“And they’re off!” Longnor Races remains as thrilling as ever

Longnor Races, motorbike action
Longnor Races, motorbike action

With potato races on pony-back and hair-raising harness racing, this year’s Longnor Races continued to combine eccentricity with adrenaline.

As the ever-popular antiquated event entered its 109th year on Thursday, hundreds took the afternoon off to bag a seat on a hay bale at the front on the action.

Crowds flocked to the Staffordshire village to enjoy a flutter on a horse, the high-octane motorbike racing or the charming gymkhana.

Steeped in tradition, yet packed with excitement, the day also featured a fell race, trotting, and a soundtrack provided by the jolly Hollinsclough Silver Band.

One family stole the show at the early events as two-year-old Roxy Mycock, the youngest competitor, was crowned the overall winner of the best turned out pony and rider, taking home the North Staffordshire Moorlands Beagle Challenge Cup.

While her sisters Maddy, seven, and Megan, ten, were also awarded coveted red rosettes in the quaint pony potato and sack races on the tiny ten hands high Danny.

But once the harness races started, driver Stevie Lees, sitting confident in his sulky was the clear frontrunner, winning two heats, the maiden-novice class, and the grand final on Showtime Woman owned by Jack Reay.

His son, Stevie Lees Jr, eight, went on to win the “dream mile”, a lap of the grasstrack for children.

Fellrunner Andy Wilton, the newest member of the Longnor Races Committee, said: “It’s the highlight of the year for many of the older generation in the village.

“The health and safety has obviously got better but it’s as it was from what I can remember from the ‘60s.”

Chris Hartley, gymkhana steward, agreed, lamenting the fact the event fell on the first day back at school, saying: “It’s a shame so many children miss out on this unique occasion.”

President Brain Riley, speaking after the more comical children’s events, said: “It’s things like this that make people keep coming. It’s great for sport generally. It’s a spectacle. You can’t see things like this anywhere.”