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.”
The Point-To-Point Authority have issued an updated newsletter details the latest processes and procedures that everyone will need to undertaken to access a Point-To-Point course whilst we are at level 4 status.
The Newsletter also unfortunately announces that our opening fixture, the East Devon Races fixture at Bishops Court on the 24th October will be run behind closed doors.
Included are updates on:
– Behind Closed Doors fixtures
Downloads linked from the Point-To-Point Authority Newsletter
Following a meeting on 16 July, the PPA Board has agreed that the proposed early season programme of point-to-points should go ahead.
The decision was not taken lightly, particularly as there are several factors which cannot as yet be fully quantified. However, on the balance of probability, given present progress at both national and sporting levels, and more specifically racing under Rules, it is believed that point to pointing will be able to start in October, hopefully on Saturday 24 at Bishops Court in East Devon.
The full provisional fixture list for 2020-21 (subject to BHA approval) can be downloaded here, but the following fixtures are planned for the early season:
24 Oct – East Devon at Bishops Court 25 Oct – Ledbury at Maisemore Park 1 Nov – Kimblewick at Kimble 8 Nov – The Wheatland at Chaddesley Corbett 15 Nov – South East Hunts Club at Charing 15 Nov – Dunsmore Racing Club at Dunsmore
The favourable response to the owner/trainer survey that was circulated earlier this month combined with the general progress made on Covid-19, and the possible losses to pointing if we did not make an early start, helped to make the PPA Board’s decision.
Of course, there may localised Covid-19 spikes between now and October, and indeed at any stage. To that end protocols have been written for the fixtures at varying levels at which they can be run, including racing behind closed doors. The sport emphatically does not wish to race without spectators, and we certainly hope we do not have to. However, it is important to plan for all eventualities and to provide opportunities for the sport’s participants, whilst ensuring it is financially viable for the fixture.
“How like a winter hath my absence been from thee….”
William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets
The East Devon lost their fixture at Bishop’s Court, Ottery St Mary on 1st March this year due to the very wet spell – and any hopes of a re-arrangement went the same way. They did not even get to the coronavirus season.
Point-to-points organised by the East Devon Hunt have had various homes over the years. I have a record of the 1933 meeting being held at Ottery St Mary, I guess not at the current track? From 1934 the old form books show the meeting varying between Clyst St Mary and Clyst Honiton. Quite a few familiar names graced those cards. The meeting on 15th April 1936 saw horses running in the Members’ ridden by Norman Down and Jack Cann (fathers of Chris and Grant respectively).
On 19th May 1951 the point-to-point book for that year shows the venue as Dunnabridge near Princetown, which was where Mr Spooner’ Harriers raced. I suspect this was a one-off postponement due to the wet spring that year.
The fixtures between 1965 and 1968 were held at Stafford Cross where the Axe Vale now race. On 12th April 1969 the races moved to Hayes Barton, Clyst Honiton, with Chris Down winning the opening hunt race on Candid Secret.
A left handed track that suited stayers, Clyst Honiton remained the East Devon’s home until the final fixture there in 1978. Bishops Court, Ottery St Mary hosted the action on Oliver Carter’s farm for the first time on April 4th 1979
If you will forgive a few personal memories, my first experience of the Clyst Honiton course was on Wednesday 3rd April 1975, having travelled on from the previous day’s busy meeting of the Heythrop at their excellent old Fox Farm track, near Stow-on-the-Wold. I had seen the promising amateur jockey Nicky Henderson (turned out to be a better trainer than a jockey) ride a winner called Road Race trained by Jenny Pitman at Fox Farm on that day. The Tuesday fixtures at Fox Farm were classics at that time, with the Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup over four miles the feature.
