Country mouse picks a winner

Mad dogs and Englishmen… picnic in horizontal rain at the Larkhill point-to- point course on inhospitable Salisbury Plain. As water sloshed out of the sky into whisky macs and pooled in the dimples of pork pies, a vision of my neighbour’s Sunday drinks party-undiluted wine, crisp sausage rolls, fire-floated past. Examination of the disintegrating racecard revealed that Asklematic (‘Alfie’), pride of the Plantation Farm Picnic Syndicate, was entered in the very last race. Even his Shetland companion, Sweepy, who normally likes a picnic, looked glum.

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Then, a miracle. In a joyously stirring finish, Alfie got up by a length and a half to win under a brilliant ride from his lady jockey. ‘He did it easily,’ Sweepy’s toddler owner pronounced sagely from his vantage point on someone’s shoulders. All 23 noisily whooping syndicate members, wet and cold forgotten, piled into the winner’s enclosure for a picture and to hug the trainer Richard Bandey, who gets Alfie fit on the North Hampshire Downs at Kingsclere.

You can keep your concrete and covered stands, your fashion parades; point-to-pointing, steeplechasing’s amateur arm, is the best fun you can have with a racehorse and a picnic. Alfie, meanwhile, heads to Towcester this Sunday. Get your money on!

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