Fox Hunting: The point of it all is a rural kind of thing

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FOXES don't just kill themselves, you know. All that bepinked charging across the countryside has to be paid for and, from January to June, hunts up and down Britain hold point-to-points - steeplechase meetings - as fundraisers.

The origin of steeplechasing is, as the title implies, a race across country between two church steeples, jumping all obstacles along the way.

Going to a point-to-point is quite similar to going to a normal race meeting except it is much less expensive and often a lot more fun.

Although point-to-points can charge you, say, pounds 10 to park your car in the field the meeting is taking place in and another pounds 5 for each occupant - there is little they can do to prevent pedestrians from walking in for nothing.

The Melton Hunt Club meeting at Garthorpe in Leicestershire is the point- to-point world's Cheltenham Festival and last Saturday the cream of the hunter chasers thrashed it out for various championship races.

Bookmakers at point-to-points are notorious for making scandalously overround books - that's racing jargon for offering really mean odds about everything - but even so the form is as reliable at a point-to-point as at any horse race meeting (i.e. not very).

It is quite possible to back a few winners by trusting to common sense and the handy hints that can be obtained from buying a race card, which invariably contains a useful form guide.

It's an ideal nursery for introducing young horses to racing and young humans to watching them race. It is also a useful pre-retirement home for decent chasers of yesteryear. And, for those townies seeking that rural weekend fix, the countryside, and many of its fiercest defenders, is there in all its splendour.

l Copies of these photographs - and others by The Independent's sports photographers David Ashdown, Peter Jay and Robert Hallam - can be ordered by telephoning 0171-293-2534.

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