Parham 24 February 2001

Back from holidays Co-Pilot arrived at the delightful venue of Parham in Sussex after a journey which, save for a small disagreement with a lost French tourist on the narrow lanes had been without incident. The racecourse, nestling under the steeply rising South Downs at its southern end and bordered on the outside by another tree covered bank near the winning post had attracted trade stands of High Street proportions and a full scale funfair. Co-pilot also noted that the racecard went to fifty-six pages and contained probably the most advertisments seen in recent times.

The icy blast gusting in from the north sent Co-Pilot reeling towards the Secretarys tent where several old friends were joined and a refresher accepted from a hyphenated lady. The course was in fair condition though the covering resembled Cumberland turf in places and was amost white in others. The back straight was much better where, unusually for a pointing course, a wind sock flew horizontally near the sixth fence. Presumably the landing fees were too high since not a single owner or rider was seen to arrive by air.

Racing got off to an exciting start when Emma Coveney on Primitive King just pipped Julie Hawksfield riding Tooth Pick in a photofinish. Philip York and Peafield had the confined won a long way from home and David Dunsdon went to the top of the riders' chart after Bit of an Idiot benefited as Glory Trails' rider, Paul Hall, became unseated after the last when comfortably leading the Restricted. In the Ladies race, Dorset handler Nick Mitchell was disappointed when his Star Path just failed to get the better of Storm Castle for the second weekend in a row despite every effort by Alison Deniel. Neil King won a tame Mens Open on Some Go West.

Race starters occupy a rightfully senior position in the hierachy of point to pointing but are unlikely to be involved in as many starts as some of the experienced riders, many of whom participate in the region of 150 races a season. Quite simply they are often no match for some of the tactics employed by the ladies and gentlemen in the saddle. Co-Pilot has observed more than enough starts to know that when faced with a large field, which, totally disregarding the order to walk up slowly, begins to charge the line like washer women at a January sale, starters often accept the situation and drop their flag leaving the devil to take the hindmost.

The unfortunate chappie attempting to get the Maiden away was interpreted as having given the off but became distracted by the wails of a rider whose mount had decide to face East at the last moment (whether this had any religious importance is still open to debate) and in sympathy proceeded to re-raise his flag to the starter's orders position, as he was entitled to do under rule 26(xi,a). The false start man wasting no time and possibly not expecting a second raising ( Souffle' Rule 1) dove for cover as the headstrong group jostled for position and thundered over the first obstacle with some of the riders struggling to mask their sheepish expressions. Resulting howls from the crowd to stop had about as much effect as a call to go faster in a tight finish and for all the riders knew, Dennis Skinner could have been lurking in the crowd.

Emerging from his bolt hole the false start man reraised his white flag (though for what purpose other than surrender is still unclear) and eventually caused the field to call off their unofficial race after a completing a circuit. Taking their cue from match-of-the-day, one or two riders and handlers behaved a little unsportingly, though it was not lost on Co-Pilot that this small mishap was the very essence of point to point racing; British amateurs at play and something our American cousins could only dream about.


The end of term 1999

The road north west to Umberleigh, guided in its path by the River Taw, contains many twists and turns as it crosses and recrosses the railway line which runs from Exeter to Barnstaple. This long and windy road is therefore ideally suited to folks who have time to spare or, due to their chosen conveyance, have no chance of hurrying.

Regrettably, Co-Pilot found himself emotionally challenged here when Troy joined the end of a long convoy of cars following a brace of caravans being towed at approximately 30 miles an hour, their wheels presumably seized up from 50 weeks of being parked in a suburban driveway. Forgetting himself for a moment and believing that the drivers would unselfishly pull over before long, Troys whining request to attempt supercharged overtaking was denied. But these were no ordinary caravanners. These were caravan drivers headed for the happy-clappy destination of Barnstaple where, after enduring almost 20 miles at snail's pace, Co-Pilot prayed that they would propel themselves straight off the end of the pier.

