SATURDAY 23 MARCH 2002
by Richard Hall
A day that reminded me why I enjoy point to point so much. A
day that emphasised how much I’d miss it if it wasn’t there. A day
when the niggle over Tony’s trendy appeasement to the townie
politicians, with their Disneyesque view of animals, became a real
For the moment, however, it was business as usual. A pleasant
greeting from the hunt member on the gate as he took our fourteen pounds
admission, the good cheer of the programme seller in the car park, and the
smiles from the hunt supporters manning the Tote. No need for a dress code
or fashion. The friendliness of the crowd. A noticeable absence of beer
swilling lads or ladettes in souped up Escorts booming bass from over
powered stereos. The lack of a police presence needed to control them. The
freedom to roam wherever we wanted without aged bouncers checking we had
the right badges. The families that felt comfortable letting their
children run free. The awareness those children instinctively have about
not infringing on other people’s enjoyment. The honesty of the
contestants; all anxious to give their best, even though some had very
little hope of actually winning. Even the olde worlde bookies with chalk
boards, polite banter, and modest ambitions blended with the genteel
surroundings. Low key and amateur it may be, but that is its essence;
fuelled by enthusiasm, it is genuine, it is all-inclusive, and it is
Anyway, enough of the eulogy, on with the racing.
the favourite, looked like landing the odds as they turned for home but
stumbled after jumping the last upsides. He was the first ride in public
for his owner, William Stone, who, according to the announcer, put up
twelve pounds overweight (this was later corrected to seven pounds by the
Warrior was given a typically patient ride by David Dunsdon and
looked likely to play a big part in the finish before falling at the
Copper made it two wins in a week with a pillar to post victory. He
was a spare ride for Nigel Bloom as his regular partner (Christian Ward
Thomas) was “under orders” at home waiting for his wife to give birth
to their first child. As at Ampton last Sunday, he looked spot on in the
paddock and also won the best turned out award for Tina Hayter. He has
clearly recaptured the form of two seasons ago and may well have improved.
One to follow until beaten.
now at the veteran stage, showed he still retains his enthusiasm (and some
ability) to run on past Lord Knox
and Verulam to take second at
the post, albeit a distance behind the winner. This horse finished second
in a Hunter Chase at the back end of last season and it could be that he
comes into himself at this time of year. Perhaps he still has a small race
left in him?
had shown improved form to win at High Easter a couple of weeks ago but
disappointed badly here. Never seeming comfortable with the pace, he was
pulled up just after halfway.
was the only one that did come out of the pack to look as if he might make
a race of it. At one time the deficit was as low as three lengths! Turning
for home, however, he was clearly tiring and gave Richard Hunnisett an
uncomfortable moment or two when falling at the last.
Duke, who had been held up a long way from the pace, finished
full of running to take second. Perhaps more enterprising tactics will be
used next time.
was always thereabouts and given every chance. He simply could not match
the pace of the winner
Johnny made a lot of the early running and seemed to be weakening
badly three from home. He found a second wind, however, and was running on
well at the finish.
Road, after six races this season, seems to be losing interest and, with it,
his form. He jumped badly and never looked like figuring at the business
Bailiff took the lead four out, lost it three out, and regained it
two out. When asked for a renewed effort in the home straight, however, he
found little. He will undoubtedly come on for the race.
was held up in the rear on the first circuit but made good progress to
join the leaders five out and take up the running three from home. Andrew
Hickman was content to surrender the lead back to River Bailiff at the
second last but, once the final fence was in sight, he quickly found
another gear and reasserted his authority.
Me Another, confidently ridden by Rowan Cope, had stalked Daydreamer
menacingly throughout the final mile. At the last he drew level but, as
Daydreamer sprinted up the run in, he did not have the finishing speed to
go through with his effort. He looked to be travelling well until then and
would possibly benefit from more enterprising tactics.
Bass, a six-year-old son of El Conquistador, made his debut for
the treble chasing Ruth Hatter stable. He emulated Village Copper by
winning the best-turned out award, but there the comparisons end. He
jumped the first fence over big and violently to the left, giving jockey
Stuart Morris an ambulance ride from the course.
Halep, a Baron Blakney five year old, raced prominently for a long
way and was given a tender introduction to the game by Neil King.
a big, imposing grey, appeared to be badly outpaced on the first circuit
but seemed to wake up on the second. He made eye catching progress to
The race then appeared to be at the mercy of the second
favourite, Camden Loch, who had
finished a long way behind Sydney Hobart in Pampered Gale’s maiden at
Higham in February. He was going ominously well when challenging at the
fifteenth and unseating his jockey. Still only a seven year old, and
having only his second outing of the year, he will surely lose his maiden
tag before long.
In his riding of Helmsley
Flyer, Andrew Sansome showed why he is leading the East Anglian Jockey
Championship. Recovering from a false start (when he shot off too eagerly)
Mr Sansome held his mount up in front and preserved his stamina by not
letting him run away with himself. Every time he was challenged, he
released a little bit more rein. Three out, with David
Bruce and Cardinal Way
assembling close behind, he kicked for home and quickly established a
winning five length lead. In the home straight Light
the Sky came from out of the clouds to deprive Cardinal Way for
As the majority of the crowd made their way home, I assumed
the now familiar role of following Mrs H to the bookies to collect her
winnings. It was her fifth success of the day and she was in an upbeat
mood. In the car she counted her ill gotten gains and promised a Chinese
meal in celebration. I poured coffee from the Thermos and reflected on
another good day’s racing.
From the back of my mind again came the overwhelming Commons
majority for a complete hunting ban. I had not really thought about it
seriously until watching an article about it on Newsnight earlier in the
week. If hunting was banned the hunts would disband. What then for point
to point? Who would underpin
it all? Who would provide the labour, the horses, and the courses? Where
would the atmosphere come from? Who would provide the tradition that
underpinned it all? Channel Four? ITV Digital? Ladbrokes? I think not.
They would put it through the mincer and regurgitate it as a TV circus
whose prime purpose would be the milking of money from every possible
The tradestands were dismantling, the horseboxes were filling up, and last of the bookies carried boards and satchels back into the public car park. We switched on the ignition and began the long journey home. In a short while the sun would be setting.