GROVE AND RUFFORD
SUNDAY 23 MARCH 2003
by Dom Bradshaw
An eight race card and back home by 4.30… surely not? Well,
on this occasion the answer was yes, as I attended Sunday’s meeting at
Welbeck, the most recent addition to the point-to-point circuit and a
relative stone’s throw from my home in Sheffield.
The approach to the track itself (once we found the entrance
to the course!) is arguably one of the most attractive in the country,
winding through woodland surrounded by blooming daffodils.
Lady Anne Bentick has kindly given the Grove and Rufford
permission to set up the new course on her estate and they’ve already
invested wisely, purchasing the fences and running rails from the defunct
Wolverhampton Point-to-Point course. The track itself is an undulating
right hand circuit and the fences are well built but fair.
The course was in immaculate condition and everyone I spoke
to was extremely impressed with the set up… the Grove & Rufford must
be the envy of their neighbouring hunts!
A bumper crowd was in attendance and the ice cream stall and
beer tents did a roaring trade, thanks to the pleasant sunshine, but
sadly, the meeting wasn’t given the support it deserved from owners and
trainers and the fields for the eight races were sparse.
The privilege of riding the first winner on the new track
went to Eoin Linehan aboard Highfield Lady, who out jumped her two rivals
to take the Members by four lengths.
Upham Lord made it four wins for the season and an amazing
fifteen on the trot, taking the Ladies Open under Jill Dawson. However,
they didn’t have things their own way as Anneka Louise (Louise Allan)
bravely took them on, but when push came to shove, Upham Lord produced his
trademark turn of foot to win comfortably. What can be said about the
remarkable winner apart from bring on the challengers!
Keeper’s Call took the three-runner Mens Open under a
driving finish from Guy Brewer to deny the favourite Stoney River (Nick
Kent). The winner consistently out jumped the favourite throughout and
battled on gamely to score by half-a-length.
The PPORA Club Members race was a poor affair with only two
runners and went to the 14-year-old Tom Pinch (Mark Bennison) who came
home twenty-lengths to the good of the maiden Springfield Sparky (Mark
The Restricted was a modest affair and victory went to Saxon
Victory (Richard Armson) who put in a bold front running to score by eight
lengths from Mezzo Princess (Mike Lurcock) with Kings Choir (Hannah
Phizacklea) a further fourteen lengths back in third. The favourite,
Redsands (Simon Walker) travelled well until making two bad mistakes on
the final circuit and was pulled up soon after.
The older maiden went to the 10-year-old Patagonian Passion,
who scored at the tenth time of asking, thanks to a power-packed ride from
Clive Mulhall, with the debutant Shalabibubbly (Nick Kent) a length back
in second and Joe Smoke (Eoin Linehan) third.
Division One of the 5,6 & 7yo maiden (2m5f) saw possibly
the most impressive winner of the day in the shape of Novel Idea, an
unraced Phardante 5-year-old from the Andrew Dalton yard. Ridden by Ben
Shaw, he was heavily eased after the last to score by ten lengths from
Ravensworth (Patrick Millington).
Holywell Girl completed a double on the day for Richard
Armson, taking Division Two of the 5,6 & 7yo maiden (2m5f)
out-battling the short priced favourite Fast Lane Harry (Steve Charlton)
to score by a length. Eight lengths back came Marciano (Louise Allan),
just denying Karinga Lane (Clive Mulhall) of third place by a head.
The Grove and Rufford are to be commended on their efforts,
which are much appreciated by this reviewer. The small touches, such as
the Introduction to Point-to-Pointing in the programme, the clear
announcements between races and marshalled traffic in and out of the
course are what make first time visitors come back for more.
If there were to be a criticism, it would be the lack of signs and general directions for getting into the meeting! I attempted to enter the course from the A60, but was (rightly) turned away by the one of the cadet leaders, who unfortunately sent us totally the wrong way with his vague directions. Fifteen minutes later, we found another entrance, only to be turned away again by a pair of cadets. After circumnavigating the whole of the Welbeck Estate, we eventually found the entrance, which if we’d have been told about on our first enquiry, we’d have got to in five minutes! We weren’t the only ones who had the problem, as it seemed that most people who approached from the North experienced a similar dilemma. Next year, can we please have more signs and directions, which of course, I won’t need as I now know the way in!