberleigh, followed in due course by Jake. Quite a family dynasty.
Polly Gundry, who won the Ladies’ title eight times, and the late Richard Woollacott, who won the Men’s title in 2010 were also successful at the course, but young Michael Heard stole the headlines with a treble in the first three races in 2011.

Recent champions Will Biddick and Gina Andrews farmed the titles in very recent years and it was good to see them in action at Umberleigh. Local riders Darren Edwards, Jo Supple and Millie Wonnacott all won area titles in the past few years and celebrated in style at the track.

We look forward to a fantastic double celebration at Umberleigh in June 2021 – 50 years since the beginning of racing there and hopefully the end of the dreadful virus. It should be quite a party.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

  • Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers, various years
  • The Pointer
  • Sporting Life
  • Sporting Chronicle
  • Michael Kutapan – Point-to-point History & Research, Jumping For Fun website

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

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – EXMOOR

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:

Going Firm

HUNT

1 Credit That (Fred Rawle)
2 Heather Loch (Mrs P Johnson)
3 White Man (Gordon Edwards)
5 ran; 10l; 3l; 6m 8s

ADJACENT HUNTS’

1 Jim Hardy (Jenny Hembrow)
2 Epaulonia (Capt Brian Fanshawe)
3 Culmleigh Heath (Martin Sweetland)
6 ran; 4l; 1/2l; 6m 13s

OPEN

1 Cass (Kevin Bishop)
2 Moorland Venture (N Lethbridge)
3 Doctor Fred (Aubrey Fuller)
14 ran; 15l; 1l; 5m 53s

LADIES OPEN

1 Marshalsland (Fay Geddes)
2 Knockabitoff (Pip Fisher)
3 Orient War (Terri Pattemore)
12ran; 12l; 3l; 5m 48s

ADJACENT HUNTS’

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.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  • 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

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – SOUTH TETCOTT

“Life moves forward. The old leaves wither, die and fall away, and the new growth extends forward into the light.

Bryant McGill, American author, “Voice of Reason

I was looking forward to the South Tetcott Spring Bank Holiday Monday fixture at Upcott Cross, but it was not to be this year. The point-to-point has settled there alongside the Eggesford since 2006, but it had been a moveable feast since the war. Here is a short description of its history.

The early South Tetcott meetings were held jointly with the Tetcott. From March 1924 the venue was Affaland Moor near Holsworthy, and this arrangement continued until the 1939 season. The star West Country horse in the early 1930’s was Mr Snip, an outstanding banking horse, bred by his owner Mr C T Nixon in North Devon. He won 0ver 20 races, including at this fixture each year from 1933 to 1936. Main Doctor was another good horse in the area and won at this fixture in 1937, 1938 and 1939 and remarkably went on to win three open nomination races in 1946.The leading West Country rider at that time was Mr F W B Smyth.

Joint meetings continued after the war, but from the fixture on 28th March 1946 until 1954 the fixture was held at Marhamchurch near Bude. The two point-to-points went their separate ways in 1955 when the Tetcott raced at Bradworthy on 17th March, and the South Tetcott went to Ashbury two weeks later.

This arrangement continued until foot and mouth led to cancelled fixtures in 1961, but the South Tetcott reverted to Ashbury, near Hatherleigh, in 1962 when that popular gelding Grand Morn II (R Bloomfield) won the Open. He went on to win the Cheltenham Foxhunter the following year. In those days it was run over the proper distance of four miles.

The 1963 meeting was lost due to the heavy snowfall that winter, and from then on several disruptions affected the fixture. In 1964 the venue was Kilworthy, but no fixtures were held after that until a new course at Beara Court, Highampton, hosted their first evening meeting on May 22nd 1968. The hunt race was a walk over, but jockeys such as Walter Dennis, Sue Aston, Colonel C R Spencer and Fred Rawle were amongst the winners.

The official times at the evening fixture at Highampton on May 21st 1969 reflected the shortness of the course. The Ladies’ Open went to Honey Ruff and Mrs K Huntley-Jones in 4mins 30 secs. The going was heavy ! Either the horses were Gold Cup standard or the track was very much shorter than the traditional three miles. I think it was the latter.

One of the leading point-to-pointers in the country won the Open Novice race there in 1970 which was sponsored by the Sale and Mackenzie annual. This was the Ledbury six-year-old Priceless Clown who won six times that year. Mrs Gaze’s gelding was ridden by Henry Oliver, and beat title seeking David Turner on Master Vesuvius that night in 4 mins 58 secs.

