“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
1 Cal Mal (Philip Scholfield)
2 Jackotino (Biddy Peck)
3 Tharus O’Riley (Hugh Trerise)
5 ran; 4l; 4l; 7m 10s SP 3-1
1 Stoneyard (Linda Delve)
2 Les Dancer (Tracy Westcott)
3 Easy Steed (Melanie Ranger)
8 ran; 6l; 4l; 6m 44s
1 Akarakil (Kelvin Heard)
2 Champagne Bar (Philip Scholfield)
3 Plain Henry (Chris Boumphrey)
7 ran; 5l; dist; 7m 2s; SP 6-1
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
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.
- 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