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Brian's "Blast From The Past"
1999: The Point-to-Point "From Hell"!

This week, Brian Lee recalls the point-to-point meeting he attended which got him into a lot of trouble and cost him his job as P.R.O. for the West Wales Point-To- Point Area.

Under the heading "Beer Thugs Spoil Races", this is what I reported in the Glamorgan Gem on May 6 1999.

In all my 33 years of reporting on the Welsh point-to-point scene, I have never seen anything like I did on Bank Holiday Monday at the Banwen Miners Hunt point-to-point steeplechases at Resolven. Unruly beer-swilling youngsters - certainly not hunt-racing enthusiasts - booed the jockeys of losing horses, while others played football among the crowd and made a general nuisance of themselves by leaning on parked cars and making threatening gestures to some of the racegoers. One jockey was so upset by the jeers that he dismounted and walked towards the troublemakers before managing to restrain himself.

The trouble really started two days earlier when a car containing boxes of racecards was stolen and set alight. Beer cans and rubbish were strewn all over the Pentreclwydau Racecourse, which was being used for the first time.

There were differing views of my report, which had also appeared in the Racing Post Weekender and the hunt-secretary writing to the paper complained that "It cannot pass without being refuted. We did attract a huge crowd and they certainly didn't behave in the manner in which your paper reported. As secretary of the meeting I had no reports of yobbish activities, people playing football or such like. All we heard from those who commented was 'we hope it will be held next year'. I can quote comments of Simon Claise, secretary of the Jockey Club's point-to-point department, who said on reading your report, 'I didn't think I was at the same meeting.' It would be helpful to point-to-pointing and racing in general if your correspondents painted an accurate picture of the Welsh scene instead of creating fantasies which only assist the detractors of our sport. The publcity officer of the Local Authority was present and full of praise for the meeting. Maybe the Racing Post reporter (that was me) was affected by the heat of the day."

However, there were those who saw my side of the story and Gina Groom of Pencoed told the Racing Post Weekender, "I am writing to express my concern at the lack of organisation at the Banwen meeting on May 3rd. Unlike other point-to-points, the crowd was largely drunken gangs who left thousands of cans and bottles on and around people's cars. There were no bins for people to use, a shortage of toliet facilites and a bottleneck in the viewing area which resulted in huge queues to get to the bookmakers or refreshments. I hope this isn't an indication of future meetings."

Bob McGrath wrote, "The only thing that marred it for me was the behaviour of some obviously drunken newcomers. These drunken louts played football among the crowd and in one instance I saw a small child lowered over the ropes to fetch a ball as the horses were going to post. These morons left their beer cans all over the place and made it difficult to get into one's own car as they were learning on the doors. Worst of all, some jeered losing riders in a most unsporting manner - something I have never witnessed at a point-to-point."

And Mrs Denise Williams writing to the Glamorgan Gem said, "I felt I had to write following a report in the Gem regarding your racing correspondent, Mr Brian Lee being banned from attending any future point-to-point meetings at the Banwen Miners. Mr Lee had written a report about the meeting and the bad behaviour of the crowd. Never, in 20 years of attending point-to-points, have I witnessed such rude, thoughtless, inconsiderate people, who booed the losers and hissed and shouted nasty comments to the jockeys. I had my own horse running at the meeting, which was pulled up due to a nose bleed. As I ran up the course to collect the horse, which was in some distress, a gang of drunks jeered, hissed and shouted disgusting comments about the horse not continuing to race. Anyone with common sense, and not drunk, could see why." Mrs Williams went on to say that one lady who had the courage to ask them to stop shouting was stunned at the abusive replies.

Incidentally, one person who won't forget the meeting is Aberthin National Hunt trainer Tim Vaughan. He rode a treble on Dotted Line (Members), Bel De Moor (Maiden one) and Jo Jo's best (maiden three). All three were trained by Bridgend's John Moore. Worcestershire's Angela Rucker, who rode a winner at the Banwen Miners' meeting last year, took the ladies' open race on Night Wind.

At the Llangeinor Hunt Steeplechases, Llancarfan's Evan Williams was also in brilliant form riding a treble on Rave-On-Hadley (confined), Colebrook Willie (Maiden division one) and Castle Mews (maiden division three). Ex-hurdler Race-On-Hadley, who cost his joint owners Richard Western and Catherine Williams just 500, won by a distance after making every post a winning one. Linda Parka's grey gelding Alais Parker Jones, was a shock 33-1 winner of the restricted open under Mark Lewis and Peter Bowen's Iffeee took the men's open. If my memory serves me right, Iffee was Peter's first winner under rules at Sedgefield. And Bridgend butcher Jonathan Tudor rode his first winner of the season on his 10-year-old Billy Gwyn which finished alone in the members' race.

Reporting for the Gem on the Llangibby that year under the heading "Vale Trained Horse Reigns Supreme" I wrote, "Creme Supreme, a nine-year-old grey gelding qualified with the Glamorgan Hunt was an impressive winner of the confined race. Owned by the Vale's Joanne Hegerty and trained by Bob Mason at Llandow, Creme Supreme, riden by Llancarfan's Evan Williams, won by six lengths from the South Hereford invader, Le Baron." Phil and Kathryn Dando's Kristal Haze, confidently ridden by Phil Williams, was an easy winner of the Horse and Hound mares club championship, romping home 25 lengths ahead of the favourite Bit Of A Citizen"

However, Bit Of a Citizen's connections had plenty to smile about later when she won the Welsh Point-To-Point Grand National at the Pentyrch Hunt Steeplechases at Bonvilston later. Ridden by Evan Williams and wearing blinkers for the first time she won by 20 lengths from the pacemaking Saffron Moss with the previous year's winner High Guardian a further length away in third spot. "Watch Out For Christian" was the heading of my end of the season piece in which I wrote, "A feature of the 1999 Welsh hunt racing season was the riding of Bridgend schoolboy, Christian Williams. Christian, aged 16, rode eight winners in his first season and has won the Daily Telegraph national novice riders' title." Well, Christian went on to ride under rules and came close to winning a Grand National. He rode a number of big race winners and but for injury curtailing his career we would have heard a lot more from him. My awards for the 1999 season were as follows

Biggest Surprise: David Parker's Alais Parker Jones, winning at the Llangeinor after being pulled up in his previous six races

Most Promising Rider: Christian Williams

Great Achievement Award: Pip Jones, retaining her national title and notching-up her 200th winner

Great Achievement Award: Owner/Trainer Dillwyn Thomas saddling his 200th winner

Most Improved Rider: Nick Jones who came close to winning the novice riders' title

Veteran Riders' Award: Phil Williams who bounced back with six winners after injuries

Welsh Pointing's Strangest Races
by Brian Lee

Andrew Ward back in the 1980s, wrote a book called Horse Racing's Strangest Races. Well, in almost 50 years of covering the Welsh point-to-point scene, I think I have enough material to write a book on the strange happenings at some of the point-to-points I have attended.

Take the time when the Jockey Club in 1985 launched an investigation after the handlers of a horse called Captain Equity failed to alllow a routine dope test on it after it had finished fourth in the restricted race at the Banwen Miners Steeplechases at Llantwit Major. The horse's owner Jim Harkins told me at the time that Dennis Williams, the horse's trainer, was asked to put the horse on the mobile dope test wagon, but the horse wouldn't go up the steep ramp. "After several attempts, the horse cut its leg and that was when he loaded the horse in his lorry and drove off." One witness to the incident told me, "It was quite funny to see the two dope testing officials running after the lorry shouting for the driver to stop. The owner, who wasn't present when the incident occured, explained, "Dennis just didn't understand the rules." Captain Equity, an 11-year-old chestnut gelding, hadn't won for five years and was described by form experts at the time as being "little better than useless now."

