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Saturday, 11th Jul 2020

LORD FORTUNE – AN ALL TIME GREAT?

Inspired by Carl Evans’s series about the “All Time Greats” of the sport raised the question which West Midlands Horse deserved that accolade.

Point-to-Point Annuals and ratings provide an insight to the best horses but that does not necessarily match the heading in the title.

Like any sport, fortunes ebb and flow as the year’s progress. Success in the Point-to-Point field is measured by victories in the four National Classic Races, The Lady Dudley Cup, The Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup, The Coronation Cup and the Grimthorpe Cup.

The Cheltenham and Aintree Foxhunters are followed at the end of season by the “Horse and Hound” and John Corbett Cups, plus the N.H. Chase at the Cheltenham Festival was a target for Point-to-Point horses in the past.

1946 saw racing recommence after World War II. This provided a perfect starting point with the records for these great races easily available and the West Midland Area also enjoyed considerable success over this period.

N.H. Chase                               Cheltenham Foxhunters                      Aintree Foxhunters

1967 – Master Tammy                1966 – Straight Lady                              1971 – Bright Willow
1971 – Deblins Green                 1975 – Real Rascal                                 1974 – Lord Fortune
1997 – Flimsy Truth                   1977 – Long Lane                                   1997 – Blue Cheek
                                                1978 – Mountolive                                
                                                1989 – Three Counties
                                                2009 – Cappa Bleu

Horse & Hound Cup                  John Corbett Cup                                 Mens Championship Final

1969 – Touch of Tammy             1968 – Poulakerry                                 1970 – Lord Fortune
1970 – Some Man                       1971 – Deblins Green                             1971 – Mighty Red
1986 – The Pain Barrier             1981 – Precipitous                                 1977 – Mountolive
1987 – Three Counties               1988 – Deep Prospect
1988 – Three Counties               2001 – Philtre
1999 – Grimley Gale                  2001 – Look in the Mirror

Ladies Championship Final      Coronation Cup                                    Grimthorpe Cup

1977 – Horoscope                      1966 – Snowdra Queen                           1982 – Border Mark
1979 – Happy Returns                1967 – Snowdra Queen/Touch of Tammy
1982 – Pastry Brush                   1970 – Touch of Tammy/Sally Furlong/Master Tammy
1983 – Baulking Byway               1972 – Lord Fortune
1986 – Three Counties               1974 – Lord Fortune
1999 – Master of Troy                1977 – Lord Fortune

Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup         Lady Dudley Cup

1961 – Holystone Oak                1955 – Creeola II
1964 – Straight Lady                  1964 – Straight Lady
1965 – Snowdra Queen               1965 – Snowdra Queen
1967 – Barley Bree                    1968 – Bright Willow
1970 – Lord Fortune                  1970 – Frozen Dawn
1971 – Crème Brule                   1972 – Mighty Red
1976 – Lord Fortune                   1973 – Mighty Red
1977 – Lord Fortune                  1983 – Clear Pride
1980 – Spartan Scot                   1984 – Darlingate
1982 – Spartan Scot                   1988 – North Key
1986 – Paddy’s Peril                  1994 – Yahoo
1988 – Paddy’s Peril
1996 – Kettles
1997 – Kettles
1998 – Better Future

Comparing horses from different era’s is always a matter of personal judgement, which may be clouded by past memories so closer examination of their racing records was required.

All the horses listed above were worthy candidates, but it became obvious there was a short list whose exploits stood out against all the others.

The 1950’s were represented by Creeola II, the 1960’s by Straight Lady, Snowdra Queen and Master Tammy, the 1970’s by Frozen Dawn, Deblins Green and Lord Fortune. There were further successes well into the new millennium but not on the previous scale.

Creeola II is the first name on our list. His successes came about before Point-to-Point ratings became a reality so his inclusion is speculative as it is difficult to know how he was regarded at a National level.