No fixtures were held between 1972 and 1984, but on Spring Bank Holiday Monday 1985 a new course was unveiled at Ashwater. This re-instituted fixture was originally scheduled for Grand National day but was washed out. The re-arrangement almost suffered the same fate but just survived the heavy rain. Ashwater was a narrow, rectangular course. I was there that day and remember backing Chris Down’s mount Pembridge in the last to give him a treble. The mare was pipped on the post and I got wet through. It was a funny little track and not the easiest for spectators. It was often beset with late season hard going, and only lasted until 1992.

More bad luck awaited in 1993 when a move to Jay’s Farm, Lifton was thwarted by waterlogging. This was quite a nice location on land owned by the Cornish comedian Jethro (who is still going strong because I went to his show at the Electric Palace, Bridport, six months ago, but that is not really relevant here). Jethro owned one or two pointers in those days. The hunt raced at Lifton until the move to the Upcott Cross course in 2006. This venue, shared with the Eggesford, is more of a stayers track and has permanent facilities. It is superbly maintained by the owners Ken and John Heard, who are great supporters of point-to-pointing.

The South Tetcott meeting for this week’s reminiscence is their first to take place at Lifton in 1994.

SOUTH TETCOTT AT LIFTON 30TH MAY 1994

Going: Good

HUNT

1 Royal Effigy (Richard Cole)

2 Catundra (David Jones)

3 Handsome Deb (Mrs C Isaac)

4 ran; dist; dist; 6m 25s SP 4-6 fav

OPEN

1 The Blue Boy (Damien Duggan)

2 Bluechipenterprise (Richard Darke)

3 Olveston (George Turner)

4 ran; dist; dist; 6m 4s SP evens fav

LADIES’ OPEN

1 Curraheen Lad (Tracey Brown)

2 Timber Tool (Alison Dare)

3 Sweet on Willie (Mandy Turner)

11 ran; 2l; 2l; 6m 6s SP 4-1

CONFINED

1 Buckingham Band (George Turner)

2 Bayford Energy (Ian Widdicombe)

3 Pharoah Blue (Claire Wonnacott)

15 ran; 5l; 6l; 6m 10s SP 2-1

INTERMEDIATE

1 Columcille (Richard White)

2 Beinn Mohr (Mandy Turner)

3 Anjubi (Stephen Slade)

9 ran; 3l; 4l; 6m 10s SP 4-1

OPEN MAIDEN

1 Sunwind (David Heath)

2 Aristocratic Gold (Mandy Turner)

3 Double Light (S Trotman)

14 ran; 3l; dist; 6m 23s SP 8-1

The Hunt race winner Royal Effigy was basically a non-stayer and found a weak opportunity here.

Damien Duggan was chasing the title that year. He formed a consistent partnership with the Peter Bowen trained The Blue Boy who had been a speedy hurdler for Martin Pipe and was now making hay as a pointer. Duggan failed by one to overtake Nick Bloom for the title. Bluechipenterprise had won his last three races for Richard Darke, but was readily outpaced here.

The Pembrokeshire gelding Timber Tool was a prolific pointing winner and was all the rage for a good Ladies’ Open with five times champion jockey Alison Dare in the saddle. This time however the favourite had to give best to the Edward Retter trained Curraheen Lad. The winner had shown good form with recent wins at both Flete Park meetings with Tracey Brown in the saddle. This time Tracey pounced entering the home straight to win going away.

George Turner, then 58 years old, was on his way to lifting the area title with 14 successes. Six-year-old Buckingham Band, stabled with his daughter Pauline Geering provided four of his winners although he was not the most fluent of jumpers. On this occasion Buckingham Band stayed on strongly to hold the sustained challenge of Bayford Energy and Ian Widdicombe.

Columcille was completing her seasonal hat trick in the Intermediate. I am old enough to remember her dam winning for Robert Alner (called Damside). By this time Harry Wellstead held the pointing licence for the yard and Columcille was the mount of Richard (Johnson) White, now a long standing part of the Philip Hobbs yard.

Owner-rider David Heath enjoyed his first winner on the well backed Sunwind (14’s to 8’s) in the Maiden where only four of the 14 runners finished.