Hats, gloves, waterproofs and wax coats were the order of the day as a chill wind whipped across the racecourse, leaden skies promising rain at any moment. Little did Co-Pilot realise that his January attire worn at that first meeting at Tweseldown would still be in use 30 meetings later at Umberleigh in June. But here, where the afternoon had started summery enough, by the third race the sky had filled with huge black clouds, the wind strengthened and the temperature had dropped.

The course which was presented in first class order with the stiffish fences well maintained and freshly painted, had attracted a huge end of term crowd and the carparks were soon full to bursting point. Where silage had been mowed to within half an inch of its life the course resembled the white strip to be found at the WACA on which Thommo and Lillie et al. so terrorised the tourists in the late seventies. The uphill section was carved like a trench through a field of barley which Co-Pilot estimated would be ready for harvest in the second week of July. The going in general was good, and on this unusual soil section it appeared to be no different, though the incline felt more challenging than Co-Pilot remembered, coming as it does near the end of the circuit.

Still reeling from the heady perfume of the ladies changing tent where he had mistakenly strayed whilst in search of refreshments Co-Pilot headed across to the last fence only to be accosted by an excited former lady champion. Wearing a curious contraption about her head which dispensed a continuous supply of liquids by way of a series of tubes, the lady issued doubtful greetings and advice to a number of the riders about to participate in the forthcoming race. Ribald comments were quickly fired back in the happy atmosphere that is point-to-point racing. Accepting a small refresher Co-Pilot was privileged to watch the new champions in action in the company of one of the sport's greatest characters.

Decent fields contested the seven races, with last day winners for several riders who have had a quietish season. One of Co-Pilot's favourites Emma James won the Ladies on Tee Tee Too, Jamie Snowden won the Intermediate on Chasing Daisy and Michael Miller won division one of the Maiden on The Frost Fox. The final race of the season turned into a photofinish Maiden with Nick Mitchell on The Frosty Fox judged to have prevailed by a short head from Tabitha Cave on Sea Spirit.

For Co-Pilot and his improving driver Troy it has been a long season with many miles covered on motorways and backroads. Choosing highlights is never easy but visiting the new course at Rodmell in Sussex and passing three Tesco lorries in one swoop on the Warminster Road stand out. Throughout the summer Co-Pilot and Troy will visit many sporting and various other events which will be reported here each week.

 


Dingley

After missing the turn at Rothwell when Troy was distracted by a giddy of lady cyclists on the A14, Co-Pilot found himself submerged in the red brick town of Kettering in the heart of Northamptonshire. Until a few years ago employment opportunities in the local paper here normally contained numerous advertisements for Skivers. Sadly most of these jobs have now been lost, mainly to the factories of Eastern Europe.

With ample time available due to Troy's excessive use of the turbo charger on the M6, a comfort stop at Charles Wicksteed's famous park was decided upon. The park's 'home made' ice cream, produced long before the American hippies had their big idea, tasted as wonderful as it had done when Co-Pilot wore short trousers. Though disappointingly, the paddling pool, a summer time treat whose glistening blue tiles and sparkling water had been so alluring nearly fifty years earlier now contained only sand and resembled a huge cat litter. Nostalgically challenged, Co-Pilot allowed himself to be led back to the motor by the yawning youth.

Arriving a short while later at the delightful but horizontally inconvenienced venue of Dingley just in time to secure the last remaining space on level ground, Co-Pilot left Troy to organise lunch and headed down the steep grassy slope to the racecourse. The overnight rain had left the course fresh and in a couple of places softish, but the ground was generally in first class order and the dark fences fairly stiff. Feeling the effects of an interrupted night Co-Pilot decided to avail himself of a short cut along the vehicle track between the third and fifth fences. This course proved to be something of a minor disaster, when nearly a foot of water lying hidden in the long grass ambushed the brogues and resulted in the rest of the walk being taken to the accompaniment of embarrassing squelching sounds.

