THE two day point-to-point meeting at Barbury Castle racecourse gets underway on Saturday, writes RAY BURROUGHS.
Once again there has been plenty of entries for the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association Meeting which is in its third year and last season attracted entries from as far afield as Scotland and Ireland.
Nearer home the local yards of John Manners at Highworth, Johnathan de Giles at Stanton Fitzwarren and Barbury-based trainer Ben Tulloch are all getting geared up to have runners at the prestige's meeting.
Barbury's top performing jockeys to keep an eye on for the forthcoming meeting and season include J (Tigger) Barnes, Godfrey Maundrell and Jamie Snowden.
Others to watch for include Somerset-based Rachel Green, who claimed wins on both days of the two day meeting last January, and 17-year-old Felix de Giles from Stanton Fitzwarren, who had several placings from his rides across all the Barbury meetings last year.
With such wonderful downland turf and a dedicated team of staff the Barbury course is always commended for its going.
Virtually the whole course can be seen from the centre of the venue but Barbury Castle estate manager Chris Musgrave is also looking to go one better this year.
"In an effort to help the crowd follow each race more closely we will be re-positioning the commentary box by using a cage lifted up on a hydraulic loader and as for the two previous two day meetings we will be moving the fences over night on Saturday to ensure fresh ground for the horses running the next day."
Fullers Brewery have been associated with Barbury racecourse for many years and director Richard Fuller said: "We have always been great supporters at amateur sport in particularly point-to-pointing and there is no better venue for that than Barbury. The public receive a great welcome at the course and we are delighted to be able to offer them great beer as part of that."
This year Barbury are delighted to welcome Knight Frank on board as additional sponsors for the first time.
Robert Fanshawe from the Equestrian Property Services said: "Knight Frank are very pleased to join the sponsors at Barbury.
"The place has such a long tradition of providing wonderful support."
- On April 7 the Tedworth hold their meeting at Barbury, which sees one of the longest point-to-point races of the year, the Tedworth Gold Cup mixed open, being run over three miles six furlongs.
All set for busy year
Barbury also hosts one of the many pony races scheduled across the area this year. At the Vine & Craven meeting on February 17 there will be two pony races.
Children aged 9-15 will be competing over distances from 4-9 furlongs of the point-to -point course. All ponies and riders must have been hunting a minimum of four times together so that they are sufficiently competent to take part.
The experience will be as near to the real thing as possible with riders wearing silks and parade in the paddock before the race.
One jockey who benefited from the experience is Gloucestershire-based 16-year-old Richard Mason, whose older brother Peter is stable jockey to Barbury-based trainer Ben Tulloch.
Richard had his first season as a point-to-point jockey last year and is definitely a star of the future.
As the point-to-point season closes, so the eventing one gets into full swing, and Barbury Castle Estate will also be hosting the International CIC three-star Premier League Horse Trials from July 6-8.
This will be the third running of the event, which attracts many of the world's top riders.
The cross country course is designed by Mark Phillips, father of BBC's Sports Personality of the Year, Zara Phillips.
With eventing stars such as William Fox-Pitt branding the event as "Brilliant Barbury" it isn't any wonder that Barbury has been voted "Top Event of the Year" in both 2005 & 2006 by the Event Horse Owners Association.
For more information visit www.barburyhorsetrials.co.uk
A century on gallops
Racehorses have been trained on the gallops at Barbury Castle for more than 100 years.
Ivor Anthony trained Brown Jack, winner of the Champion Hurdle in 1928 and a Royal Ascot winner a record seven years in succession.
Ivor and his Wroughton predecessor Aubrey Hastings also sent out five Grand National winners and three Cheltenham Gold Cup winners from these gallops.
In 1962 the first Barbury Castle racecourse was turned to arable land due to the pressures on agricultural production.
Thirty years later in 1992 the legendary site was re-launched and the tradition of point-to-pointing re-awakened.
It has hosted point-to-point meetings for neighbouring hunts since that time and has been the favourite course of many.