by Jake Exelby

Given that I was expecting to meet Northamptonshire trainer Chris Loggin to talk horses rather than football, and considering that he’s a long-standing Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, it initially came as a surprise that he peppered our conversation with references to other teams!

“We’ve got to make sure we encourage the Accrington Stanleys as well as the Manchester Uniteds”, was Chris’ pithy summary when I asked him the one thing he would do to improve the sport of point-to-pointing. “To be honest, I don’t think there’s much wrong with our sport at the moment”, he affirmed. “I realise that numbers are down, but we’ve got 2,500 horses racing for next to nothing, so we can’t be doing too badly!”

But Chris is a strong believer in getting on board those who aren’t able to buy a string of horses. An example of this would be Trevor Rose, a first-time owner, who has Towering Run in Chris’ yard at Hinton-in-the-Hedges near Brackley. “Trevor and his family – including daughter Tash, who’s worked with me for five or six years now – have been supporters of the sport for a long time and they’ve always wanted a horse to run in their name and colours. Now they’ve got one.”

Towering Run was previously owned by former Point-to-Point Authority board member Steven Astaire. “Steven’s one of my newer owners,” joked Chris. “He’s only been with me since 1986! His first horse with me was our home-bred Royal Roussell. He’s been very loyal – there’s been at least one horse owned by Steven in my yard ever since.”

The best known horse Chris has trained for Steven Astaire is Yahoo, who famously finished second to Desert Orchid in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, although it’s fair to say that he was past his prime when he joined the Loggin yard aged 14. “Steven often reminds me that the nearest I came to training a double was when Yahoo, ridden by him, dead-heated with Button Your Lip and Jane Enderby at Tweseldown.”

This year, Steven has two horses with Chris – multiple winning mare Cutlass Silver, who “wants fast ground at the end of the season” according to the trainer, and new recruit Typhon de Guye, “potentially the best we’ve got”, who is likely to run in Ladies Opens and Hunter Chases. Both horses will be ridden by the “under-rated and underused” Claire Wills.

Alongside Cutlass Silver, the best-known horse in the stable is One Wish, owned by long-standing supporter of point-to-pointing Richard West. “He’s been involved since the 1960s”, confirmed Chris, “and he’s had good horses with me including Quite a Miss and Celtic Season”. One Wish is the ride of Sam Davies-Thomas, “if he can pull himself away from the mirror – and you can quote me on that!” the trainer adds cheekily.

The other horses in the yard are Bit of a Barney, Black Sceptre, Stapleton and Steel Away J. Stapleton, owned by Emma and Albert Keir, won a Maiden Race at Mollington in 2013. “He didn’t run in 2014 but we’re aiming him at a Restricted at Larkhill in March”. Black Sceptre belongs to former jockey Tash McKim and her partner Liam Whelan, who is Chris’ farrier. The four-year-old, who has run four times on the Flat, is targeting a Maiden Race at Kingston Blount.

As well as farming 450 acres with brother Mervyn – “I’ve got a big back garden” – and training eight pointers – “if you asked me how many I’d want ideally, I’d say four!” - Chris serves as PPORA representative for the South Midlands Area. He has firm views on the need to frame race conditions to attract the one-horse owners, such as Trevor and Tash Rose, as well as the big yards. Take the Farmers Bloodhounds meeting at Whitfield, for which he serves on the committee.

“We’ve replaced the Mens Open with a Conditions Race, for eight-year-olds and over who haven’t won for two years. Mens Opens are often uncompetitive at that time of year and it’s important that we have races for the smaller owner. Of course, we need the big names – they attract the crowds – but we need them to be taking each other on rather than avoiding each other.” Chris is a big fan of Conditions Races and one intriguing suggestion was to have a small number limited to horses who have never exceeded a certain rating under rules. Food for thought for Race Planning Committees.

Chris was also on the Committee responsible for the introduction of a Scurry Race at the Farmer Bloodhounds point-to-point. So what’s a Scurry Race? “It’s for happy hunters who don’t want to jump too much”, enthuses Chris. (Note to potential jockeys: there are actually 11 fences!) “Any type of horse can run, as long as they’re 18 or under, and their rider is 16 or over. It’s not run under BHA rules, so you don’t need a licence, but you do need to be insured and participation is at the discretion of the senior master.”

I asked Chris why one well-known figure in the sport has described him as the person in the South Midlands who does the most to promote point-to-pointing. “I suppose it’s due to my longevity. I can remember when Pat Tollit was riding horses like Epistle and Commando Assault under her maiden name of Pat Rushton,” he recalled. “I gave up riding when my father died to train and run the farm. Then when the supply of home-breds was drying up in 1986, Steven Astaire came along. One of his first horses, Rocamist, was my last ever ride – at Mollington. He was a lovely horse, but wouldn’t go a yard for me!”

So what was Chris like as a rider? “Too fat and pretty useless”, he confesses. “I never won under NH rules and just scraped into double figures in points.” The best horse I rode was Rough Count – I won four races on him in 1974, the highlight being his Maiden race at Kingston Blount, where I beat Jim Wilson and John Thorne into second and third. Now they were good riders.”

The Loggin yard is a close-knit operation. As well as Chris and Tash, I met brother Mervyn, who formerly trained useful pointers Ebullient Equiname and Tender Tangle at a separate yard in the village, and Ernie Boyles. “Ernie has been with the family for 53 years,” Chris tells me, “and he’s invaluable. He builds and maintains the fences, looks after the ground and helps muck out the horses. It’s down to him that our schooling fences are so popular – we have between 300 and 400 schooling sessions every year.” And when I ask Chris about his recent highlights in the sport, he doesn’t name a winner, but the day he took three horses to Whitfield last season and they all won best-turned out awards, thanks to Tash.

I’ll leave the last word to the loquacious Chris, who gives me what could be an appropriate epitaph: “I consider myself lucky to have horses to train. I take what’s thrown at me, and try and make the most of what I’ve got.”