We rely on Michael Williams The Continuing Story of Point-to-Point Racing for further evidence “Creeola was a really hard pulling horse who needed an exceptionally strong rider, so after he had won three races and been beaten in three others, “Buster” Harty was flown over from Ireland to ride him in a Division of the Dudley Cup.

It was, in fact, from Busters father that Mr Nixon had bought Creeola in Dublin for £200 in 1953. On a racecourse he was away like the wind as soon as he sniffed the first fence. Needless to say, nothing else got a look in with this son of Kings Approach. The following season he went into training with Fred Rimell for whom he won several steeplechases. Including the Welsh Grand National in 1957”.

Prior to that he was successful once in 1955 and ran five times the following year. Placed in his first three outings Charlie Nixon’s gelding then ran up a five race unbeaten sequence at the Croome, North Warwickshire, Berkeley, a division of the Dudley Cup and added the Cotswold Vale Open to his achievements.

Master Tammy made his debut for George Guilding in 1965 by finishing last of three at the South Hereford Ladies. A year later he was beaten by Galloping Duke in his Members but turned the tables a few weeks later. He confirmed the form with that rival at the North Ledbury and Clifton-on-Teme and then beat Mandolin and Blue Wave at Bushley Park.

1968 saw the Ledbury gelding open his account in Division III of the Coronation Cup at Larkhill. “22 horses lined up and the owner’s son Roger had him well placed on the inside. Three fences out Court Gardens took up the running but the Tambourin gelding was right behind him and challenging strongly on the inside at the last, drew clear on the run-in to win all out by 2-lengths with Jock Minor 8-lengths away in third”.

“With Roger unable to do the weight in the 4-mile N.H. Chase Captain Brian Fanshawe took the ride. Jumping superbly Master Tammy was never out of the first four and always hugging the rails. Going up the hill to the last open ditch, the Irish challenger Irish Pioneer had gone some 8-lengths clear but then fell. Taking over from Mazo 2 out, the Ledbury gelding stayed on strongly up the hill to hold Lizzy the Lizard by a neck, with Pearlita 10-lengths away in third. Sadly, Master Tammy broke down badly on his next outing in a Stratford Hunter Chase”.

Master Tammy ran 4 times under Rules over the following two seasons, and won the Coronation Cup again 1970 beating Bronze Miller and Double Gold.

An indication to the difficulty of any task is how often it is achieved. In 1964 Straight Lady took the sports Holy Grail, The Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup and The Lady Dudley Cup in the same season, a feat only achieved once before by Cash Account in 1956.

The mare was owned by Cirencester based Jack Shepherd, ridden by his son Richard and was the winner on the flat and of two Point-to-Points before joining their Cotswold stable.

The mare won 4 races before contesting the 4 miler at Fox Farm, where she beat Can Go and Dumbo II. She finished a neck clear of Baulking Green at Wincanton and crowned a fine season with a 4-length victory over Ilbesena and Green Parrot in the Dudley Cup.

Her attempt to win the Heythrop classic for a second time was thwarted when she was baulked and refused in 1965 but the following year gained her greatest success in the Cheltenham Foxhunters. “In touch from halfway she caught Corrielaw Diamond between the last two fences and then held Puddle Jumpers late burst”.

She was covered by Never Dwell, a mating which produced that prolific Hunter Chase winner Longlane. Future progeny included Mountolive who emulated his dam by winning the biggest piece of silverware Cheltenham has to offer 12 years later.

Snowdra Queen and Lord Fortune both carried the colours of Compton Abdale based Jackie Brutton.

Snowdra Queen had moderate form down in Wales, but the change of stable resulted in the mare making phenomenal improvement in 1965. She was in ” an unassailable lead until the rider appeared to black out and fall off” at the Bullingdon Club meeting.

Henry Oliver was then called in to deputise, an inspired decision, because they were undefeated in five races at the North Ledbury, Beaufort, Cotswold and the two big races at the Heythrop and Worcestershire.