ACKNOWLEGMENTS

  • Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers, Mackenzie & Selby, various years
  • The Continuing Story of Point-to-Point Racing, Michael Williams
  • Point-to-point Calendar, Arthur W Coaten, various years
  • The Pointer
  • Michael Kutapan – Point-to-point History & Research, Jumping For Fun website

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – DULVERTON WEST

In recent years the Dulverton West fixture has been one of three late season meetings held at Bratton Down, with its moorland turf, unpredictable climate and panoramic views across high Exmoor.

I always think that when the first Bratton Down meeting takes place it signals that we are reaching the final chapter of the season. Unfortunately this season the last rites were administered as early as March 15th at Buckfastleigh.

My first visit to Bratton Down was on June 4th 1977 when the ground was officially hard and runners were scarce. There have been warm, sunnier days since then, although heavy rain once forced abandonment after four races and a few years ago wind and driving rain forced the bookmakers to conduct business in a tiny tent. It was like getting the SP’s in a rugby scrum.

From a historical point of view, the original Dulverton Hunt was formed in 1875 when Lord Portsmouth handed over the country to Mr J Froude Bellew, squire of Anstey. The first record I have of a Dulverton Hunt point-to-point meeting is on 17th April 1925 at Anstey Common. Subsequent Dulverton meetings took place mainly at Anstey Common until the 1939-45 world war.

After the war the hunt was divided into the Dulverton East and the Dulverton West. Their first joint point-to-point fixture was held on 16th April 1947 at Venford, West Anstey. This arrangement continued until their last joint meeting there on April 18th 1959.

The Dulverton East continued to race at Venford until 1983, but on April 23rd 1960 (60 years ago) the Dulverton West started their long association with Bratton Down.

I cannot resist a few lines about the course at Venford. I started to go there in the late 1970’s. It had a character all its own. My memory recalls it as like racing round the shape of a frying pan until the later years, when a slightly different layout was tried. A real jockeys course, tight bends, sharp, left-handed, undulating, adverse camber in places. Quite a few incidents took place on the bends at the bottom part of the track. The going tended to be on the quick side. I suppose it had a resemblance to the defunct Alexandra Park, except the London track was the opposite way round.

In 1984 the Dulverton East moved to Mounsey Hill Gate. This place was the forerunner of racing behind closed doors. It was hopeless for spectators as much of the action could not be seen – Mackenzie & Selby’s 1988 annual is rather dismissive: ”seemed to have been originally designed specifically to make racing invisible…” About the only personal positive memory I can relate is that it was a nice journey via Wheddon Cross which sometimes took in nearby Tarr Steps from my home in Somerset.

Racing ceased there in 2007 when the point-to-point moved to Treborough Hill, which was a little more user friendly for the paying public on the Brendon Hills with views of the Bristol Channel. In 2002 the hunt’s name was changed to the Dulverton Farmers, and they raced at Treborough until it closed in 2014. One of my memories of that course was when racing was snowed off after four races in 2013.

This year’s aborted Dulverton West fixture had been scheduled for 17th May at Bratton Down. My reminiscence covers the 1989 fixture:-

DULVERTON WEST AT BRATTON DOWN 20TH MAY 1989

Going: Firm

HUNT

1 Raid Hope (Ian Widdicombe)
2 Mr Bigwig (Linda Blackford)
3 ran; only two finished; won by a distance; SP 11-10

LADIES’ OPEN

1 For A Lark (Mandy Turner)
2 Gerry Doyle (Julie Barrow)
3 My Mellow Man (Jenny Litston)
9 ran; 12l; 8l; 5m 58s; SP 4-5 fav

OPEN

1 And Theres More (Justin Farthing)
2 Bishopric (George Turner)
3 Rashleigh Boy (Ian Widdicombe)
10 ran; 5l; 2l; 6m 3s SP 10-11 fav

PPOA MEMBERS

1 Otabari (Justin Farthing)
2 Oak Lodge (Robert Alner)
3 Rate of Exchange (Ron Treloggen)
10 ran; 1/2l; dist; 5m 59s SP 5-4 fav

ADJACENT HUNTS

1 Admiral Benbow (Gordon Edwards)
2 River Culm (Chris Down)
3 Eagle Tavern (Philip Rawle)
8 ran; short head; 1/2l; 6m 9s SP 10-11 fav

ADJACENT RESTRICTED

1 Flodabay (Paul Hosgood)
2 Master Tuesday (Chris Down)
3 Isle Ornay (Linda Blackford)
20 ran; 1l; 2l; 6m 5s SP 25-1

Hunt race winner Raid Hope was quite useful in his day for owner Jenny Hayes, but was now at the veteran stage. His jockey Ian Widdicombe was enjoying his best season with nine winners. The favourite Golden Cargo lost his rider Tony Hill at the first.

