In a sport where highs and lows are endemic, the passing last week of Richard Woollacott not only came as a huge shock to the racing community, but pushed the boundaries of the scale to an all-new low.
Of Devon farming roots, Richard became a stalwart of the West Country point-to-point scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When I entered the changing room tent for the first time as a 16-year-old — in the season best known for being cut short due to foot-and-mouth disease — Richard was already established as a leading rider for the area.
Having spent time before then watching him hone his riding skills in gymkhanas at local shows, it came as no great surprise to me that we would be adversaries on the point-to-point circuit for many years to come.
We were both ultra-competitive. It is fair to say we competed hard when the starter’s flag dropped and I recall one day we were hauled in front of the stewards at Vauterhill point-to-point for some mid-race “scrimmaging” — we had both considered ourselves entitled to the inside line around a bend, without needing to give the other an inch. After some warm debate, we stepped out of the back of the cattle trailer (makeshift stewards’ room), shook hands and both came to the conclusion that the other one was wrong!
Alas, that incident aside, in all we had 12 good seasons riding against each other, during which time we fought out many close finishes both on the racecourse and seasonally in area championships.
Since retiring from the saddle in 2012, Richard had proven himself an adept trainer of pointers before successfully graduating to the National Hunt ranks in recent years. His premature demise is a great loss to the racing world.
Ref Horse & Hound; 1 February 2018