The West Midlands has always been one of the most innovative of the 14 Point-to-Point administrative regions.
E-Ticketing has come a long way over the last 3 years and 9 out of 13 Area fixtures will be offering this service during 2017-2018. That equates to 69% of our meetings, which is double the National average where 27.9% (50 out of the 179 fixtures) are opting for digital ticketing.
Point-to-Point Racing continues to enjoy tremendous support from all its participants and these include William and Angela Rucker who also invest heavily in National Hunt Racing with the Worcestershire based couple having horses in training with Evan Williams and Fergal O’Brien.
Some fail to make the grade but that benefits Point-to-Pointing as they are then able to ply their trade between the flags.
IN THE HOLD and WILD BILL both showed good form last year; the former winning at Bitterley and Chaddesley, while the latter finished 5th in the Final Champion Hunters Chase at Stratford.
Both are ready for the early start especially In the Hold whose best form has always been with some give in the ground – stablemate Wild Bill could be seen out at Chaddesley’s Christmas meeting.
VINNIE RED is another expected to make an early appearance. Pulled when favourite at Newbury he had won at Market Rasen prior to that for Fergal O’Brien. The quintet is made up by MOUNTAIN CHIMES and BLUE RHYTHM.
Both are 5-year-olds, the former by Winged Love who has had a couple of runs under Rules for Evan Williams (an experience which should be helpful in the future). Blue Rhythm was favourite on his last run at Fontwell, having previously been narrowly beaten in a Southwell Hurdle.
BARRAKILLA has won 3 races under Rules but “never came right last year” according to the owners. Now with Fergal O’Brien he should soon make his mark in Hunter Chases.
Mrs Rucker’s sister Katherine Smith Maxwell has BUCK MAGIC who will be campaigned by her son John. This horse had good form in the past but managed just one run in 2016/2017 when troubled by an abscess.
TRAFALGAR ROCK joins the yard having made the short journey from the stable of Grand National winning trainer Dr Richard Newland at Claines. Placed second on five occasions whilst in his care he then added two short distance chases to his account.
John and his sister Felicity are currently debating the future of LE LEGRO who came from Alex Dunn’s yard. It remains to be seen who gets the better of this argument.
Christine Banks horses also carry the royal blue and cerise hoop colours used by her sisters Angela and Katherine.
WELL MET and ROUND ROBIN are based at home with Banks’s and both will be aiming to improve on last season’s performances, while VASCO DU MEE and ARTHURS SECRET race from Martin Weston’s yard.
The latter’s bubble was well and truly burst when beaten by One More Tune at Chaddesley. His performances prior to that had been exhilarating, which prompts the question was this a one off? We will have a much clearer picture when he reappears.
INVISIBLE MAN returns for another season with Diana Ralph entrusted with his wellbeing while HORSHAM LAD is now 14-years-old, but as spritely as ever the coming weeks will dictate his future path.
David Maxwell and Kim Smyly regularly make successful forays down into the South East and connections are likely to follow a similar pattern. MON PARRAIN (pulled up at Barbury last week) has been hunter chasing from Paul Nicholls yard and the 11-year-old should be able to add to his career total of 9 wins.
MINERFORTYNINER has a good record over the last 3 seasons, but was seen out just twice last year when pulling up at Chaddesley before winning at Godstone. GOT THE NAC has been racing in much better company than he is likely to encounter in Points and joins OUT NOW who retain enough ability to sneak a win between the flags.
MAYBE PLENTY burst onto the Point-to-Point scene in 2014, and subsequently won at Warwick in April 2016. She returns after having a foal, but it is always a bit of a lottery knowing if the ability remains or whether a future in the paddocks beckons.
MINELLA FRIEND is due to team up with Ben Sutton. He started the previous season running well in the Rucker colours, but his form then deteriorated. His first run for new connections will prove informative.
Nickie Sheppard has a team of three at her Eastnor yard. BUTNEY ROCK fulfilled the criteria of providing Milo Herbert with his first winner by scoring at Lockinge on Easter Monday. He followed that success with a couple of placings and could score again in the right company.
The Herbert’s have purchased BALLYCAHANE from Arthur Moore. The 8-year-old has run 19 times under rules for just 4 placings, so connections have their work cut out getting this one into the winner’s enclosure.
The Bean Club have enjoyed numerous successes over the years and will be hoping PLAYBOOK a 6-year-old son of Milan can keep up their winning sequence. He was pulled up at Bellowstown but had been third in a hurdle on his racecourse debut so obviously has some ability, but fell at the last when in fourth place last week.
NICKNAME EXIT remains with James Ridley and their best effort was when finishing third in the Ledbury Members. An outing in the famous Golden Button Challenge is also on the cards.
BIG GEORGIE enjoyed success with Ridley back in 2016 but struggled when campaigned at a higher level from Katy Price’s stable. He runs in the colours of the “Cheers Syndicate” and could prove an inspired purchase if Ridley can rekindle his flame.
With Jack Barber now training under Rules Will Biddicks tenure as Champion Jockey looks under greater threat than normal and that could enhance Alex Edwards’s challenge for the Riders Championship.
