Tedworth Point-to-Point - sun, crowds, fun, firm going...and not many runners
A huge crowd took advantage of a fabulous dry, sunny - if a trifle windy - day on the Marlborough Downs for the annual Tedworth Point-to-Point at the Barbury Racecourse.
There were more stands and food and drink stalls than ever - and for those not riding but of an adventurous spirit there was a 'Bucking Bronco' for the older 'children' and a 'Last Man Standing' for the younger 'children' - and for the even younger a bouncy castle of wondrous proportions.
The card began with two pony races sponsored by Keyflow Feeds. The first for 13.2 ponies over four and a half furlongs had three runners and the second for 14.2 ponies over one mile two furlongs had six. The riders looked wholly competent and the races were run at great speed.
The first point-to-point race, the Simpsons Subaru Restricted Race over three miles, had five runners and was won by Lucy Mager on the seven year-old Moscow Prices.
After that the fields shrank considerably. Those in the know put this down to the ground. Officially it was 'Firm' - the result of little rain, some sun and a lot of that feisty wind whipping over the top of the downs and along the Barbury valley.
Three ran in the second race and two in the third race. The Mixed Open for the Tedworth Cup was - with just one potential participant present - a walkover. Two ran in the fifth race and two in the sixth.
Certainly the veteran Carruthers, entered for the Mixed Open did not show. Fourteen year-old legs do not like 'firm' ground - however much growth of grass there is on top of it.
The bookies were at their imaginative best offering odds on all sorts of eventualities - from one horse finishing to no horses finishing to...to what you will.
With the Mixed Open race we did learn a little more about the rules of point-to-pointing. Twelve year-old bay gelding The Rodeo Clown had to be paraded in the ring. Sam Burton had to mount and be led round the ring. They had to go out onto the course. They did not have to take a jump, but they did have to canter over the finish so the judges could dot their i's and cross their t's on the returns to the race authorities. And Sam and his father Gerald did receive the cup.
Some people watching the racing wondered whether it would have helped to have watered the course. Other point-to-point courses are watered - indeed on Sunday the course at Badbury Rings in Dorset was watered.
But as one 'expert' said, with the chalk of the Marlborough Downs, any water applied to the course would probably have 'gone straight through'.
The sparse fields did dampen somewhat the enjoyment of those who came for the racing rather than the shopping, eating, drinking and picnicking. Last year's Tedworth had fields of four, eight, nine, eight seven and seven.
Whatever, it was a thirst-making afternoon and your reporter was reliably informed that the main bar ran out of beer and cider - quite early on.