A day at the Balcormo Races - another successful Fife point to point meeting
Saturday saw the annual Fife point-to-point take place at Balcormo Mains and Annfield Farms by Leven, in front of one of the largest crowds seen in recent years.
Joined by my wife Fiona as point-to-point secretary over the last three years, I’ve been clerk of the course for this event for some time, but my involvement with the sport goes even further back.
I started as a jockey, more years ago than I care to admit. I rode as an amateur, but held the full category A certificate, which allowed me to ride against professionals, and I enjoyed considerable success competing on horses my mother bred and trained.
So my involvement with Balcormo is simply a good way for me to give something back to a sport that’s been so good to me.
Clerk of the course
My role is to ensure the course is properly set up in accordance with the many rules: ensuring the sport is as safe as possible for both horse and rider.
This includes making certain the fences to be jumped are sited properly, and that the ground isn’t too hard for racing. After all, if the going isn’t safe, the riders won’t come.
With the ineffective and negligible rain this April, we had ideal conditions for putting the fences out, but our rain dances produced no meaningful downpour.
This meant we spent time the week before the event irrigating the racing surface with the equivalent of two inches of rainfall.
The day itself
After all the preparations, involving many dedicated volunteers, the day dawned dry. We knew we had 18 ponies for the three pony races, which are flat, and 76 entered for the six steeplechases.
Winning Grand National jockey, Derek Fox, coached the pony jockeys and did the course walk with them. Thankfully, the stewards, course inspector, and other officials confirmed we had achieved the holy grail of “good” going, reaffirmed by the jockeys and trainers throughout the afternoon.
The pony racing went off without incident, bar one fall off after completion, to much cheering and encouragement from one of the largest crowds we’ve had for years.
In what was the horse’s last public engagement before going for a well-earned rest, Derek Fox then paraded One for Arthur, the Grand National Winner from Lucinda Russell’s local yard.
Then to the point-to-pointing itself.
All the 76 entered did not come, but there was competitive racing across the six races. The trade stands, food outlets and bars were well attended; the race cards ran out; and feedback confirms a great day out was had by all.
Ledingham Chalmers’ involvement
An event such as this would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors, of which Ledingham Chalmers is one.
The firm sponsors the medics and vets. There are two vets, three doctors, 14 first aiders, paramedics, and four ambulances: a formidable array of suitably qualified personnel, without which the event could not be run.
From the firm’s perspective, with so many of our clients operating in the rural sector, it’s important we’re involved in events like this.
As such, and because I’m heavily involved with running the meeting on the day itself, two colleagues from the Stirling office Linda Tinson, director of rural business, and senior associate Diana Thurston Smith represented Ledingham Chalmers.
All in all it was another successful event, the product of year-round planning with our landowners adjusting their farming practices to respect the integrity of the oval of the race track, which is permanent grass. Were they not so generous in this respect it would again be impossible to race.
All that remains is for me to say a sincere thank you to our volunteers, sponsors, traders, and of course participants for making the Balcormo Races so special. We hope to see you at next year’s event.