Back at the motor and in fresh footwear, luncheon was being taken with a Webmaster from the north, when nearby a small commotion erupted as some charming but common-looking fellows, who were offering books on the sport for sale from the boot of their small foreign car, were in danger of being turfed out by an over-enthusiastic Hunt helper. This misunderstanding apparently came to a satisfactory conclusion after the timely intervention of an immaculately dressed lady who rounded on the chappie and sent him away under a cloud.

Many of the crowd who had been at the Hunterchase meeting not far away at Stratford the previous day were reunited, busy comparing hangovers and embarking on further refreshments. Best attended boot was that of Dick Saunders and Caroline Bailey who received a constant stream of visitors offering congratulations for the fine victory of Castle Mane in what was the Horse and Hound cup but now oddly renamed the Intrum Justitia cup.

Favourite backers received a jolt once racing got under way, when the odds-on Dont Tell The Wife ridden by the delightful young Gemma Hutchinson could only finish second to Red Rebel and Ben Pollock. Andrew Sansome, always handy on Needwood Neptune, won the Mens Open and the stylish Lucinda Sweeting won an action packed Ladies on the consistent Mr Custard. Lee Stephens guided favourite Wise Prince home to win the Intermediate. Front-running tactics suited Shortcut Shorty and Charlie Wadland who brought the meeting to a close with victory in division two of the Maiden race and as the car park slowly emptied Co-Pilot noted that many racegoers had decided to stay and enjoy the afterglow of what had been a great afternoon and a great season of sport in the Midlands area.

Wet in Wales

Taking a new route across country after lane indiscipline near junction seventeen of the M4 and confusion on the innumerable roundabouts at Chippenham, Co-Pilot decided that morning refreshments should be taken at the ancient town of Bradford on Avon.

Apparently the entire population of Wiltshire had exactly the same Saturday morning idea as the town centre, with its steep and narrow streets was completely jammed with traffic. Fortunately Troy was able to secure a parking space outside the vertically challenged Bridge Tea Rooms where a brief cup of BOP was taken in the company of a group of charming oriental tourists.

It would be difficult to find an inconvenient parking spot at the South Wales venue of Bassaleg as this compact site high above the actual racing circuit has excellent viewing throughout.The wooded areas, which only add to the charm of the course, being the only place the runners are momentarily lost from sight. After scrambling down the steep grassy bank Co-Pilot discovered that alarmingly, the racing surface between the last two fences was more or less bare compacted mud, and upon enquiry as to the firmness he was astonished to hear that the ground was less firm than at the last meeting.

Ominously, the first spots of rain plopped noisily against what looked like the world's supply of dock leaves growing in the nearby silage and swallows flew low amongst the field of Holstein Fresians. Pressing on to the first sharp bend the surface of which was described later by one leading rider as "like ice", Co-Pilot descended past the ditch and down to the dell, where the accompanying pond was surrounded by iris pseudacorus in full bloom. Ascending to the higher ground and travelling down the back straight the going was easier in places but turning back towards the second last the road crossing looked to be covered with the minumum dressing of peat.

Racing got under way at 2.30 and Hals Prince found himself in the parade ring twice in short succession - once for Pip Jones in the Members race in which he walked over giving Pip her 200th career winner and later for Julian Pritchard in the Confined where he failed to live up to his earlier 'success' and left the judge untroubled. The talented Jason Cook who could well finish the season as leading novice won the Intermediate on Star Chaser and the Novices race aboard Anorak who started hot favourite for this event.

The hardy souls who stayed untill nearly a quarter to seven in the deluge and gathering gloom were in for a treat with the last race on the card turning out to be the most exciting. Four runners were in with a chance going to the last and with commentator Chris Lee working at maximum output the drama unfolded. Jamie Jukes on long time leader Itsthejonesboy was seen at his best when just repelling the persistent Tommyknocker who answered every call from rising star Christian Williams.

