If you thought there was only one major racing event in Gloucestershire each Spring time, think again. Step forward Andoversford Races, home to the Cotswold Point-to-Point races, and the most valuable amateur race programme in the second half of the Point-to-Point season.
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Point-to-Point racing is as old as the first recorded steeplechase in Tipperary, flourishing in the hunting shires of the UK and Ireland. Run by volunteers, with horses owned, trained and ridden by amateurs, this is a bastion of the Corinthian ethos in a world where the amateur is a dying breed.
Point-to-Point Steeplechases take place on 100 courses across the UK from December to June, where budding trainers and riders cut their teeth before turning pro. Established trainers like Fergal O’Brien, David Pipe and Neil King launched their careers this way, as have top flight riders like current champion Dickie Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies.
Andoversford Races, on Sunday April 8th , is a destination fixture where the cognoscenti descend every year to celebrate the rites of Spring. The original venue for one of racing’s marquee races in the Grand Annual Chase, established in 1834, this year’s Andoversford fixture mixes the excitement of top flight steeplechasing with the old-world charm of a country show.
And the six-race programme is becoming a magnet for Gloucestershire business. A record attendance in 2017 spawned an influx of brands seeking the affluent rural audience that frequents events of this nature. Title sponsor Robert Hitchins Group entertains over 100 guests all day, and has been joined by Lumley Insurance, Tayler & Fletcher, Skinner’s Pet Foods, Rendcomb College and retail brands like Western Computer, Dubarry and county jewellers Martin & Co. There are hospitality chalets to hire, and even a Sunday lunch restaurant, attractively priced at £75pp or £550 for a table of 8. One firm brings its staff for a grand day out.
The Happerley Food Heaven food hall extends the event’s appeal with a range of Gloucestershire foods and drinks to trial and take home, whilst the bar and plethora of shops and stalls, as well as children’s entertainments, keep every member of the family amused, and the Brewin Dolphin Owners’ Lounge gives participants a comfortable environment to wind down from the day’s excitements. Charity Cotswold Riding for the Disabled is set to benefit from a competitive donkey derby involving teams from the local racing community, the charity and the Cotswold Hunt. With pony racing too, the theme of speed is prevalent.
Peter McNeile, Chairman of the Race Committee, explains, “Andoversford has always been popular – with a scenic Cotswold backdrop and good quality races. One of our recent graduates won a graded race at Newbury, and we’ve always enjoyed the support of the racing fraternity. We have made ourselves available to local business, and that support has been reciprocated. The easy informality of the event has encouraged local business to support the event, in diverse ways from rewarding their staff and entertaining clients to direct sale. With its long dwell time and short moments of intense excitement, this raceday makes for a highly entertaining day, where betting is clearly not a major factor.”
If you’re in business locally, this is an event with momentum, but more important than that, it’s enormous fun. But don’t take our word for it; go see for yourself.