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Memorable meetings at at Lower Machen's racecourse.

Byline: turf talk Brian Lee

If the rumours are true that there will be no more point-to-point racing at Lower Machen after this year, then it will be a sad day for Welsh hunt-racing. Having attended every meeting that has taken place over this picturesque course, I will be most disappointed to say the least.

The racecourse was first used in 1964 and in the adjacent hunts' race that day, Glanville Williams' Norther, partnered by Rees Williams, late father of present-day leading Welsh National Hunt trainer Evan Williams, beat the famed Snowdra Queen, who went on to win the United Hunts' Cup at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival in 1966 and again in 1968.

Rees rode his last winner at Lower Machen on Arctic Lily and, as for Norther, it went on to win the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in 1965.

There must be hundreds of occasions when jockeys have ridden at two different race meetings on the same day. However, the only occasion I know of a racehorse running at two different meetings on the same day was in 1976 when at the Gelligaer Farmers fixture at Lower Machen, June Lewis riding Boundtobe, who was something of a course specialist, beat Fortcum and Mandryka in the ladies' open race at 4.15pm.

Earlier in the day, Boundtobe had run in the 1.30pm race at Chepstow, where he had only got as far as the third fence owing to his saddle slipping.

June dashed home to Llanmartin, picked up her riding kit and drove to Lower Machen - and no-one was more surprised to see her than her husband Roger, who had watched the race on a portable television set before going out to ride Philborough in the men's open race.

It was at Lower Machen in 1972 that Tom Morgan's Mandryka, ridden by Mr Morgan's daughter Shan, surprisingly beat Milton Bradley's prolific Octroi, partnered by Celia Conley.

Mandryka, who went on to become Wales' most famous and prolific point-to-pointer, was tagged the "Welsh Wonder", "Rhondda Rocket" and "Mighty Midget" by the press.

As for the most controversial point-to-point race I have ever witnessed, that took place at the Tredegar Farmers evening meeting at Lower Machen in 1970. In a sensational finish to the men's open race, Katie Gaze's mare Frozen Dawn, ridden by Henry Oliver, had a good lead when it jumped the last fence well in front of Mr MC Watts' Silver Too.

However, Frozen Dawn was eased before the winning post, with the result that Silver Too caught and passed her.

The judge saw things differently, however, and gave a head verdict in Frozen Dawn's favour, even though the stewards had tried hard to get him to reverse the positions.

Mr Oliver was given a caution by the stewards and just three days later, Frozen Dawn won the classic Lady Dudley Cup at the Worcestershire Point-To-Point Steeplechases. After moving from Lower Machen in 1979, point-to-point racing returned there in 2002 and it is rather sad that hunt-racing enthusiasts will apparently be on the move again next season.

Incidentally, the British Horseracing Authority has come in for a lot of criticism over their decision to fine trainer Henry Oliver (son of the previously mentioned Henry Oliver) the sum of PS140 for waving his hands to help his horse start at Uttoxeter recently. The ruling body suggested horses should only race of their own free will.

Trainers Alan King, Nicky Hendersen and Sir AP McCoy are just three people who have slammed the BHA.

In fact, Alan King said of the BHA: "They are driving me and many others to despair and they are becoming a laughing stock. The idea of horses having to run of their own free will is a nonsense.'' The BHA replied: "The term free will, with hindsight, wasn't the right way to put this message across and should not be taken as evidence of a new philosophical stance.'' What do you think? | Email your racing news and views to brianlee4@virginmedia.com or telephone 029 2073 6438.

UPCOMING POINT-TO-POINTS TO NOTE | Curre & Llangibby at Howick, February 17 | Ross Harriers at Garnons, February 24 | Duke of Beaufort at Didmarton, March 2 | Brecon & Talybont at Llanfrynach, March 17 | Monmouthshire at Monmouth Showground, March 30 | Ledbury at Maisemore Park, March 31 | Andoversford at Andoversford, April 4 | North Ledbury at Hereford Racecourse, April 7 | Llangeinor and Pentrych at Pyle near Bridgend, April 13 | Cotswold Farmers at Maisemore Park, April 14 | Glamorgan at Bonvilston, April 20 | Worcestershire at Chaddesley Corbett, April 20 | South Pmbrokeshire at Lydstep, April 22 | Berkeley at Woodford, April 27 | Knightwick at Knigtwick, April 28 | Tivyside at Lydstep, April 28 | Radnor & West Hereford at Cold Harbour, May 5 | Ystrad Taf Fechan at Bonvilston, May 5 | Banwen P-T-P Club at Llwynddu Gais, May 6 | Gelligaer Farmers at Lower Machen, May 11 | Golden Valley at Bredwardine, May 18 | Tredegar Farmers at Lower Machen, May 25 | Pembrokeshire at Trecoed, June 1 | Torrington Farmers, June 9

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<B Racing at Lower Machen Alun Sedgmore/Sporting Prints
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 5, 2019
Words:838
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