The rain which had begun gently enough under brightish skies soon became serious as the afternoon wore on but the enthusiasm of the small crowd could not be faulted. Every winner was cheered home by bedraggled and soaked punters and applauded into the unsaddling enclosure to the accompaniment of many witty remarks called out in dialects foreign to Co-Pilot's ears.


Bredwardine

Completed under blue skies, the simple journey west sweeping down the M50 past huge fields of foreign crops could not have been more straightforward.

But after passing through the charming town of Ross on Wye with its ancient buildings and narrow streets so very reminicent of the Chateaux towns in the Loire valley, things became more complicated. Co-Pilot's patience was tested when Troy, in an effort to separate two Eddie Stobart lorries driving in convoy, missed the turn-off at Much Birch. The resulting change to plan meant a single lane journey over the one -in -four mountain, marked as Dorstone Hill. Much reversing was necessary on this track when, shortly after the sign 'unsuitable for heavy vehicles' was passed, Troy was confronted by a huge lorry driven by a hairy shouldered Sun reader.

This difficulty was soon forgotten once the nettles were removed from the wing mirror and the delightful venue near the village of Bredwardine was in sight. Parked on the ridge overlooking the course with the Wye river in the background, lay a scene that would have driven Tony to distraction - here were country folk enjoying a day in the sun with their horses -and not a single policeman needed to keep order.

The climate more like Borneo than Borders, Co-Pilot completed a circuit and was soon in agreement with the the general view of contentment with the ground. The only concern was that the course, wet from overnight dew, looked slippery on the far bend. The fences were fairly pitiful in size and upon reaching the second last, Co-Pilot was suprised to find himself being passed by the ever competitive champion pointer Julian Pritchard, who without breaking stride, proceeded to perambulate straight over the obstacle.

Les Jefford made the long journey up from Devon to take the winning ride on No Loss in the first division of the Maiden, while Tim Stephenson led virtually throughout on Fontaine Again for the second division. A contest in which Steve Lloyd and Brown Wren were nearly forced to jump the blackthorn hedge when they were tightened up on the run through. Andrew Dalton took the third division on the very impressive Pharpen.

The heavy guns of Dick Baimbridge were trained on the Open races and both hit their targets. Nether Gobions piloted by Pritchard quickly accounted for his two opponents and shortly after, Alison Dare exhibiting her normal air of serene calmness, steered Rip Van Winkle to a cosy victory. Richard Burton was successful on Dunethna in the first division of the Restricted but his plans for a quick double on Fountain Street in the second division were put paid to, by the determined Candy Thorpe who battled Sam Quales' head in front right on the line to score a popular victory.

A jolly day in the unseasonal heat was enjoyed though the ice-cream vendor was sighted departing before the second last, probably hoping to avoid heavy vehicles on the hill.


Peper Harow

Following a brief and unintentional trip around the dismal dual carriageways of Guildford caused by supermarket lorries obscuring Troy's view of the road signs Co-Pilot arrived at the beautiful park that is Peper Harow.

Passing by the sizeable fishing pond and through the Saxon arch entering the course Co-Pilot was delighted to see the chestnuts, the copper beeches and the oaks dressed in their best spring clothes., and with the sun already unexpectedly hot the motor was parked under one of the many cedar trees conveniently close to the Secretary's tent. The Clerk of the Course kindly offering a refresher.

The going was firmish in places but soft, as expected near the area helpfully marked on the racecard map as bog. The rebuilt third last looked formidable but the sappy birch was soon easily parted by any low jumpers and caused no problems. Rabbits however had been at work here and their burrowing meant the fence was omitted during the Restricted for ground repairs.

In a marked change from recent years the huge crowd of picnickers and shoppers were treated to fields containing runners reaching double figures in each of the races except the Hunt. The Maiden was even divided, such were the declarations.

With the mercury still rising and the queue for ice creams estimated at 50 yards, and the beer tent inpregnable, Co-Pilot was forced to take refuge from the fierce heat and stifling humidity in the champage tent, which was less crowded as only paper money was required.

