Monday, 17 March 2014

What's next after the Cheltenham Gold Cup...

As the cheers from the “Gold Cup” crowds at the Cheltenham Festival start to fade, all eyes turn to the next great event in the horse racing calendar – no not the Grand National but Mendip Farmer’s Point to Point.

OK this is a slight exaggeration but this Sunday sees our local point to Point run at Ston Easton. Clearly it is not quite up to Cheltenham standard but it is an opportunity for you to experience horse racing on your doorstep with a friendly atmosphere where horse racing enthusiasts mix happily alongside those who have simply come for a fun family day out.

Anyone who hasn’t been before really should come along to experience the race course excitement. There is the pre-race anticipation as the horses are walked around the parade ring, then placing your bets at the bookies followed by the race itself and then drowning your sorrows or spending your winnings at the bar! For those who do not want to lose their money at the bookies they can always invest it more with more certainty at the trade stands while children can play on the various rides and other attractions. So there is entertainment laid on for the whole family.

However to enjoy the day to its full it is interesting to understand that the sport of steeplechasing has a long history spanning over centuries. The first Steeplechase ever was run between the villages of Buttevant and Doneraile, County Cork in 1752 when Mr. Blake challenged his neighbour, Mr. O'Callaghan, to race across country between Buttevant and Doneraile churches or from “point-to-point”. In the four and a half mile race they jumped stone walls, ditches and hedges and by keeping the steeple of the church in sight, both riders could see their finishing point, hence the term steeplechasing.

In the following 100 years or so the sport caught on more widely and in the 1880s a formal racecourse was established on Mendip at Rudge. In 1931, the course was moved approximately a mile to Nedge, the well-known ridge of land laying to the south of Chewton Mendip. Races were held here until 1991 when they moved to near the Castle of Comfort and finally to Ston Easton in 1999, returning to almost where it all began, nearly 130 years ago.

Over the years the Mendip community has shown great success in producing top horses in the field of Point to Pointing, progressing onto hunterchasing and National Hunt racing. During the 1970’s, local farmer Max Churches produced top horses such as Rich Rose and Panmure, both of whom won hunterchases. In more recent years, we have seen horses such as Double Silk, Earthmover and Double Thriller, all of whom reached the top of the hunterchasing field, progressing into the higher reaches of National Hunt racing.

So why not come along to enjoy the excitement of the races in a friendly and informal atmosphere which is steeped in rural tradition.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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