The fantastic weather encouraged one of the biggest crowds ever at the 57th Old Berks Hunt’s Annual Point to Point and Country Day.
By the time the first entertainment kicked off in the parade ring at 11.15 the paddock was full of people down to join in with the ever popular terrier racing and dog show.
One of the biggest draws before racing was a superb display from falconer Alan Greenhalgh. Visitors to his stand also enjoyed an opportunity to meet his birds and stroke a very friendly, and vocal, Kookaburra.
The Old Berks hounds, as ever, met with an excellent reception in the ring, all looking in fine fettle and enjoying the social aspect of the day before the first race.
The ground this year was good, good to firm in places, with an excellent covering of grass. The superb condition of the course was a significant boost following the lighter than expected rainfall and was a great indication of the commitment and hard work the Old Berks Point to Point Team has made, alongside the immense support from Henrietta Knight.
The first race, The OKA Members’, Subscribers’ and Farmers’ Race, was as promised a hotly fought contest with the main threat being the three lady riders who were all previous winners. Defending champion Lucy Cowen on East Lawyer, Claire Matherson on Meandmrsjones and Tessa Good on The Baillie all looking strong contenders. Tessa Good and The Baillie took a very positive stance from the off and although Meandmrsjones started to reduce her lead in the later stages it was a convincing win for Tessa over Claire Matheson with Lucy Cowen on East Lawyer in third.
The second race, the Bear at Wantage Confined Race, set off at a good pace seeing Peter Mason on Milesian King with A Morley and Zirkel, on his Point to Point debut, pretty much joined at the hip setting out on the second lap. Milesian King, the victor, giving Trainer/Rider Peter a thrilling win for owner Mr Norman Thomas.
The Stan James Mixed Open race lacked runners, but the riders made a race of it all the same coming very close to breaking the course record of 6 mins 08 seconds set 30 years ago. Tim Lane on Lady Connell’s Needs Time took the lead on the second circuit from the Johnny Manners-trained Rustic John to win finishing in 6 mins 12.2 seconds.
One of the most exciting races of the day, The William & Son PPORA Club Members Race for Veteran & Novice Riders, certainly wasn’t without drama with Galtee View on his way to Wantage having parted company with Joe Williams before the start. First season jockey and favourite, Jack Sherwood, on his mother’s horse Lost Time produced a nail biting finish following a display of spectacular jumping. Clear at the last Frosty Jak under Charlie Dando looked to have got the better of Jack as they came into the finishing straight but a battle to the line saw Lost Time just get up with David Prichard on Wishwillow Magic in third.
Lucy Barry made up for her second in the Open in The Motorworld Restricted Race on Mr Manners’ Trizzy, a half sister to Man from Highworth who won at Lockinge last year. A close finish with Sheknowsyouknow second, ridden by S Bush, and Rachel King third on Manta Point, who had been prominently ridden from the start.
My Beautiful Betty under Emily Harbour took the Farol Ltd Open Maiden and the prize for best ride of the day, judged by Stan Mellor, with a second for Rachel King on Owston Ferry, owned by Frank Caudwell, who has just celebrated his 90th birthday. (Frank was a winner himself at the first ever Lockinge race day on a horse called Sutton Courtney in 1953.) Third place went to the consistent Lucy Barry on Doug making it a 123 for the day for trainer Mr Manners.
Jack Sherwood had illustrated how our stars of the future are made earlier in the day having progressed from the pony racing ranks this year. The Pinewood Perpetual Trophy pony races, the 138cm and under race was won by Murphy ridden by 11 year old Lydia Wauchope and the 148cm and under by Darby O’Gill with 14 year old Rollo Deutch on board.
A great day out for all was the general consensus – we can now look forward to the next one!
First race: OKA Members’, Subscribers’ and Farmers’
Second race: the Bear at Wantage Confined
Third race: Stan James Mixed Open
Fourth race: The William & Son PPORA Club Members Race for Veteran & Novice Riders
Fifth race: The Motorworld Restricted
Sixth race: Farol Ltd Open Maiden
Seventh/Eighth race: The Pinewood Perpetual Trophy pony races