In a packed Restricted race Hightec Touch crashed through the ditch in spectacular fashion. His rider Dan Dennis cut a lonely figure as he was left to wander back unassisted through the crowds clutching a wad to his cracked and bleeding nose, his swollen eye already partially closed.

Peter Bull proved an able substitute in the following race, the Mens Open, where, when challenged by You Said It to the right and Prime Course to the left he conjured a perfect leap from Equity Player at the last to gain an unassailable advantage.

The Ladies race was one of the most exciting seen by Co-Pilot anywhere this season when Storm Drum, Pride of Kashmir and For William arrived at the last line abreast, with Nordic Spree hard on their heels. In a blanket finish former Grand National finisher For William and Jenny Grant just held off the determined challenge of Nordic Spree depriving Rilly Goschen of a win on her first ride at the course.

The day's excellent racing was accompanied by a splendid commentary from the cherry picker by the royally connected David Rhys -Jones who, upon seeing lightning flashes all around announced his intention of immediate resignation should the approaching storm get any closer. The lightning subsided but Co-Pilot noted that Rhys-Jones thereafter only elevated the machine to half its normal height.


Flete Park

Entering a delightful wood and squeezing down probably Britain's narrowest lane Co-Pilot spotted Early Purple Orchids amongst the many Hyacinthoides non- scripta, Primula vulgaris, and Silene dioica on the high banks.
A sight no money could buy and one to lift the spirits after the lengthy drive down to the West Country for a visit to Flete Park..
A journey which would have been trouble -free save for a possie of caravans on Haldon Hill which, apparently acting in collusion, attemped to bring Co-Pilot and the other road users down to their own tedious rate of progress.

Flete racecourse, bathed in bright sunshine lay a short distance below in the valley and Troy eased the motor down over the soft grass to an ideal resting position adjacent to the cricket pavilion where the Secretary and other officials were in residence.
The coolness of this accommodation, which is ideally sited for cricket contests was probably best appreciated in high summer but the flag stone floor at least meant the scales were on an even keel.

The spring air, perfumed by bluebell fragrance, was warming up as a record crowd assembled, and while the runners for the opening race paraded Co-Pilot obliged a young woman who, though in no apparent difficulty, agreed to his generous offer of assistance in applying the first suncream of summer.

The course which runs around the small cricket pitch complete with leafy chestnuts at one end, gives way to open grass fields at the other. A small bright stream full of cress gushes merrily across the racecourse and through a culvert at the bottom of the steep descent to the second last fence from where runners head uphill to the last.

Racegoers were treated to a close finish early on, when Lead Story was passed on the run in by Contradict giving Sarah Gaisford her six winner and Sue Young on Belittlir, third at the second last, passed Pillmere Lad and Damien's Pride to win the Restricted.

Les Jefford riding Well Armed, toyed with his two opponents in the Mens' Open, accelerating up the hill to record another victory for trainer David Pipe. Leading rider Polly Gundry, who was earlier spotted jogging up the incline to the last, after inspecting the course, won the Ladies four mile open on Starpath after a terriffic tussle with Mandy Hand on Rasta Man, the lead changing hands several times on the back straight and the race not settled until the run in.

A great afternoon's sport was enjoyed in the most idyllic surroundings but with the outfield a mosaic of deep divots Co-Pilot fears the cricket groundsman will be busy on the heavy roller for some time to come.


Flagg Moor

Heavy rain, mobile bed sits and pedestrian crossings clogged by rucksack carriers in Matlock, left Co-Pilot questioning the wisdom of Tuesday racing in the Peak District, but a burst of bright sunshine further north in Bakewell lifted the spirits.

Troy redeemed himself for the earlier incident involving a cyclist with red socks by finding a parking space directly opposite Appleby and Nuthalls, where delicious provisions for lunch were purchased to complement the liquid refreshments already in hand.