Then there was the time bookmakers at the Brecon Hunt Point-To-Point Steeplechases at Llanfrynach went on strike after part-time bookie Brian Hughes, of Llantrisant, demanded that he should be allowed to bet. So what did the bookies do? They took down their betting boards before the first race and downed tools! The result was that racegoers who fancied Call Me Dinky, ridden by Tim Jones, in the opening members' race, were denied the chance of backing a winner. Hunt racing officials wisely decided not to get involved in the dispute and that was when the bookies decided to shut up shop. Hughes told me back then that he had put in a request to join the South and West Wales Point-To-Point Bookmakers Association but had been informed by the secretary that he would have to wait his turn. Racegoers, who were already upset at having to pay 5 per person admission to the racecourse instead of the usual 10 car parking fee which admitted everyone in the car on to the racecourse said they would demand their money back if they couldn't bet on the races. Mr Hughes, not wishing to spoil their enjoyment, said he would give in on this occasion and the bookies set up shop
once again.

One of the most sensational finishes I have witnessed happened at the Monmouthshire Point-To-Point at Llanvapley when Golden Gaze, ridden by the legendary Cowbridge farmer John Llewellyn, jumped the last fence 10 lengths clear of Beldora and looked certain to win only to slow down on the short run-in and just stopped yards from the winning post and refused to go any further. Llewellyn, in an attempt to get his mount going again, gave Golden Gaze half-a-dozen or so slaps down the neck with his whip and it was only when Beldora and Thunderwood raced past him that Golden Gaze was persuaded to struggle on over the line. The stewards didn't find any marks on Golden Gaze and accepted Llewellyn's explanation that he wasn't hitting an exhausted horse, but a "doggy" one. The stewards told him to be more careful in the future and that was the end of that episode.

In what must go down as the most controversial point-to-point race ever (My story made the front page of The Sporting Life, a rare thing indeed for a point-to-point story to make it on the front page of this sadly now long defunct newspaper) took place at the Gelligaer Farmers meeting at Llantarnam. There were only three runners for the men's open race, the prolific grey Brunico, trained by Pembrokeshire's Peter Bowen, now a leading Welsh trainer under rules and ridden by Ron Treloggan, Alf Mahaba partnered by Robert Rowsell, of Pontypridd, and Zephyr Nights ridden by Tim Jones of Rudry. Once the starter got the riders on their way, Zephyr Nights and Alf Mahaba's jockeys made little attempt to make a race of it which meant Englishman Treloggan had to take the lead. The race soon developed into a fiasco with the pace being so slow that Brunico refused at first to jump the second fence. When the three eventually managed to jump the obstacle, Zephyr Nights led at what was little more than a walk. Some racegoers shouted at the stewards on their stand to declare the race void. Brunico lead at the seventh only to refuse again as did the other two horses. The horses continued the race at what only could be described as a hack canter and eventually Brunico came to the last fence ahead of Alf Mahaba and although strongly challenged, Trellogan and his partner did just enough to score by a length in a very slow time of 9 minutes and 30 seconds, usually the races are won in around six minutes. When Brunico returned to the winner's enclosure, he was greeted with the loudest cheers I have ever heard at a point-to-point. However, when the other two runners reached the unsaddling enclosure they were greeted with boos and cat-calls something that I have never winessed in all my years of reporting on the Welsh hunt-racing scene. The stewards called in all three jockeys and told them that their conduct during the race would be reported to the Jockey Club. However, the Jockey Club in their wisdom decided that they had done nothing wrong and no futrher action was taken.

However,the Brunico fiasco wasn't the only strange happenings at Llantarnam that day. For those punters who had backed the winner Wren's Trix, brilliantly ridden by Joe Price, at odds of 4-1 to finish alone in the three horse members' race had every reason to feel agrieved and they complained to the stewards after it had been announced that the odds-on favourite Trumpet Player, partnered by Robert Rowsell, had finished second. What had happened was that Trumpet Player unshipped his rider at the second last fence and was remounted and did eventually finish the race. However, the judge seeing the crowds crossing the course assumed that there were no other finishers and was not in his stand when the horse and rider passed the winning post.And Jockey Club rules stated that "No horse which passes the winning post after the judge has left his stand shall be placed." Apparently, the judge was given a good telling off by the chief steward John Cory. However, those who had backed Wren's Trix to finish alone went home cursing him.

