**BREAKING NEWS** The AGA man has moved his blog!

The AGA man's blog has moved AND it has a new title as David is no longer the AGA man! Please go to davidseverywhere.wordpress.com where you will find lots of old posts from the AGA Pointing days plus photos and updates from Gina and Tom Ellis Racing (where David now works). There will also be plenty of words (and pics) about point-to-point horse racing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yorkshire cracker as Sheriff Hutton hosts the return of our AGA point-to-point Champions

AGA Home Business is the theme for our point-to-point sponsorship this season so the award winning Carr House Farm bed and breakfast in Ampleforth was an obvious place to start the weekend. This 16th century farmhouse - which is surrounded by woodland, serves a delicious AGA cooked breakfast and has long been on my list as a potential Home Business partner.
Our friendly hosts were Anna Lupton and her husband Jack Peckitt - who is a former northern amateur point-to-point jockey, and is also officially recognised as a friendly face for North Yorkshire! The pair also breed Cuckavalda gun dogs - which will appeal to shooting enthusiasts, and you can even take a dog for a walk during your stay if you choose to enjoy some of North Yorkshire's most famous walks, which are on the doorstep.
The forecast snow didn't arrive, however, there was a nice crisp frost so we set off for Sheriff Hutton in good heart (about 30 minutes away), fortified by our AGA cooked breakfast. The Yorkshire sunshine was almost tropical and it soon had the frost out of the ground, so with the course looking in immaculate condition the action started early with a couple of pony races.
By the time the runners had entered the paddock for the Club Members race there was a healthy looking crowd in attendance, which included lots of familiar faces. There were also plenty of familiar faces in the paddock (Cowards and Masons among them), and it wasn't long before one of them - AGA Champion Jacqueline Coward, was back and heading for the winners enclosure!