The Ladies’ open was a cracker. The winner For A Lark was a legend in the Devon & Cornwall area and was in the form of his life. His owner / trainer, the late John Weldhen, bought him off the flat for 1300 guineas and he was about to be crowned Grand Marnier champion with 10 wins in 1989. Mandy Turner picked up the ride when Janine Mills was injured in March and went on to secure her fourth area Ladies’ title that year. The runner up Gerry Doyle was also a top class pointer in the colours of his Dorset based trainer Richard Barber who sadly died last June. Richard saddled his final winner, Whataknight, at Bratton Down in 2015. Out of the hundreds of the pointing winners he handled, he rated Gerry Doyle as one of his best. The talented Julie Barrow was in the saddle on this occasion. Jenny Litston, who rode third placed My Mellow Man for her father was another top class lady jockey who had won the national title in 1988. Her career was tragically cut short in a Larkhill fall in 1993

Justin Farthing was one of the strongest riders of the day. He rode 124 winners during his career, and became national champion in 1991. His double at the Dulverton West was initiated when Open winner And Theres More won his fifth successive race of the season from Keith Cumings’ yard. Most of Justin’s winners came for Richard Barber though, and the PPOA members’ winner Otabari was one of these. This sturdy chestnut had won the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot earlier in his career.

Admiral Benbow was a Bratton Down specialist and showed plenty of guts up the finishing hill to deny River Culm and Eagle Tavern after the latter pair had jumped the last in front together in the Adjacents’. Gordon Edwards, father of current Devon & Cornwall area champion Darren Edwards, was Admiral Benbow’s regular jockey.

The Adjacent Restricted winner Flodabay was a big, strong type, owned and trained by Gordon Chambers, and was one of jockey Paul Hosgood’s ten winners that season. After four successive jollys had gone in it was time for an outsider and the lightly raced Flodabay popped up at 25-1. To be fair, he was probably a lucky winner because runner up Master Tuesday had lost a lot of ground when nearly falling at the last ditch and was closing again at the finish.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  • Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers – MacKenzie & Selby – various years
  • Horse & Hound Year Book – various years
  • The Pointer
  • Baily’s Hunting Directory 1934
  • Michael Kutapan – Point-to-point History & Research, Jumping For Fun website
  • Point-to-Point Calendar 1933 – 1938– Arthur W Coaten

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – EGGESFORD

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.….”

A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens 1812-1870

The first record I have of an Eggesford point-to-point shows a fixture at Loosenden Cross on 10th April 1923. After three years at that location the meeting moved to Bishopsleigh for five seasons. This was not the same as the Bishopsleigh course used from the 1960’s.

From 1931 until 1935 the fixture was held at Pudson near Okehampton, before moving to a more settled venue at Sticklepath, also near Okehampton, until that course was closed after the 1955 meeting. The next few years saw the point-to-point at Loosebeare near Crediton, but cancellations in 1961 due to foot and mouth disease, and again in 1963 when it was waterlogged spelt the end of that track.

It was on to Bishopsleigh, near Crediton in 1964 until the last fixture there in April 2000. A brief sojourn at Lifton followed until the move to today’s venue at Upcott Cross in 2006. Keen pointing followers Ken and John Heard ensure their course is maintained to the highest standards.

The star rider in Devon in the 1930’s was Mr E Hocking. His six winners in 1937 put him joint second in the country that year. He rode several winners at the Eggesford meetings in the 1930’s, including a treble on the five-race card in 1938. Two of those three wins came on the same mare, Gipsy Queen II. Not content with a five lengths win in the four runner opening Hunt race, two races later the pair won the Farmers’ race from five opponents. Mr Hocking’s hat trick was achieved in the Adjacents’ Maiden on Ever Ready. Gipsy Queen II also won a race at the 1939 meeting.

Various joint meetings were held between 1946 and 1951 at Sticklepath. These included joining up on occasions with the Tiverton Staghounds, Hatherleigh Harriers and Mid Devon.