In 1985, a horse called First Attempt won on her second attempt at the Tivyside Hunt Point-To-Point Steeplechases. First Attempt, an eight-year-old chestnut mare owned by Mr W.K. Rhead, was made favourite for the men's open race but took a tumble early in the race. Around an hour later, First Attempt, ridden by the owner's son Alan Rhead, faced the starter again when lining up for the adjacent hunts' race which she won after her solitary rival, Portfield Fair, failed to complete the course. Later, Rhead had more to smile about when he took the maiden race on Annswell.

Two horses who used to be stable companions dead-heated for the 1984 Welsh point-to-Point Grand National at the Pentyrch Hunt Steeplechases at Llantwit Major. A few years earlier, the two horses, Loch Raven and Wine Talk, were both trained at the same time in Ireland by Paul Doyle. Loch Raven was ridden by Brecon's Brian Eckley and Wine Talk by Bridgend's Paul Hamer. Both jumped the last fence together and the judge, Howard Jones of Rudry, was unable to separate them at the winning post.

A horse called Ferreter, owned by hunt-racing official Mrs Cynthia Higgon, finished first past the post at the 1983 South Herefordshire Hunt Steeplechases but was disqualified following a Jockey Club enquiry. Jockey Club officials also disqualified the third, fourth, fifth and sixth horses and awarded the race to the runner-up Scottish Salmon. All the horses should have carried 12st 7lbs but the Clerk of the Scales insisted, despite pleas from their owners and riders, on weighing out all riders at 12st. Because Scottish Salmon's rider carried 8lb overweight thus being the only horse in the race to carry 12st 7lb or over, it was awarded the race. Had all the horses carried the wrong weight the race would have been declared void. Point-To-Point rules state that an objection to any decision of the Clerk of the Scales must be made at once.

The rider behind the trophy - Bill Jones
by Brian Lee

Whoever rides the most number of winners in the South Wales and Monmouthshire area this coming Welsh will be awarded, provided they reside in the area, the Bill Jones Memorial Trophy. But who was Bill Jones? After all, many of today's riders are too young to remember him as he died 33 years ago in 1981. I had the pleasure of knowing him well and I hope that this short piece will give the next recipient of the award some idea of the man.

Bill Jones, who farmed a 400 acre farm at Castleton, which is between Newport and Cardiff, dominated the Welsh point-to-point scene during the 1950s and his name only had to be chalked-up on the numbers' board for the bookies to reduce the odds on the horse he was riding.

Believed to be the first Welshman to ride 100 winners between-the-flags. He rode a further 27 winners under rules at racecourses such as Newbury, Cheltenham, Ayr and Chepstow where he rode his first on Spurn Head in a hunter chase. Bill rode for some of the top trainers such as Toby Balding, Bill Marshall and Bill Turnell. Most enthusiasts who knew him will associate him with the prolific Spurn Head a winner of 20 point-to-points with Bill in the saddle.

Another good horse Bill rode was Dark Island, winner of the United Hunts Chase at Cheltenham and the Final Hunters Chase at Stratford, later to become the Horse & Hound Cup. Double A, Gun Artist and Mr Worth are three other noteworthy winners that Bill partnered. Too modest to turn down a ride, however bad a jumper the horse was, Bill suffered many falls as a consequence. He was once laid up for nine months after a fall from a horse called, rather appropriately, Oh Dear Oh Dear! Cracked collar bones, broken arms and fingers and even a twisted stomach Bill survived them all. His most memorable fall was from a horse called Repercussion and after being left around 300 yards, he remounted chased after the leaders and eventully went on to win.

Bill rode his first winner, Mary Jane in 1949 at the Tredegar Farmers' fixture and the last on Miss Ella at the Pentyrch in 1973. And in between? Gun Artist, Mr Worth, Witty Tom, Double A, on which he chalked-up his 100th winner, and many more besides.

It was a fall that ended his race riding career. But not from a horse but a barn he was repairing on his farm. And sadly in 1981, a few weeks after being involved in a motoring accident, he died in hospital.

David Stephens, Joe Price and John Llewellyn were just three former leading Welsh riders who acknowledged to me the help that they had received, one way or another, from Bill Jones. Bill was a modest man and when I showed him the typescript of a book I was writing about Welsh point-to-point racing, he returned it to me when he had read it with a note which read, "There's too much of Bill Jones in it." A gentleman in the saddle, and out of it, he is still sadly missed.

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