Arriving at Flagg Moor as another heavy shower was in progress and with the car park entrance already a quagmire, a number of youths were enlisted to extricate the motor from the deep ruts Troy was unable to avoid.

Looking down across the valley at the patchwork of small fields and stone walls from what is described as the viewing position, Co-Pilot concluded that this was indeed the most scenic of all Britain's Point-to-Point courses. Picking his way down the natural rock and grass grandstand already inhabited by picnicking troglodytes ensconced in the hollows, Co-Pilot tested a couple of fences which were declared easy, and noted that the woodshavings which covered the road crossings were nearly a foot deep.

First event on the card was the High Peak Hunt race, the first prize for which was a Bakewell pudding and a carpenter's bill for mantlepiece strengthening needed to accommodate the monstrous trophy. This race, in which competitors are allowed to take their own line between red and white markers across the fields and stone walls was a procession led by favourite and eventual winner, Welsh Legion, ridden by Nick Fogg.

The area around the trade stands and parade ring was a sea of brown mud but the crowd remained in good humour in the warm sun and uniquely, competitors for each race received a sporting round of applause as they paraded in the ring.

With the going varying from soft to bottomless, the Maiden race runners sensibly set off at false start pace, with battle only being joined three from home. The resulting dash had Charlie Keay ridden by Simon Prior sprinting to victory, confirming the form notes "finishes well".

Heather Irving and Lily the Lark, content to conserve energy early on, came home 15 lengths clear in the Ladies' race clocking a time of 7 minutes 52 seconds for the three and a half mile trip. But possibly the gamest run of the day was seen from Mens' open winner Weak Moment. Matching strides from the start with experienced Hunterchase winner Mickthecutaway and Andrew Dalton, Brendan Fosters mount slowly gained the advantage in the deepest ground along the back straight and galloped home in great style leaving the younger horse virtually pulled up three out.


Photographers away

Careering down the M5 to Somerset and the Paris of the West, diverting briefly to visit an old chum from the Marines, Co-Pilot was on course for Cothelstone.

All had gone well on the journey south until Troy, anxious to try out the new electronic system had momentarily lost concentration at speed and left a caravan, being towed down the centre lane, swaying wildly across the motorway. Squeezing up the narrow lanes near the course, past houses built of the local red stone, a colour Co-Pilot noted not dissimilar to the betel nut stains often seen in far-away places, Troy eased the motor into a space conveniently adjacent to the Secretary's accommodation.

Following a refresher with a small contingent from Dorset and leaving Troy to set lunch, Co-Pilot set off in the bright sunshine to walk the course. The finishing straight was in immaculate condition. The back section was fair but the area around the third last was fairly firm with some puddles on the slightly threadbare surface. The fences, though not the bulkiest seen lately, looked fairly unforgiving.

Racing was excellent and commenced with the seven runner Hunt race which David Luff won on Suba Lin. The blinkered Jollification won the Restricted ably piloted by Anthony Honeyball, but Co-Pilot's eye was caught by the dashing Charlotte Tizzard as she and Millyhenry blazed around the circuit, hardly seeing another horse during the open race.

Shortly after this event an announcement was made for all the photographers present to attend the Secretary's tent. The wretches assembled and stood around in the manner of magpies waiting for traffic to pass a piece of carrion, and Co-Pilot who had just emerged from the Ladies changing area, having mistaken it for the Tote, was astonished to hear their pitiful excuses when admonished by the course and fence official. In exceeding their non existent authority in pursuit of their snaps, one swarthy fellow was apparently sighted driving his vehicle along the course during a race, a tall skinny character had been trampling through the early broad bean crop at will, and one elderly operator who looked as if he had fallen through a hedge professed to be collecting pictures for a book. These excuses were firmly dismissed, a flea was dispensed to the collective ears and without a word to each other the snappers dispersed.