I had worked for David Coulton’s Pointer Form Guide (as I still do today) for a few seasons by then, as well as covering some meetings for the old Sporting Chronicle and the Sporting Life (Michael Williams). I also covered a few meetings for Horse and Hound (Hugh Condry) and was a regular contributor to Ray Gould’s short lived form book Hunterguide. My long association with the Hunter Chasers and Point-to-Pointers form book was in its early days, taking me to most of the Midlands tracks. At that time the book was under the editorship of Geoffrey Sale and Iain MacKenzie. If I remember correctly Charles Lockyer and Maurice Maude provided press coverage for the local point-to-points in Devon & Cornwall
The race card for that 1975 meeting of the East Devon stated that the meeting took place at Clyst Honiton by kind permission of the Church Commisioners. I cannot remember seeing any clergy on that day 45 years ago.
EAST DEVON at Clyst Honiton; 3rd April 1975; Going Good to soft
Looking back now, this meeting attracted some of the best horses and jockeys of the era. We didn’t realise it then, but a future Whitbread Gold Cup winner was on show that day. Otter Way, in Oliver Carter’s familiar white with red hooped sleeves, was a top class point-to-pointer and hunter chaser who went on to win the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown in 1976 ridden by Jeff King. Otter Way also won the Horse and Hound Cup at Stratford twice. Grant Cann rode him in 1976 and he won that same race again in 1982 with A J Wilson in the saddle.
He must have been a certainty for the East Devon Moderate race in 1974! The runner up on that occasion was Faberstown (Ray Alford), who was a consistent pointer and unlucky not to beat Otter Way after making a bad mistake three out. Wentworth Treasure ran his usual game race to finish third, just ahead of the useful mare Lady Christine.
The Men’s Open winner Rich Rose was a top class pointer who won 18 times in all for his owner/ trainer Max Churches. He had expert assistance from the saddle in two-times champion point-to-point rider Richard Miller. He was all out to beat the ill fated Ben Dene. Weather Permitting was well held in third under Ron Hodges, but went on to give his owner/trainer Martin Pipe his sole success in the saddle at Bishopsleigh the following year.
Galloway Fabulous turned out to be one of the most reliable and consistent Ladies’ pointers of the decade. He was described in the annual as “ultra game, a fine jumper and almost invincible in Ladies’ class.” Mr Reddaway’s gelding eventually retired with a total of 30 wins and 24 places to his credit (including a hunter chase). He won six races at 13. Beaumel was in the twilight of his career having won 22 races from 1967 onwards. He was a fine jumper and stayer. Dialstone ran his best race of the season and had every chance until weakening at the last.
Fracto Nimbus won the Hunt race unchallenged given an enterprising ride by Chris Down, who went on to finish runner up on Capelena in the concluding Maiden. That Maiden race was won in a desperate finish by Martin Pipe’s Clock Corner ridden by a young Ron Treloggen. The winner was written up perhaps unfairly as, “Ungenuine and made heavy weather of winning at the 43rd attempt”. John Cork’s Capelena was however the future star. She was a small mare who relished soft ground and long trips. I remember seeing her win over four miles at the Cheltenham hunter chase evening meeting a couple of years later, and she subsequently bred good winners including Elver Season. Frank Ryall’s mount In Again, who was third, was owned by my dear friend, the late Peter Wakeham, who will be known to many for his commentaries in the area for many years.
I drive past Exeter Airport on the A30 on my way to Devon & Cornwall meetings nowadays. I often think back to that day nearly half a century ago, a memorable afternoon on a long since abandoned point-to-point course nestling in the fields just behind the airport.
This is a formal announcement to confirm that the British point-to-point season is closed for this season.
This was a very difficult decision to make recognising that many people’s livelihoods are involved. However, the Prime Minister’s words last night made clear that everyone should minimise social contact and non-essential travel. Furthermore, our sport creates some medical burden, both on the course and potentially at the hospitals, where it would be unwelcome under the current circumstances.
The PPA would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has worked so hard to keep this season going so successfully until now, often under very trying circumstances. We will now be working on preparations to ensure that we start next autumn in the same successful manner as last, and will soon be in touch with many of you for your thoughts and ideas.