Elusive Swallow ensured the day started with a bang for the Coward team - we could hear Jacqueline screaming and whooping as she crossed the line, and this win boded well for the chances of Amicelli in our AGA Ladies Open. The excitement was building as the runners went up on the board ... and news spread that the Mrs S was about to wade into the betting jungle!
We had a tough job choosing best turned out but eventually plumped for one of the Mason greys - Green Du Ciel (number 4), who looked a picture, although the other Mason grey - former AGA winner Blandings Castle (number 2) also looked fantastic. I snapped a few of the runners in the paddock but was asked to restrict my shots of Amicelli (number 1) to head shots only by Sam Coward as, in her words, "he has wintered well".
As we watched him strut around the paddock it was hard to believe that our AGA Champ is now 14 years old and he looked like he couldn't wait to get out onto the course. Another 14 year old - Optimistic Harry (number 8), winner of two AGA qualifiers, also looked magnificent, as did another AGA winner Palypso De Creek (number 9).
"Hot race" was the oft repeated phrase that we kept hearing in the paddock, a phrase that has become synonymous with our AGA Ladies Open races this season ... and long may it continue! The jockeys were just about to mount and we had one eye on the betting jungle, although Mrs S had managed to leave her purse in the car ... again!
The Mason sisters won the first award of the new season ... 'most cheerful lady riders in the paddock before an AGA race' - and just in case they contact me to ask for their prize, I can confirm that it was tea and biscuits in the AGA tent after the race (they had that).
The Cowards discussed their tactics while in the background Beazo can be seen contemplating his next award winning shot... and I managed to get another photo with a Mason grey in it!
Claire Metcalfe was in good spirits on yet another AGA winner - Sea Scout (number 11), and I managed to get a strategically placed AGA sign in the background for the pic of Blandings Castle (below) - this striking looking grey won the AGA race at Hornby Castle last season.
Reigning AGA Total Control Champion Claire Hart had put some miles in to get here, and was looking pretty determined as she went in search of her first points of the season. Note another strategically placed "Start your AGA Home Business" sign ... Derek is getting rather good at this!
Not many people beat Amicelli in his own back yard and after Harty won the race on Palypso De Creek it looks like she is now going to be banned from travelling north of Derby until further notice!
Lets not forget that Amicelli is STILL the reigning AGA Champion and Sam Coward was quick to remind everyone of that fact when she whipped out the winners rug from last seasons final at Cheltenham!
Gill and Mike Dawson were delighted with the win and received a warm welcome in the winners enclosure, while Claire was delighted to get on the score board with a well deserved 10 points!
Well, we had just witnessed yet another competitive AGA Ladies Open - this one had featured 5 former AGA winners, and credit must go to everyone who declared to run, our series has really captured the imagination and the support it receives is tremendous. This series is shaping up to be the best one yet and I predict that we will still have at least ten of our lady riders in contention for the Championship when we reach Stratford on June 7th ... just don't ask me to predict which ten!
As we were in Yorkshire I think you will forgive me for giving everyone another reminder that Amicelli is still our AGA Champ (and Jacqueline of course), and thanks to Bella for ensuring our star stood still long enough for me to take a few pics.
Tom Milburn asked if we would like to do the presentation by the AGA van and I jumped at the chance - instead of one or two strategically placed AGA signs we would have loads, and a strategically placed AGA cooker! Lets remember that there is a commercial reason for sponsoring this series.
Seven of the eight girls who rode in our race came to collect their pink AGA polo shirts and they decided it would be a great idea to pose for some pics with the AGA man ... well, I think they suggested it, or was it me? You will also notice a rather nice cast iron Coalbrookdale pot being presented to winning owner Mr Dawson, you can find that on our AGA Cookshop website, plus lots of other AGA goodies, including our special edition AGA Pointing mug.
Our lady riders had to wait patiently as there were rather a lot of mementoes to give out and we all had our hands full ... in fact I think Claire should have had the 10 points but we'll get that right next time!
We've built up a good rapport with our lady riders during the last three seasons and their support is very much appreciated, although you can imagine they are thinking "what will the AGA man come up with next".
Last season we had "I'm In Total Control" on the back of our AGA polo shirts, this season we have "AGA Home Business" on the back and the front. This is to help us spread the word about our exciting new venture which "will inspire entrepreneurial and prospective AGA owners alike to put an AGA at the heart of their business". If that sounds like you then you really need to get in touch with the AGA man without delay - my number is at the end of this post.
The AGA tent was busy with jockeys, owners, trainers and punters dropping by for a hot drink and to talk about all things AGA, and also to compliment Mrs S on her soup! Penny's Hats - next door to us, was also doing a roaring trade, and would shortly receive a visit from our AGA Total Control Champion, Claire Hart.
A famous Yorkshire racing mum - Susan Mason, was among the visitors, and as you can see below she was in good spirits, along with daughters Becky and Laura.
The snow clouds were gathering in the distance and as the tropical Yorkshire sun disappeared there was a real winter feel to the end of the day, although there was still time for two more famous Yorkshire racing mums - Janet Drake and Karen Tutty (both AGA owners), to pop by for a warming cup of soup and a chat with Mrs S.
Claire decided to celebrate her win with a nice new hat and also decided that it would be fun to have her photo taken wearing her new hat by the AGA, with Penny sporting the very same hat! (a Baker Boy cap in mint). Claire and Penny are old friends and I suspect this will not be the last time she buys an "I've just won the AGA race hat".
As the racing was staged on Easterby land we could not pass up the opportunity to have a photograph taken with the main man himself, the racing legend that is MW Easterby (thanks to daughter Susan for the introduction), and we were also joined by Peter Easterby (left).
Andy Nicholls (centre below) and Bob Woodhouse are another two great Yorkshire characters and both were saddling runners in Division 1 of the Maiden, however, they were still happy to pass on some words of wisdom to the AGA man.
If half of the crowd today were AGA owners then it's a good bet that they would have bought their AGA from local AGA distributor Country Warmth in Malton. Owners Sara and Michael were on a skiing holiday but Jane - next to the AGA man below, had popped along to fly the Country Warmth flag with a couple of her friends.
If you leave a point-to-point meeting slightly early because you have a long drive home then it is probably advisable to leave by the main entrance and avoid the lorry park at all costs. That's because you may drive past a lorry that contains a horse being saddled by some friends, and those friends may then decide to consider whether you are a "southern softy" for leaving early! I'm actually a north-east lad although I suppose myself and Mrs S were heading south so Mrs Coward had a point.

Good natured banter is all part of the game and it will resume at Thorpe Lodge next week when the Cowards make the journey south in search of more winners and more AGA points. While we're talking about the Cowards, if you are considering leasing or owning a point-to-point horse then you should take a look at www.cherrycowardracing.co.uk, in particular the section called "Be A Part Of It", you may be tempted. If you are considering owning a brand new AGA cooker, and would like to put one at the heart of your business then you should call David 'the AGA man' Simpson now on 07768 474570.