Eyton Races

PUBLISHED: 16:16 22 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:03 20 February 2013

Eyton Races

Eyton Races

The South Shropshire Point-to-Point is staged at Eyton on Easter Monday. The people who make the going good talk about the event

Saddle up for Eyton

The South Shropshire Point-to-Point is staged at Eyton on Easter Monday. The people who make the going good talk about the event

Phil Jones, chairman

An Easter day at the races would not be possible without the large number of volunteers and dedicated committee of 12, headed up by Phil Jones, chairman of the North and South Shropshire Point-to-Point Committee, former jockey and winner at Eyton, who has ultimate responsibility for co-ordinating the day.

There is a huge amount of organisation involved throughout the year including registering the races, processing racing authority documents, booking doctors, vets and officials, ordering marquees and finding and briefing volunteers. Not surprisingly, the ground preparation, headed up by John Beddoes and Jonathan Cornes, is one of the most critical jobs.

Phil Jones says: Eyton is very much a team effort and my role is simply to be a central co-ordinator for all those involved. The 12 committee members all have specific roles, ranging from trade stands and catering to sponsorship, finance and health and safety and, of course, nothing can run without the hard work of the secretaries. After each Easter race we begin planning for the following years event it really does involve a full year of preparation.

We are very fortunate to have around 100 volunteers to help on the day involving car parking, gate stewards, race card sales through to doctors, vets and official stewards. The majority of them have been involved for years and that certainly makes running the event a lot easier.

Phils involvement at Eyton spans 30 years and he has chaired the committee for the last four. He has ridden several winners at Eyton and although he no longer races, he still trains horses for the point-to-point races. In fact, some of his horses will be racing this year, ridden by Ben Furnival and Will Kinsey so he is hoping for further successes on this highly picturesque racecourse.

For his day job, Phil runs the Hidden Valley caravan and chalet park, which is set in 200 acres of farmland and although he works seven days a week, he dedicates many hours a year to planning and overseeing Eyton Races.

I have been involved with horses all my life, from riding and hunting to racing and breeding. Eyton Races have always been special to me and my family, partly because of the stunning location but also because I love the thrill of point-to-pointing. I dont know how much longer I will be chairman of the committee, but I do plan to stay involved with Eyton for many more years to come. Theres always a good atmosphere at Eyton and if anyone has never been to these races before, its a great day out for all the family.

Richard Burton, jockey

Former national champion point-to-point rider, Richard Burton is no stranger to Eyton. The 34-year-old has ridden the course hundreds of times, with 58 wins on this highly picturesque course.

Richard was a late starter in terms of horse riding. He focused on cricket, football and rugby during his childhood years and started race riding at 16, encouraged to do so by his mother who trained racehorses.

He says: The first race I ever rode in was at Eyton. I didnt win but I did stay on. Eyton is a particularly special place for me because when I was growing up I always went there to watch the races. Its my home track and a place where I always want to give a strong performance. Its definitely my favourite racing venue.

Since the age of 16, Richard has won more than 440 races. His biggest wins have been at Cheltenham (Cheltenham Fox Hunters in 2009, Kim Muir 2005 and 2007) and Aintree (Aintree Fox Hunters in 2007).

Racing is a huge part of Richards life. As well as being involved with training the horses, he races most weekends between December and June, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday. However, the local champion has other commitments, too. Three years ago, he set up Jackson Equestrian, a business that sells and rents equestrian properties. Last year, he became a father, to Arabella.

My family and work commitments have definitely meant that I spend less time with the horses than I used to but somehow I manage to juggle it all and make sure I have time for my family, for the business, to ride and to play a few games of cricket, too.

Arabella will be coming to watch me at Eyton this year. Im not sure how much a one-year-old will take in but it means a lot to me to have my familys support at the races. For me, the icing on the cake would be to win the cup for the leading jockey at the South Shropshire meeting, which is sponsored by my late mother. I havent won it for a few years but Ill do my best to try to win it again this year!

Jessica Scott, South Shropshire Hunt Point-to-Point secretary

Now in her fourth year as secretary, Jessica works closely with the committee and volunteers to ensure the smooth running of the race day. She works with them to ensure that all the key people and activities are booked and briefed from the officials, stewards, vets, doctors and paramedics to the bookmakers, marquees, fairground and trade stands. She also has responsibility for obtaining the relevant licences and ensuring that health and safety standards are met.