After two days of heavy rain and a forecast of more rain to come, a course inspection has been carried out on Friday 28th February, Reluctantly it has be decided to further postpone the
rearranged Point to Point meeting at Bishops Court on the 7th March and the East Devon is seeking a new date.
Unfortunately, following an inspection at Bishops Court it was unanimously agreed that the ground conditions meant that it would still be unraceable next weekend (1st March). Therefore the following new dates have been agreed subject to conditions and new officials being found:
Saturday 7th March East Devon at Bishops Court. Entries will open at normal time for that weekend (up until Monday 2nd March)
Sunday 8th March East Cornwall at Great Trethew. Entries will stand
Subject to conditions and new officials being found
A thoroughly wet and windy day at Ottery failed to spoil the entertainment, with plenty of faces willing to take on the layers. I suspect the bookies went home with more soggy fivers than the punters
The best horse on show was the useful hunter chaser Caid du Berlais (1-3 to 1-4) who was having his prep run for the Cheltenham Foxhunters. He had little difficulty in disposing of his eight opponents. They went 7-1 bar the favourite, who was having his first run since winning a Punchestown hunter chase last April. Will Biddick reached a career landmark of riding 400 pointing winners on the Rose Loxton trained gelding, already well backed ante-post for Cheltenham this year.
The day had started with a setback for Biddick followers when Crown of Thorns (evens to 4-7 fav) had to give best to Wind Tor (2-1) in the Hunt race. The pair raced locked together from the spinney until Josh Newman just got the better of the battle on Wind Tor inside the last 100 yards. Raddon Top (solid 100-30) was a bit disappointing in fourth, but this was a high class event for this level.
The Lacey yard introduced another expensive purchase in the 14-runner younger horses Maiden. The dogs had been barking, as they do for every Lacey four-year-old, as Ramillies (6-4 fav), drew right away in the home straight. A Tipple or Two (12-1) ran well to finish runner-up and should easily win a Maiden. Sylvies Dance (6-1) showed promise on her debut in third, her dam was the excellent Kiama. There had been money for Tom Malone’s Thestopperdunne (5’s in a place to 2’s) who faded to finish fifth.
I calculated that In Arrears (4’s in a place to 3’s) was a good bet in the Intermediate. She didn’t let me down after a canny Darren Edwards waiting ride, but Awesome Tunes (10-1) was upsides at the last and finished a creditable second for the Ed Walker yard under Danny Burton. This was a decent Intermediate with the consistent Bridge of Spies (3-1) holding every chance until fading after a mistake at the penultimate. The well backed Emperor Renard (4’s to 6-4 fav) was never really in the race.
Money was flying round the betting ring – literally as the storm with a stupid name saw fivers and tenners flying about in the gale. Not surprisingly I lacked the speed or agility to join in the commotion.
Dicky Bob (4-6 to 4-5 fav) jumped in his usual good style to win the Novice Riders’ with young Thomasina Eyston in the saddle. Second favourite, the ex-Philip Hobbs 135 rated hurdler Hello George (5’s to 3’s), was virtually knocked out of the race though by a loose horse after a circuit. “Mon Dieu” shouted a shocked French jockey Nathan Vergne (or words to that effect), as his mount was shunted off the track. He got back into the race to finish fourth.
Pistol Shoot’s recent form prior to his Restricted run was uninspiring to say the least – a string of letters to his name- so 20-1 seemed a bit mean. He is in good hands however and proved too good for his 14 opponents under Darren Edwards. Gerties Garter (6-1) would have been closer but for a last fence blunder, and third placed Dragon de la Tour (12’s to 10’s) deserves reward for consistency
Then some less than exciting news for us soaked to the skin mortals – one over the safety factor of 17 so the last race was divided. My wet notebook shows that the ex-Gigginstown Soul Kaliber (6-1) gave Darren Edwards a treble in the first section. He was left clear thanks to the last fence blunder of Where’s Wilma (9-4 to evens fav).
