What a difference a day makes in the sport of point-to-pointing! The day before racing had taken place in glorious sunshine at Eyton on Severn, but Tuesday’s racing took place on a grey and cold afternoon at the historic point to point racecourse at Flagg Moor, which has been the home of the High Peak Hunt since 1892.
This meeting is for the true traditionalists of the sport as it epitomizes the old Corinthian ideals. Tuesday’s was a terrific days racing, full of the usual thrills and spills with some controversy thrown in for good measure. There was also a good crowd of around 6,000 in attendance.
Cholmondley trainer Donald McCain Junior had trained a double at Eyton on Severn the day before with Cornish Gale and Maringo, both of whom were ridden by Shrewsbury rider Richard Burton. The same combination teamed up with Houghton Bay in the Mens’ Open and the race itself turned into a cracking dual from the last two fences between Will Kinsey on Gus Berry and “Burtie” on Houghton Bay. Gus Berry jumped the last two lengths up but Burton didn’t panic and drove Houghton Bay up to win by a neck on the line, or so it seemed, but the judge Peter Heaton saw it differently and gave the verdict to Gus Berry by a short head, much to most peoples astonishment on the course including Richard Burton, who couldn’t believe it. He said, “ I thought I won the race, there was no doubt in my mind.” This was the major talking point of the day. My press room colleague Rory Alkin who makes a habit of being on the line at the end of the race had no doubt that the runner up had prevailed by a neck and I actually watched a video recording from an unhappy racegoer and on his camcorder it clearly shows Houghton Bay in front by a neck on the jam stick. Gus Berry is trained near Barnsley by Alison Christmas. Clive Mulhall was due to ride the horse but got stuck in motorway traffic, so it turned out to be a good spare ride for Will Kinsey.
Houghton Bay’s connections, which are made up of Donald McCain Jnr and the flamboyant entrepreneur Derek Malam from Nantwich, were much happier following the easy 20-length success of The Eeens under Ed Bourne in the Countryside Alliance Novice Riders Race. Bourne who works for the McCains has now won two from two on the winner and its only the second time that he has completed the course.
Richard Burton did not leave the Derbyshire course empty handed following a very impressive 25-length victory in the Restricted aboard Rebel Army. The winner is trained at Sheriffhales by Caroline Robinson who was delighted with her charge. She said, “ I was so pleased with his performance today as I did not know how he would cope with the conditions and with the step up in trip. He has proved himself well and Richard (Burton) said that he felt like a real racehorse today.” The winner is co-owned by the trainers father Jeremy Beasley, Marion Reiaghan and George Hibbert, the latter two live at Clitheroe.
On paper the best race on the card was the Confined, because it featured two very progressive horses in the North West, which were the unbeaten Darnil from the Sheila Crow yard, the winner of his last three races, and Tinarana Lord from the Nantwich yard of Gary Hanmer. Ten runners went to post and as expected the betting, the finish was dominated by the first two in the market. The latter was ridden with confidence by Hanmer who pulled away on the run in to win by two lengths from Burton on Darnil. The winner was in receipt of 3lbs from the runner up and it will be interesting when these two next meet at level weights. The horse is owned by the crazy gang syndicate, who are made up of the trainers mother Gwyneth Hanmer from Nescliffe and Brenda and John Shaw from Bridgenorth.
The Ladies’ Open had the crowd on their feet. Master Jock under Sue Sharratt and Hannah Kinsey on Returned Un Paid fought a ding dong battle over the last mile with no horse or rider giving any quarter and there was none asked. Master Jock regained the lead in the last two strides to win a thriller by a head. The winner is trained at Wolverhampton by Paul Jones for Willenhall owner Peter Burke, who bred the horse himself.
Rider Stuart Ross had the choice of either Strong King or Top Weld in the Open Maiden and he chose the latter and won the race by 10 lengths from Strong King. The winner is trained at Llandyrnog, near Denbigh by Robbie Owen. The village was famous quite a few years ago because it is where Edward Hollister Owen used train quite a few winners from under rules, the best of which was the late Lord Kenyon’s Rupertino.
The opening Members race, which starts at Flagg village itself races over their famous limestone walls. It is a fantastic spectacle, which was won this year by The Tallet who was trained and ridden by 20-year-old Jenny Allen, who was having her first ever ride in the race. She trains locally at Hartington, which is where the owner Andrew Sebire lives. The mare was bought privately by the owner from Donald McCain Jnr last April.