The immoveable force and a hard place came together in the point-to-point Member's race in the form of Pipe versus Scudamore. The useful Bells Wood was passed three out and it was left to Tom Scudamore on his mother's Glevum and Les Jefford on David Pipe's Slew Man. In the end the more experienced Jefford prevailed and the runner up led in by acting stable lad Peter Scudamore, received commiserations from Martin Pipe on hand in the winners enclosure for his son's sucess. And so it came to pass that Co-Pilot and the others assembled in that muddy field witnessed the past, present and future kings of national hunt racing gathered together at a West Country point-to-point.

Something to tell the grandchildren.


A safe pair of hands

Resisting the temptation to stop for purchases at the sign near Flaxton advertising Christmas trees for sale only 6.00, Co-Pilot arrived shortly after noon at Whitwell-on-the-Hill - Troy having made up the time lost during an unnecessary incident on the M1 with a Spanish juggernaut.

The view of the course from the hilltop quite breathtaking and after a refreshing tot in the bright North Yorkshire sunshine, Co-Pilot set off down the steep grassy slope to test the going. Striding out, once level ground was reached, Co-Pilot soon arrived at the legendary ditch estimated to be at least five feet deep. An off-cut of orange skirting-board lying on the grass would not do for these racing folk.

Going on the old turf was fine, with a decent covering of spring grass, and with the fences looking perfectly jumpable, the scene met with Co-Pilot's approval. Ascending the hill after a complete circuit proved to be quite an effort but with no porters within hailing distance, steady progress was accomplished by tacking vigorously until the summit was reached.
A substantial luncheon followed, in the company of some jolly fellows inhabiting the Master's tent and Troy was dispatched with the bets for the first race. Regrettably, the selection ran like a hairy goat, which was just as well, as it later transpired that the youth had mislaid the bookies' ticket whilst attempting to gain entry to the ladies' changing tent.

Unhappily for the punters, half the Maiden Race division one field failed to see the course markers and were forced to pull up shortly after the start when they realised their error. The lady riders were in the wars again. Fiona Needham was left with bleeding goggle marks after Pharlindo failed to see the second last in the Confined and Alison Deniel was forced to limp heavily back up the hill, after The Hazel Harrier blundered at the last in the Restricted. Fiona later received consolation when The Happy Monarch prevailed by a head in the final event, just beating Lulagh-B in the last of several tight finishes.

A decent field went to post for the Gold Cup run over four miles and a furlong, which went eventually to David Easterby on Prominent who bided his time throughout, content to let last year's winner Overflowing River and Trevor Glass make most of the running. Shortly after Lord Grimthorpe had presented the cup to Brown and Duxbury, Co-Pilot was called upon to make a reflex save, as an elderly lady being gravitationally inconvenienced, wobbled backwards on the steep slope and looked in danger of cartwheeling down to the last fence.

The smile of relief and pleasure from the rescued damsel, and invitations to further refreshment sent co-pilot scuttling to the relative safety of the bookmakers' lines.


Co-Pilot to the rescue.

Not wishing to miss a moment's action, Co-Pilot headed south to Dorset's Badbury Rings calling at Salisbury en route to visit an old chum in Cathedral Close. Following several near misses on the Ringwood Road, Troy, Co-Pilots new driver failed to see the Wimborne Minster turn off - an event which meant a compulsory visit to the architecturally hideous seaside town of Bournemouth.

The avenue of beeches which give Badbury Rings the grandest entrance to a point-to-point course anywhere in the country were soon in sight, the horrors of the suburban sprawl forgotten. The view from the Iron Age tumulus is extensive and uninterrupted for an estimated twenty five miles - ideal for point-to-pointing but not necessarily what the earlier occupants had in mind as they prepared their flint axes.

Co-pilot enjoyed the briefest of luncheons with some of the local landowners as a sky of blue slowly filled with huge rain clouds and the wind turned chilly.
Racing was moderate. The ground was on the firm side of good, but it was the well made fences that accounted for four of the eight runners in the Confined Maiden race before they had reached halfway. Victory went to young Ryan Bliss on Dante's Gold who prevailed by a short head from Springvilla.

