There’s a first time for everything and this was the case when we attended the Cottenham point-to-point a few weeks ago. It ended up being a terrific afternoon in the countryside.
We had absolutely no idea what to expect when we accepted an invitation from a colleague to head out to Cottenham for a point-to-point race meeting. All we were told was to pack a picnic, bring a bottle of something and take the 20 minute drive out to the venue.
For some background, point-to-point racing is amateur racing, sometimes known as racing between the flags, over fences and is contested by amateur jockeys. Not knowing much about the finer details of jump racing also meant that the day was a real learning experience. Often, horses that do well on the point-to-point scene are snapped up and end up enjoying careers as National Hunt campaigners.
Tweed. Lot’s of tweed. That seemed to be the general pattern of choice on display. This isn’t your typical day at the races. This is a case of chucking on your wellies to negotiate the terrain, in winter they’re a necessity when it’s cold and muddy, and walking across the track from the car park to the makeshift parade ring and bookmaker stations.
You’ll also see dogs of all shapes and sizes enjoying a day out and invariably they’ll be the beneficiary of a dropped sausage roll or given something to snack on from the picnic. There’s a real character to these meetings. I think a lot of that has to do with the grassroots level feel to it all. There are riders hoping to one day become conditionals and eventually fully-fledged jockeys. There are owners hoping to have something that could win them a race, some prestige and possibly a bigger payday if catching the eye of a bloodstock agent or in the sales ring after a string of good performances.
The point-to-point season runs from around the middle of November through to the summer months and I’d definitely recommend it as a day out, especially if you’re going to round up a group of friends and head out.
There’s a real sense of camaraderie among the riders, trainers and owners. There’s bound to be someone’s son, niece, brother riding a winner and returning to a warm reception. You might even find a real family affair with a sibling riding, the horse trained by a parent and being led up by a cousin or another sibling.
If you’d like to find out more about point-to-pointing then click here.
We’ll definitely be looking to attend other meetings in future even if its just for the picnic, pints and gin and tonics.