Racing: Fox-hunting and the mating

Andy Martin infiltrates the feudal front on field manoeuvres

Point-to-point? Point-to-pointless more like. Except there is a point; the horses running a couple of circuits around a ploughed field are just a front for the local hunt brigade. The races over three miles are a simulated pursuit. At Horseheath, in Cambridgeshire, on Saturday the unspeakable were out in force, only the inedible were missing. And the anti-hunt sabs.

A point acknowledged by the couple of amiable and bored bobbies wandering about on a bleak afternoon without very much to do. ``We might have expected to see some of the people opposed to country sport this afternoon, but they're down at Fairmile, more's the pity. We won't be seeing Swampy and Animal here. No, the best we can hope for is a few car break-ins.''

I had to have a word with them since they were keeping a weary eye on me - other than them I was the only human being for miles around without a pair of green wellies, waxed jacket, country cap and extremely ruddy cheeks. Men and women alike. Even the kids - like children brought up in some fanatical religious sect, were wearing exactly the same clobber as their parents. The only permissible alternative was a red frock jacket and a hunting horn.

For eager converts, ``The Pukka Clothing Company'' was selling ``county gear'' and jodhpurs next to the beer tent. A placard outside the British Field Sports Society marquee nearby warned of frightful perils ahead; ``1997 - New MPs, New Parliament, New threats to country sports. You can help!'' and I feared I already had helped by coughing up pounds 10 to park my car to finance some pompous sadist on a horse.

In the darkest recesses of East Anglia, feudalism is not yet dead. Point- to-point is an opportunity for several thousand nobs and snobs to mingle with rustic peasant types. It is a hideous grinning comedy of manners, with the lords and masters patronising and looking down on the masses and the yokels guilefully sucking up to the gentry, all jockeying for advantage going over the social fences. The racing and betting is just a pretext. Even the row of bookies looked underemployed. ``No one puts down any big bets,'' groaned Sid of Chelmsford. There was serious money in the offing, but very little of it passed through Sid's hands.

The whole thing is a narcissistic exercise in primping and pimping. For beyond the smell of horse sweat and the promise of blood and gore to come, amid the hampers in the backs of Range Rovers and bottles of Burgundy on the walnut tables of Silver Ghosts, and, despite the paralysing cold, there was the powerful sense of a fertility dance in full swing. I bumped into Ted, an old college acquaintance, also a sceptic but with solid rural credentials. ``A mating ritual, pure and simple,'' is how he explained point-to-point.

``Nothing to do with horses,'' he said. ``No one here gives a toss about horses.'' He hauled me off to one side, probably embarrassed to be seen talking to someone in a pair of Timberlands. ``Look at me - I can't even ride. Not horses anyway.'' He then went off in to a prolonged metaphor involving mounts, studs, stallions and fillies that wouldn't have been out of place in a Jilly Cooper novel. Ted had a sharp eye for form. ``See it from our point of view, old lad,'' he said, wrapping a sympathetic arm round my shoulder. ``It's all to do with breeding. You have to keep the bloodline pure. You can't have the oiks marrying in, now can you?''

Personally, I think the point-to-pointing gene pool could do with a good shake up. The horse face was everywhere, and not just on the horses. Ted went off to manoeuvre for an invite to a party being given by Lord Vestey. Edmund Vestey - the butcher and local master of hounds, I think, who owns a lot of land in these parts - stood out not so much for his bowler hat, but for the almost entirely purple beacon of a face under it. Having had so much to do with raw meat over the ages he has come to resemble a slab of steak.

Ken Williams, a first-time rider, caused an upset by winning the last race on Glenbricken. Particularly upset were those mugs who put their money on the favourite, Buckshot. The edited highlights of one remark I overheard among the punting hoi polloi was: ``**** the ****ing **** out of that ****ing **** of a nag!''

But Williams was a popular winner among the Vesteys and the trans-Vesteys. ``This is a dream come true,'' he said in his winner's speech, ``just to ride here - let alone win as well. And thanks for supporting the hunt.''

I wasn't, but I let that pass. And it didn't surprise me that Greig Middleton, Stockbrockers, were one of the sponsors of the event and out touting for custom at Horseheath. But what I want to know is: what the hell was Barclays Bank (of Haverhill) doing bank-rolling the races? Presumably some of the overdraft charges they slap on the urban proletariat of Haverhill are going straight in to the jodhpurs of the fox-hunting classes. Medieval style taxation all over again. A boycott would be in order here, methinks.

And it is surely a gross blunder on the part of the Racing Channel to get itself involved in broadcasting point-to-points. Apart from the fact that the unwatchable in pursuit of their own self-interest is a total yawn and turn-off, it is only helping to support the archaic and sanguinary habits of a few squires and toffs. Let Lord Vestey sell a few more sausages.

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam