ONE HUNDRED years of point-to-point racing is celebrated at Siddington, near Cirencester next Saturday (March 21) when the VWH (Vale of the White Horse) Hunt run their annual well-attended meeting.

To commemorate the occasion, the Hunt themselves have produced a slim but painstakingly-researched booklet, written by Crudwell chartered surveyor Peter Stevens and long-time Siddington Clerk of the Course, Martin Wood.

It not only relives the tales of Siddington point-to-points from the very first meeting on March 17, 1909, but the history of all the VWH meetings, the first record of which was at Down Ampney on January 29, 1864.

Celebrated names in National Hunt racing don’t come much bigger than the Queen Mother and Siddington played a poignant part in this wonderful lady’s love of jumping.

On March 23, 2002, Braes of Mar became the last winner she ever owned, when taking the opening Hunt race.

In fact, the horse did not carry her familiar light blue colours as it was thought inappropriate to wear the royal livery at a time when parliament was voting on the future of hunting.

Instead, Braes of Mar wore the colours of his trainer-rider, the vet at Royal Ascot, Bobby McEwen, whose only previous success had come via a walkover!

The Queen Mum died a week later.

Twelve months on, Braes of Mar (and McEwen) returned to Siddington, for another landmark – becoming the first horse ever to carry the Queen’s racing silks at a point-to-point.

Sadly, he could finish only second in the Hunt race.

These two episodes were by no means the only cases of Royal patronage for a VWH meeting.

The Queen Mother had presented all the trophies in 1957, HRH the Princess Alexandra attended the meeting the previous year, while in 1923, HRH the Prince of Wales not only rode his horse Little Christy into second place but also attended the Race Ball.

Not surprisingly, some legendary National Hunt names have been associated with Siddington, not least Captain Tim Forster.

Forster travelled down from the 11th Hussars barracks in Carlisle to ride a winner in 1957 and almost 30 years later it was a horse he owned and trained, When In Rome, who was in the winners’ enclosure.

Forster trained three Grand National winners and long before Rosemary Henderson earned fame at Aintree as the “galloping granny”, finishing fifth in the National on Fiddlers Pike, she was a regular winner at Siddington as Rosemary Harper.

The world of Flat racing, too, was well represented at Siddington with wins in the saddle for subsequent Royal trainer Ian Balding and world famous bloodstock agent James Delahooke, while former champion trainer Peter Walwyn acted as starter for 40 years.

And let’s not forget the horses, like Salad Days II, who added a point-to-point win to his success at both the Rome Olympics three-day event and Badminton, as well as Foxhunter winners like Straight Lady, Mountolive, Lord Fortune and Cavalero, whose owner-trainer John “Mad” Manners is still going strong.

“100 Years and more of VWH Hunt Racing” by Peter Stevens and Martin Wood, can be ordered from Peter Stevens at Stable Flat, West Crudwell, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 9EF for £6 (inc p&p) with cheques made out to the “VWH Hunt point-to-point”.