Point to point memories: Looking back with Brian Lee – 1989

By Contributed Item in Equine

The GEM’S Brian Lee, who incidentally celebrates his 81st birthday today, July 13, has been reporting on the Welsh horse racing scene for more than half-a-century.

Today, he takes another look at one of his many press cuttings scrap books.

Under the heading ‘Farmer Tipped to Win on Points’, I wrote: “St Athan farmer John Thomas has high hopes of winning a race or two on his father Jim Thomas’s Stapster Park when the Welsh point-to-point season gets under way on February 18.

“John (26) , is following a great family tradition. His grandfather Jack Thomas and father Jim were bot successful riders between-the- flags.

“His sister Carole has also ridden in hunt-races and on one occasion, got the better of him when riding in the members’ race at the Glamorgan Hunt Point-To-Point meeting at St Hilary.

“Last season, John scored his first success outside Wales when winning at the Ross Harriers fixture on Rose Harry’s Dinas Powis trained Gerwyn. John also did well at the Tredegar Farmers meeting on Ian Harley’s Brave Match.

“Stapster Park, who only ran twice last season, showed good form when finishing third at the Brecon point-to-point.”

With regard to the time Carol beat her brother, this is what I had to say in my book The Races Came Off – The story of point-to-point racing in South and West Wales:

“At the Glamorgan, at St Hilary, 20-year-old Carole Thomas and her 22-year-old brother, John, fought out the finish of the members’ race. Carole set out on her grandfather’s Cottage Chest to make all the running.

“Four fences out, she was joined by John riding former winning hurdler Chastity Belt. John actually headed his sister three out and called across to her to ‘hang on’. It was then that Carole responded to her brother’s call by staging a renewed challenge and, jumping the last in front, held on to win by four lengths.”

That year, the late great Cardiff bookmaker, John Lovell, invited me to a meeting of bookmakers in Cardiff and this is what I reported at the time:

“Heated arguments about allowing English bookmakers to stand at Welsh point-to-points broke out between bookmakers when 30 of them – mostly Welsh – met at the Crest Hotel in Cardiff recently with the aim of forming the South and West Wales Point-To-Point Bookmakers Association.

“Betting without the favourite, double sized betting boards and the availability of pitches were other topics that had the gentlemen of the turf hot under the collar.

“Cardiff bookmaker John Lovell said: ‘The formation of the association would bring Wales into line with all the other areas in the country.’”

Back then, there would be around 20 or 30 bookmakers at the Welsh point-to-points but these days we are lucky if eight or ten turn up.

Meanwhile, I am researching another book about Welsh horse racing and would like to hear from anyone with stories, press cuttings, photographs and information on notable Welsh owners, riders and trainers and, of course, any scandals, big gambles and scams.

I will be including chapters on point-to-point and flapping (unlicensed meetings). Also, does anyone have the contact details for Elain Mellor, formerly Williams, from the Vale, who won the ladies’ jockeys’ title on a number of occasions?

Contact brianlee4@virginmedia.com or telephone me at 02920736438.

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