In fact the bookies were on the retreat by the end of the afternoon – only four just men left for the getting out stakes –ironically with clearing skies A good round of jumping saw Manofmanywords (3’s to 4-5 fav in a weak market) beat the only other finisher Princess Annabelle (14-1)
Sunday 10th March 2019 Blackmore and Sparkford Vale
“The stormy March has come at last with windy and cloudy and changing skies”
William C Bryant, poet, 1794-1878
Whoever that storm goddess Freya was, we don’t want to see her again. The well predicted wet and windy weather came on cue, but failed to dampen the spirits at Ottery.
Darren Edwards landed a treble at the East Devon fixture at Bishop’s Court, near Ottery St Mary on Sunday (March 3). The meeting also saw Will Biddick reach a personal landmark of 400 point-to-point winners.
Will Biddick’s achievement came as Caid du Berlais strolled home well ahead of his eight rivals in the Mixed Open. “That hopefully puts him spot on for the Cheltenham Foxhunter, but it was plenty soft enough today. It was great to get a run into him,” said trainer Rose Loxton, whose charge was having his first race since winning a valuable Punchestown hunter chase under Biddick last April. The Cornishman summed up his performance in the Ottery mud in one word, “easy”, adding that the 10-year-old is his intended Foxhunter ride, “ If all goes well.”
Darren Edwards was in great form as the ground got softer by the minute. He conjured a perfectly timed run out of In Arrears to take the Intermediate. Darren’s father Gordon trains this family owned mare, who was bought from Colin Bowe in Ireland. “She loves soft ground and is an out and out stayer. She may run in a novice hunter chase at Exeter next.” reported the trainer.
Pistol Shoot had little previous form to his name, but a positive Edwards ride saw the seven-year-old beat 14 rivals after starting as a 20-1 outsider. His trainer Nicky Martin tends to concentrate on her National Hunt horses these days and said, “That was very unexpected. I only came for the day out! This horse couldn’t deal with going under rules but works well at home with 150 rated horses. He will stay pointing now”
Although the rain abated, it got very windy for the closing races, but with the Maiden for older horses exceeding the safety factor it had to be divided. Darren Edwards secured his treble as Soul Kaliber just held off the fast finishing Where’s Wilma in the first section for the Little Acres Racing Club. Trainer Dean Summersby bought the nine-year-old at Doncaster sales out of Gordon Elliott’s yard, where he ran in the Gigginstown colours. “He has had a few problems but our physio Catherine Davis has done a really good job with him,” said the Lifton based trainer.
The other section went to the lightly raced Manofmanywords who gave an exemplary display of jumping under Bryan Carver. Pam Pengelly’s home bred gelding is in the care of Camilla Scott who said, “He was a late foal and has been so weak.”
The Open Maiden for younger horses went to the well backed four-year-old Ramillies ridden by Tommie O’Brien. This was yet another Tattersalls Derby sales purchase to make a successful pointing debut for Tom Lacey, who described the Shantou grey as, “still very raw.” Ramillies put in a few novicey jumps in beating his 13 opponents before drawing away from the promising A Tipple Or Two in the home straight. No plans were revealed for four-year-old, Ramillies, but an appearance in the sales ring wouldn’t be a surprise
The well fancied Hello George (Nathan Vergne) was nearly knocked over by a loose horse after the open ditch in the Novice Riders’ contest, but odds-on favourite Dicky Bob happily jumped his way round to score by 12 lengths. This popular old grey was ridden by Thomasina Eyston for owner/ trainer Verity Nicholls. The 18-year-old rider was partnering her fourth career winner, and hopes to study chemistry at TrinityCollege, Dublin in September. Dicky Bob heads for Buckfastleigh for his next run.
Wind Tor (Josh Newman) and Crown of Thorns (Will Biddick) battled out the Hunt race from a long way out. The pair raced stride for stride until the mare Wind Tor just eased ahead inside the last 100 yards. “We both got racing from three out but she is very game,” remarked the winning jockey. Ed Walker trains Wind Tor for the Otter Club just down the road from the course.`
Sunday 10th March 2019 Blackmore and Sparkford Vale