Stewart Nash – as one of the South Midlands area’s busiest volunteers – wears many hats.
A stalwart of the Kingston Blount Racecourse Committee, he doubles up as secretary of the KBRC point-to-point and is Clerk of the Course for all four meetings at the Oxfordshire track, a duty he also performs at nearby Kimble.
But Stewart is perhaps best known as co-owner of the remarkable Start Royal – AKA Ferdy – a winner of 29 races in his illustrious career, including at least one in every calendar year between 2008 and 2019.
Jake Exelby got the “lockdown lowdown” from Stewart and found out about his background in racing.
How old are you?
Old enough to have gone to (long closed) Hurst Park as a child!
How did you get into point-to-pointing in the first place?
I saw a poster at a railway station advertising Peper Harow, but the first meeting I went to was at Tweseldown.
My first role in the sport was when I was asked by Christopher Marriott to become Secretary of the former Oxford University Hunt Club meeting, now the Kingston Blount Racing Club.
Who's inspired you most in racing?
Peter Hastings Bass, who trained at Kingsclere and for whom my aunt and uncle worked, and my cousin John Cook, who of course won the Grand National on Specify.
Who's your favourite horse?
It has to be Start Royal, who won an amazing 29 races for us.
Which jockeys have you most admired?
We were so lucky to have three superb riders for Start Royal – James Tudor, Gina Andrews and Izzie Marshall. I wouldn’t want to pick one over the other two.
Which are your favourite courses?
That’s a hard one, as I enjoy going pointing wherever it may be. Apart from Kingston Blount, we often have a holiday in early June and take in two of the meetings at Bratton Down, which is a truly picturesque setting.
What do you love most about pointing?
The informality and the great variety of courses.
What's been your personal funniest moment in the sport?
At Kingston Blount, the late John Manners had a horse that unseated its rider four out when going well. When someone commiserated with John, he replied “Everything was going alright until the silly *** fell off!”
What's been the highlight of your time in the sport?
Every win for Start Royal was a highlight at the time.
What are your career ambitions?
To find someone to take over as Clerk of the Course at Kingston Blount!
What changes have you seen during your time? For better, for worse?
Inevitably things have become more regulated, which must be better from a welfare and safety perspective. I like to think that I adapt to change and you can’t look back.
What would you do if you were in charge of the sport?
I’m just glad I’m not!
How has lockdown affected you from a racing perspective?
Not being able to go, racing on TV has been a bonus but there is only so much all-weather flat racing I can take! I managed to get to four National Hunt meetings during the brief period when spectators were allowed – I’m a member at Plumpton – and also was involved with the meetings at Kimble and Barbury Castle.
On the pointing front, I spent a lot of time making plans for the Kimble meeting in November and am now doing the same for a possible restart at Kingston Blount on Sunday 14th March. Liaison with the local authority and their safety advisory group and setting up the additional requirements for COVID has been a major task.
What do you think its effect on pointing will be?
I’d like to be optimistic and hope that everyone will keep faith with the sport.
Who's going to win the Cheltenham Foxhunters?
I’m the world’s worst tipster and always allow my heart to rule my head. But I’d like it to be a horse from a pointing, rather than a professional, yard.
What do you think we should do with the rest of the season?
At the moment I just hope we can get the show back on the road (I mean course!) and finish the season without any more stoppages.
What else have you been up to during lockdown?
I’ve been taking the opportunity to do some research into racing which, as a longer-term project, I might turn into a book. (Stewart – in typical modest fashion – omits to mention that he has already written books on the history of Kingston Blount and Plumpton racecourses).
Tell me about a TV series you've enjoyed?
An off the wall one here. Spiral, a French police crime drama set in the suburbs of Paris. Thankfully it's got subtitles!
What are you most looking forward to when lockdown is over?
Being able to get away on some holidays that we’d booked for 2020 and have rolled over to this year.
Who is your non-racing hero?
I don’t really do heroes but, at school, my head teacher was into racing and was a regular at Sandown Park and the music teacher – Alan Bolt – was a member of the Surrey Union Hunt and Clerk of the Course at Peper Harow.
What are your life ambitions?
It’s a bit late for that now!
Who else should I do one of these features on?
What about Rodney Mann? He has a long involvement with pointing both as a rider, owner (Bon Accord, Description, Sharp Suit) and Chairman of Kingston Blount before me.
Tell me something I wouldn't know from asking these questions?
One of our favourite spots is the Loire Valley in France for its châteaux and countryside.