“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
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
1 The Blue Boy (Damien Duggan)
2 Bluechipenterprise (Richard Darke)
3 Olveston (George Turner)
4 ran; dist; dist; 6m 4s SP evens fav
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
1 Buckingham Band (George Turner)
2 Bayford Energy (Ian Widdicombe)
3 Pharoah Blue (Claire Wonnacott)
15 ran; 5l; 6l; 6m 10s SP 2-1
1 Columcille (Richard White)
2 Beinn Mohr (Mandy Turner)
3 Anjubi (Stephen Slade)
9 ran; 3l; 4l; 6m 10s SP 4-1
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.
- 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