Snowdra Queen was unchallenged in the Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup finishing in front of Anlaby Legend and Adams Blossom and then beat the seasons best horses at Upton over the shorter trip of the Dudley Cup a few weeks later and became just the third horse to land this prestigious double.

Her form became erratic in subsequent seasons as she would win a couple of races and appear back to her brilliant best, but disappoint on subsequent outings.

The mare has been described as self-willed but that comment could not be attributed to Lord Fortune who raced for ten seasons, all at the highest level.

Lord Fortune won the Beaufort Maiden on his racecourse debut but his exploits later in the season earnt a comment in the Annual “has ability but a difficult ride”.

The partnership flourished under George Hyatt and they gained their first success in the 1970 Heythrop 4 miler (beating Winter Willow and Tradesman), finished third behind Frozen Dawn and Sunarise in the Dudley Cup, then won the Player Gold Leaf Final Hunter Chase Championship at Newbury and finished three quarters of a length behind Some Man in the Horse and Hound Cup.

Derek Edmunds took the ride in 1971 and a year later they two opens and also finished runner up to Credit Call in the Cheltenham Foxhunters and to the same rival in the Horse and Hound Cup.

12 months later the partnership won five races including the United Hunts Challenge Cup at Cheltenham and also finished a short head second to (you have guessed it) Credit Call in that seasons Horse and Hound Cup.

Lord Fortune won another five races in 1974 and at 12-years of age had his best season which culminated in victory over Crème Brule and his nemesis Credit Call at Aintree. This earnt him the description of “a top-class Hunter Chase with brilliant acceleration”.

He ended his career on a high note in 1976 when he won a Division of the Coronation Cup and the Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup for an unprecedented third time with a cheeky win over Irish Mist and Whaddon Hero.

Frozen Dawn was one of those horses that had a brilliant but short Point-to-Point career which left a lasting impression and a record that is unlikely to be matched.

Katie Gaze’s mare was a disappointing Novice Hurdler for the Fred Rimell, but connections took her straight into Open company at Howick and was still in second place when falling at the last.

She had a relatively easy task in her Members before finding Bronze Millar too good for her at the Curre. She then ran up a sequence of 6 victories, the last 5 of which were achieved over a 25-day period.

These included wins at the Monmouth, North Ledbury, Tredegar and Cotswold Vale, but she reserved her best performance in the Dudley Cup, which was in its first year back at Chaddesley Corbett.

A high-class field faced the starter but the mare ran out a comfortable winner from Sunarise and Lord Fortune and this was in the days before 5-year-old got any allowances from their older rivals.

Perhaps those races left their mark because she was never able to reach those dizzy heights under National Hunt Rules in later seasons.

Scour any Point-to-Point reference book and the name of Deblins Green is hardly mentioned, but he appears on our list following victories in the 1971 National Hunt Chase and John Corbett Cup, plus the 1973 Welsh Grand National.

Carrying the colours of George Yardley, he had six starts in 1969 when he opened his account by winning an Open at the Golden Valley, but was unsuccessful in three runs the following season.

His best season came in 1971 when he was placed on all eight outings but he won the two that mattered most, the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and the John Corbett at Stratford, beating Irish Lad and French Berry in the Prestbury Park marathon and Rip’s Lyric and Double Gold at Stratford.

In 1973 Deblins Green matched the feat Creeola II had achieved two generations earlier by winning the Welsh Grand National under Nigel Wakley. “Coral’s long association with this race began in 1973 and were rewarded with an exciting finish to get the Chepstow crowd on their feet. Almost four inches of snow had fallen on the course during the week and it melted to provide ideal conditions for mudlark, Deblin’s Green to come through and win as six horses fought out the lead at the last”.

All of the short-listed horses would have been worthy winners. Several have achievements that are unlikely to be repeated in the future.

However, one horse stands out above all others and none of them could match the length of his career, the standard maintained, the races he won, the horses he defeated and that is LORD FORTUNE.

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