From a personal point of view I enjoyed the rural atmosphere of Bishopsleigh, although it took a bit of finding in the countryside, a few miles from Crediton. It was never the easiest for viewing. I remember a field of plough at the top part of the left handed course which was furthest from the eye. In the late 1980’s the track was re-designed minus the plough, the layout was changed with trees in the way which virtually ruined any chance of proper race reading.

I hope that my friend Jimmy Frost will forgive me for revealing the following , but my over-riding memory of Bishopsleigh concerns a race he won there in 1982. The results will show that Tudor Era won the Restricted Open, but here is the true story behind that result. A horse called Boston Lights finished first with Jimmy’s mount Tudor Era, carrying my bet, chasing her home, but Boston Lights and her rider Mrs Cathy Hamilton had gone the wrong side of a marker on the top bend. In the winner’s enclosure I remember telling Jimmy that I had seen the “winner” miss a marker and he said he was aware of it. “Are you going to object,” I said to him with monetary greed obviously in mind. “Yes, but I need 15 quid to lodge it and I haven’t got any money on me,” was the gist of his reply. So I rustled together the requisite 15 pound notes and stuffed them in his hands. Objection duly lodged – one of the stewards then confirmed that Boston Lights had indeed dodged inside a marker and the result was changed. So in the end Jimmy and Tudor Era got the race, I collected from the bookies and our “deposit” was returned.

The spotlight this week is on the 1987 meeting at Bishopsleigh, run just before a lengthy dry spell saw firm and hard ground setting in.

EGGESFORD AT BISHOPSLEIGH EASTER MONDAY 20 APRIL 1987

Going: Good

HUNT

1 Cal Mal (Philip Scholfield)
2 Jackotino (Biddy Peck)
3 Tharus O’Riley (Hugh Trerise)
5 ran; 4l; 4l; 7m 10s SP 3-1

LADIES’ OPEN

1 Stoneyard (Linda Delve)
2 Les Dancer (Tracy Westcott)
3 Easy Steed (Melanie Ranger)
8 ran; 6l; 4l; 6m 44s

ADJACENT HUNTS’

1 Akarakil (Kelvin Heard)
2 Champagne Bar (Philip Scholfield)
3 Plain Henry (Chris Boumphrey)
7 ran; 5l; dist; 7m 2s; SP 6-1

RESTRICTED OPEN

1 River Culm (Chris Down)
2 Tudor Mark (Sara Luxton)
3 Dusky Heart (Gerald Penfold)
4 ran; 4l; dist; 7m 0s SP 1-3 fav

MEN’S OPEN

1 Golden Link (Philip Scholfield)
2 Lavernia (Chris Down)
3 Ankus (Oliver Harvey)
6 ran; 1l; 2l; 7m 0s; SP 4-6 fav

ADJACENT HUNTS’ MAIDEN

1 Barton Boy (Philip Scholfield)
2 Samantha Whiskers (P J Austin)
3 Meadow Lad (M R Williams)
14 ran; 20l; 2l; 6m, 59s; SP 3-1

The winner and runner up in the Hunt race were both owned by Ken Dunn who was then one of the leading owners in the area. He provided Philip with many of his 18 winners in 1987 enabling him to finish runner up behind Mike Felton for the National title that year, and to claim the title with 37 winners the following year. Cal Mal was very useful on good ground and went on to land the £4,500 Land Rover Champion hunter chase at Chepstow later that season.

The Ladies’ winner Stoneyard was by a very good sire in those days called The Parson. Her original owner, the late Gerald Probert, was an estate agent in Somerset and Devon, and used to source his pointers from Ireland. One of his purchases was Queen Beyan who had landed something of a coup at Garthorpe in Leicestershire 1986 after a below par run at the South Tetcott a few days before – but that is a story for another day. Stoneyard was not the most reliable mare but was following up her win in the Tiverton Stag Ladies’ Open at Bishopsleigh three weeks previously with Linda Delve in the saddle. She was left clear here when Reuben Dewy ran out at the third last.

Two refusers and a faller altered the shape of the seven-runner Adjacents’ at the sixth fence. Champagne Bar looked the winner at the third last, but was readily outstayed by Akarakil and Kelvin Heard in the closing stages. The favourite Plain Henry was a good stayer but failed to sparkle here.