A downpour just before the Ladies' race threatened to spoil the fun but this soon passed and the course was bathed in spring sunshine as Wendy Southcombe guided Olive Basket to an easy win.

With no time to walk the course properly Co-Pilot ventured down to the second last for the Restricted race, only to witness the somersaulting fall of Another Junior and young lady rider, Mouse Barlow. The horse was quickly on his feet and heading back to the boxes but Mrs Barlow remained vertically challenged until Co-Pilot, whose first aiding skills are legendary, concerned for the lady's well-being, approached with the intention of loosening the clothing. This course of action was nipped in the bud by a serious looking St John ambulance person who in no time had Mrs Barlow signalling to the crowd that she was uninjured.

Presumably the form guide for Another Junior will now be updated from 'safe jumper' to something more appropriate.


The South Downs

Arriving too early in Sussex and missing the signs at the Kingstone turn off, left Co-pilot meandering down to the wonderful little port of Newhaven. A popular childhood attraction, hardly recognisable these days. The old bridge, which rail and car passengers alike rattled across was gone, along with the cross channel ferries and the activity around the port.

Heading back inland and narrowly avoiding being put off the road by swarms of motorcyclists, Co-pilot arrived at David Robinson's farm and his new point-to-point course at Rodmell. No doubt encouraged by the glorious weather, a lengthy convoy of traffic was building up and it soon became apparent that there were more vehicles than spaces available, and with cars still arriving after the second race, the entire centre of the fairly compact course looked full to bursting point. Luckily Co-pilot was able to nose the motor into a spot convenient to the champage tent where a refresher was taken.

Racing got under way on firmish ground with bookies offering eight to one that none of the two runners would finish the first race. This was very nearly the bet of the day when Philip Hall and Just Try Me capsized after a couple of fences - David Evatt persuading Easter's Eve to complete the course and go into the history books.

Set at the end of a most beautiful valley in the South Downs, the oblong circuit has a wonderful natural grandstand along the back straight and for those with the footing of a goat, this vantage point offers a spectacular view of the entire course.

Riding his own That's Dedication in the Confined Hunts race, landowner Robinson was able transform his John Wayne style to that of Willie Carson, passing several horses on the run-in to land the odds in a breathtaking finish. A most popular winner received in the unsaddling enclosure to an enthusiastic burst of applause.


Back from Holiday.

After a restorative break on the Broken Orange Pekoe slopes at Nuwara Eliya, co-pilot arrived home bursting with energy and ready for some sport.

The considerably gentler slopes of East Anglia beckoned and a heading for Horseheath was set.

Oxygenating the system in the gusty sunshine, co-pilot observed yet again that this was a course of two halves. The home straight with its brooding trees and clutter of cars a complete contrast to the vast open wildness of the early fences along the back straight.

There were a few soft patches though generally the ground appeared good. As usual, the stiff fences and in one case a wing accounted for several runners - Charlie Ward sustaining some ear damage when parting company from Sayonara in the first.

Young Ben Pollock was soon off the mark with Claret and Blue, who despite being off the pace early on, out-lasted his opponents to win at the first time of asking. Policeman Paul Blagg was in the frame when Kenny Davis obliged in the second division of the maiden, and Zoe Turner put in a clear round to win the Ladies. But for co-pilot, the most heart warming sight of the afternoon was that of veteran Peanuts Pet disputing the lead half a mile from home, in the hands of Hannah Barnard in the Confined. He eventually had to concede to Tom de Savoie, eight years his junior, but Peanuts Pet is one tough cookie and obviously has no idea that he is 15 years old.

A great afternoons sport in the raw sunshine of east anglia was added to by David Mintons commentary and it was noted that at the end of the meeting that a growing number of punters delayed their exit in favour of an extra few minutes in the countryside. A sure sign that spring is just around the corner.