The great thing about Eyton is that its such a fun day out for people of all ages. The Easter Monday races have become a firm favourite in the annual calendar for the Shropshire community. Some people choose to spend the day in the beer tent, enjoying the real ale. Others use it as a meeting place for friends and family, having picnics out of the back of their car boots. Children love the fun fair and plenty of people come along for our increasing number of trade stands, which sell everything from country clothing and garden furniture to equine accessories and T-shirts. However, for many people, a day at Eyton is all about the Tote and the races.

On 25 April, the jockeys to watch, already with a number of wins under their belt, are Richard Burton, Will Kinsey, Adam Wadlow, Ben Furnival, Oliver Greenall and Liam Paytor. I also think that Jack Sherwood and Robert Jarratt are worth supporting. I believe that these two young riders have a big future ahead of them. In terms of lady riders, Sue Sharratt, Angela Rucker and Jane Williams lead the field, but the great thing about Eyton is the fact that we have over 100 jockeys and any one of them could win on the day.

For Jessica, it is her love of horses that resulted in her involvement at Eyton, as well as strong family connections to the area. Her father and grandfather were always involved in racing and she began riding as a young child. Jessica has hunted all her life and owns her own point to pointers.

My father-in-law used to be the secretary at Eyton so I have spent years enjoying the Easter Day races but my proudest memory at Eyton is definitely watching my son, George, winning his first point to point at Eyton three years ago.

I feel very privileged to be involved with the running of Eyton. Having had so much enjoyment out of the race meetings myself, its great to be able to offer my time to help to keep the Eyton traditions going. Sitting on the bank, watching the races and looking out at the stunning views of Wenlock Edge is such a great way to spend time on Easter Monday.

Jack Sherwood, jockey

For Jack Sherwood, aged 19, life as a jockey has not been an easy ride. While racing at Brampton Bryan point-to-point in April 2010, Jack fell off his horse and suffered concussion. He had a serious head injury that resulted in a week in hospital and a six month break from racing. Having fully recovered, he broke his collarbone in February 2011 after falling off his horse at Towcester. However, the good news is that this promising youngster will have recovered in time for the South Shropshire meeting at Eyton on Easter Monday.

He says: Injuries are part of the job and these incidents definitely havent put me off. Ive always wanted to be a jockey. Im very ambitious and am determined to do well. Ive ridden about eight times at Eyton and have come second or third on many occasions. Ive had a few point-to-point wins so far but I havent yet had an Eyton win Im hoping that my performance on Easter Monday will change that!

Jack is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, Simon Sherwood, who won the Gold Cup on Desert Orchid.

He continues, I started riding as soon as I could walk. Weve always had horses at home and horses have been a very important part of my family life. My dad was a jockey and trainer and my uncle, Oliver Sherwood, has trained many winners over the years. I did pony races, show jumping and eventing from a young age, often taking home first prize.

Having completed his A Levels at Shrewsbury School, Jack now works as a stable amateur for Venetia Williams, the British racehorse trainer whose horse, Mon Mome, won the 2009 Grand National. He enjoys daily life at the stables, where he mucks out and rides the horses.

Jack will ride a number of different horses at Eyton on Easter Monday. In terms of preparation, he will get to the racecourse early, walk the course, check the ground, look through the card to assess the other horses and decide his strategy for the race.

He says: I try to make sure Im not behind horses which have had recent bad form. I dont want to go behind a horse which often falls, for example. In an ideal world, I like to stay in the mid-division, behind the lead and push through towards the end but my strategy will depend on which horse Im riding.

For me, the great thing about point-to-pointing at Eyton is that I get to ride on a number of amazing horses. I hope to become a professional jockey at some point in the future but am aware that Ill need to work my way up and that means I wont get to ride the best horses from the start. For now, I want to enjoy all the opportunities amateur steeple chasing brings and hope that I can stand out at this level and show the crowd what Im capable of doing. I certainly plan to enjoy myself at Eyton. Its always a great atmosphere and Im definitely looking forward to being back in the saddle again.

Eyton Races is on Monday, April 25 from 12pm to 5pm. The first race is at 1pm, the last race is at 4.40pm.For further information,visit www.eytonraces.com

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