The Restricted was a modest affair won by River Culm. This home bred mare gave Chris Down his 100th winner as she shook off the challenge of Tudor Mark in the closing stages. Third placed Dusky Heart lost touch after a bad mistake at the 13th fence. I noticed when researching the 1930’s that Chris’s father Norman rode a few winners, including at the Eggesford in 1934

There are two things in particular I recall about the Men’s Open winner Golden Link, who was owned by regular pointing follower John Symes. The first was when he opened his account in a good Adjacent on only his second start as a five-year-old at the old Taunton Vale course of Jordans, Ilminster, (drop fences, poor viewing) ridden by Bob Buckler at 20-1. (why bother with Maiden races….). The second was seeing him win a Leicester hunter chase a few years later – only 3-1 that day. To be honest, I don’t remember much about this Eggesford race. A bright chestnut, he was a really strong stayer and the form book shows he was all out to beat Chris Down’s mount Lavernia. Third placed Ankus was a veteran ex-chaser acting as a schoolmaster for Oliver Harvey, brother of Luke.

Philip Scholfield rode Golden Link to add to his win on Cal Mal, and his good run of form continued when he won the concluding 14-runner Maiden on Barton Boy for Ken Dunn. This time he was lucky because the favourite Tudor Mile had the race sewn up with a five lengths advantage when losing his rider at the last. That was Bishopsleigh for you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  • MacKenzie & Phillips  / Mackenzie & Selby – various years
  • Point to point calendars 1933 -1939= Arthur W Coaten
  • Horse & Hound Year Book – various years
  • The Continuing Story of Point-to-Point racing- Michael Williams
  • The Pointer
  • Michael Kutapan – History & research Jumping for Fun website

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

GRANVILLE’S REMINISCENCES – AXE VALE HARRIERS

“The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.”

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – William Shakespeare

There is something special about the Axe Vale Harriers point-to-point at Stafford Cross. This pleasant compact course has a garden party atmosphere, and often attracts good class horses.

The first ever fixture organised by the Axe Vale Harriers was held on
Thursday 24th April 1947 on a course across the main road (A3052) from today’s venue. From 1950 until 1993 the fixture was held on Wednesday’s. The switch to the current Stafford Cross course, much flatter and sharper than its predecessor, took place in 1966.

I must admit that I preferred the Wednesday meetings which always seemed to attract big crowds and runners from outside the area. East Anglian raiders David and Josephine Turner were regular visitors as they gathered winners towards their numerous National riders’ titles in the 1970’s on pointers trained by their father Joe Turner.

Another long distance traveller was Graham Pidgeon who sent horses from his Northamptonshire yard and would back them fearlessly. His daughter Jenny collected four national lady jockeys’ titles in the 1980’s.

I remember Robert Alner riding three winners at the final mid week meeting. Also, leading trainer Richard Barber, who regularly saddled a clutch of winners at the Axe Vale over the years, including five in 1995 which were all ridden by Polly Curling. Sadly both Robert and Richard have passed away in the last few months.

There are too many horses to mention, but a regular was locally trained Culmleigh Padre who seemed to run every year and won the Members’ as a 17-year-old, ridden by Martin Sweetland, about the same age as his mount

My short trip to Stafford Cross each year always brings a few things to mind if you will forgive a few personal anecdotes. My memory insists that racing invariably took place on sunny and warm April afternoons. In practice it was not always so. I cannot recall the exact year, but it poured with rain and deep pools of water gathered outside the paddock. In those days I used a mini tape recorder for my race reading job. When I got home and tried to replay the tape it was so soggy it wouldn’t work. For me one of the worst things that can happen is to find all your vital information literally down the drain.

Another weather related incident came in 1985 when thick fog descended on the course, which is only a few miles from the coast. Once again it was a race reading nightmare, but on this occasion I “sprinted” across the course from one side to the other four times to get a view of the action and pick up what I could see. What a relief when the meeting was called off after Tabitha Cave had won the fourth race on Ballytartar. Nowadays I use a more reliable digital recorder, but my days of athleticism are a thing of the past.

The 1989 fixture will always be remembered for a major betting coup at this little country track which would not have been out of place in a Dick Francis novel. The Welsh trained Open winner Katesville, with no recent form to his name, “landed a punt of astronomical proportions from 25’s to sixes” relates the form book. Bookmakers were said to have been stung for over £25,000. Suffice to say an air of suspicion and gossip hung in the air for the rest of the afternoon as Katesville’s horse box plus connections whisked themselves away. The winner’s registered pedigree was later amended.

RESULTS

AXE VALE HARRIERS AT STAFFORD CROSS

WEDNESDAY APRIL 29TH 1981 Going Good

HUNT

1 Sinsinawa VI (Michael Williams)

2 Roman Lily (Chris Down)

3 Culmleigh Padre (B Stevenson) SP evens fav

4 ran; 6l;12l; 6m 32s; SP 1-3 fav

ADJACENT HUNTS’

1 Piping Reed (Michael Williams)

2 Romany Heath (Eddie Whettam)

3 Smart Kid (Nigel Dunn)

8 ran; 5l; 10l; 6m 9s SP evens fav

OPEN

1 Spider Legs (Grant Cann)

2 Grey Granite (J Bishop)

3 Macturk (Tony Harris)

9 ran; 12l; 6l; 6m 10s SP 3-1

LADIES’ OPEN

1 Withen Wood (Rosemary White)

2 Kara Pops (Miss J Woodhouse)

3 Decoy (Janine Mills)

8 ran; 8l; 6l; 6m 6s; SP 11-10 fav

ADJACENT HUNTS’ RESTRICTED

1 Hewish Rocket (Robert Alner)

2 Culm Port (Chris Down)

3 Polly Bird (Eddie Whettam)

11 ran; 4l; neck; 6m 14s; SP 6-4 fav

RESTRICTED OPEN

1 Fire Port (Peter Hobbs)

2 Ali’s Chandy (Jimmy Frost)

3 Sulimnos (Robert Alner)

11 ran; 2l; 4l; 6m 13s; SP 3-1

The Hunt race winner Sinsinawa VI was a genuine mare who won seven races in her career. She was owned and trained by Martin Salter who farmed the land at Stafford Cross. He quickly completed a double when Piping Reed won the Adjacents Hunts’ race, each ridden by Michael Williams. Sinsinawa was in top form in 1981 and had little difficulty here when coming clear of Roman Lilly in the home straight. Stewart Pike’s Roman Lilly subsequently foaled a very good horse called Proud Sun. Culmleigh Padre lost touch down the back straight. He fared better winning this race eight years later.

Piping Reed was a consistent gelding in his grade and won four times in 1981. He finished with his usual flourish to beat Romany Heath who was in touch until the final bend. Smart Kid was not an easy ride but gave useful experience to his rider Nigel Dunn.

Grant Cann was one of the most successful riders of his generation. He rode his first winner (Chancellor) at the Mid Devon when they raced at Moretonhampstead in 1961. When he eventually retired he had a total of 217 winners to his name. Ten of those winners came in 1981, including three on the easy Axe Vale Open winner Spider Legs. Runner up Grey Granite was a proficient jumper but lacked pace. Macturk was left a moderate third when Just Fay departed at the last. He ran in the colours of Roger Penny whose good jumpers in later years included dual Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Earthmover.

Withen Wood was one of a string of successful pointers bred by owner/trainer Raymond Winslade. This big gelding started the season as a maiden and ended it with four wins. On this occasion he was ridden by Rosemary White, who will be remembered for her association with the brilliant mare Horoscope. Kara Pops was a good horse for the Turner’s in his day, but he acted as a schoolmaster now. John Lister’s Decoy was outclassed here despite the assistance of Janine Mills.

Three of the top riders in the area filled the places in the Adjacent Restricted. Robert Alner’s mount Hewish Rocket might have been a lucky winner. Tula Lad was in front when he ran off the course into the spinney on the bend into the home straight (not the only horse I have seen taking this diversion). The eventual runner up Culm Port and Chris Down had won their Maiden at Bratton Down on the previous Saturday. She was a tail swisher, but utterly genuine and went on to win races under rules. Eddie Whettam was another fine rider and steered Polly Bird into third place. This mare was a thorough stayer, ill at ease on this sharp track.

I felt like running into the spinney myself after the last race. My nemesis was called Ali’s Chandy. Jimmy Frost was booked and I remember waiting patiently all afternoon for a decent bet in the Restricted. Although she was a bit wayward, she had run well in fair company at Ottery, and with blinkers now applied the joint editor of the Hunter Chasers and Point-to-Pointers annual and me needed little encouragement. I won’t bore readers any more, but you don’t get paid out on seconds…..the worthy winner was Fire Port ridden by Peter Hobbs.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  • Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers – MacKenzie & Phillips, MacKenzie & Selby – various years
  • The Pointer
  • Sporting Life