The Leading Trainers Title could see the cards fall in Phil Rowley’s favour and with the Shropshire handlers record in unearthing new talent “we have 10 to 12 three-year-olds who are in the early stages of their education” that could prove decisive.
Rowley has PIQUE ROCK who races in the colours of Juliett Minton. She ran four times under Rules and after his best effort when 5th of 15th at Bangor the post-race analysis comment was “one to note”. That proved a correct assessment because she scored a facile win in the Mares Race at Barbury and should have no difficulty following up.
THE STING looked a potential winner of the short Maiden at Barbury when he tipped up just behind the leader at the last so it should not be long before the winner’s enclosure beckons while STOLEAWAY missed last season and the trainer will be looking for longer tracks and some cut in the ground for him to show his best.
BAREL OF LAUGHS finished 3rd in last year’s Cheltenham Foxhunters prior to winning the Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup on a return visit to the Gloucestershire venue. He also added the Lady Dudley Cup to his impressive C.V. and the gelding is “now back in work and on top form” so connections will be hoping for repeat successes.
BEAR’S AFFAIR has a Warwick Hunter Chase success to his credit and won at Cottenham in early December, while NOW BEN crowned a fine season by taking the Champion Novices’ Hunters’ Chase at Stratford. TEMPLE GRANDIN will do well to match last season exploits when he won five out of six races.
Connections do not believe we have seen the best out of HAZEL HILL and given that he is on an 8-race unbeaten run that should put the fear of god into any future opponents.
Jane Allfrey will be glad to see the North Ledbury have retained their slot at Hereford Racecourse because IN THE DOCK’s fondness for that venue is well known.
TAKE OVER SIVOLA has tested the trainer’s patience over the last couple of seasons but will need everything in his favour to score in future. MASTER HIDE was never out of the frame in five outings last year and nobody would begrudge connections their moment of glory when he finally manages to get his head in front.
PULL THE TRIGGER finished in front of his new stablemate when the pair were second and third in an Umberleigh Maiden back in 2016. The 6-year-old failed to show any form under Rules for Tim Vaughn but could show improvement at this level.
Emma Alvis returned to the training ranks last year and made an immediate impact with Clive and Eileen Bennett’s CHASFORGOLD taking the Award for the Leading Horse and Leading Novice Horse. The 8-year-old progressed through the ranks and seems to have improved judging by his win in the Intermediate at the PPORA meeting.
Connections did well with RYE CROSS who won an Intermediate at Black Forest Lodge prior to taking the Hargreave Hale Hunter Chase at Worcester in May.
Alvis is also preparing an un-raced and un-named 4-year-old filly out of Greensleeves and thus related to Passage East.
BIG CASINO is a newcomer to Alvis’s Laverton yard. The 11-year-old showed form under Rules for Nigel Twiston Davies but will now race in his new trainers colours. Judged on his previous efforts staying is his forte and he finished a promising third behind Iberico and Lilbitluso recently which marks him out as a future winner.
As well as having horses with Alvis, Sam Jukes is preparing some Bennett’s horses at their home near Dymock. These include old favourite STONE who has “summered well and will be aimed at the Barbury International meeting in January”. Stablemate IBERICO won at the PPORC meeting at Barbury last year and beat a top-class field in this year’s race to show his well-being.
UPPERTOWN HAWK has always shown his best form on faster ground so don’t expect him to make an appearance until conditions are in his favour.
THE WELL ROAD has had problems, but is giving indications that things are finally clicking into place so watch out for him at Larkhill in January.
Based on last year’s performance MARCLE RIDGE should not be long making his mark. The Bennett’s made the trip out to Ireland for his racecourse debut but had to settle for the runners up spot when he was outpaced on the run in.
SHOWMETHEWAY, an unraced 4-year-old homebred filly is a full sister to Marcle Ridge who the Bennett’s are hoping to run in the Bumper at Barbury in January.
Lilly Pinchin has won the Ladies Title for the last 2 years, but her chances of making it a hattrick must have diminished following Allerton’s recent sale.
She has already ridden several winners under Rules for her boss Fergal O’Brien and is hoping to build up a book of rides as the season progresses.
With Mike Hammonds licensed premises at Abberley full his wife Zoe has fewer Pointers to prepare.
The couple are striving to provide a first winner for their daughter Lucy. She enjoyed several good runs on MILLED last year, and will be hoping to build on that experience. Zoe is busy preparing a 5-year-old by Mr Dinos with the intention of running him in the Point-to-Point Bumper at the Barbury International meeting in January.
Don Constable has a 3-year-old by Artic Cosmos and this home bred half-brother to Snuff Box who won on his debut for connections in 2015/16 should be able to follow in his relations footsteps.
Mike Hawker is busy preparing COTILLION from his base near Chippenham. After finishing second to Iberico over 3 miles and 6 furlongs at Barbuary he beat Jepeck in the Tiverton Members a few weeks later.
CECILE DE VOLANGES was a useful performer between the flags a couple of years ago and will have benefited from a recent run over hurdles. Her best form has always been over extreme distances so watch out for her in those type of races.
A couple of homebreds complete the team. LEMONADE DRINKER is out of that smart Point-to-Point mare Sheknowsyouknow and is another being aimed at the Barbury Bumper.
Stablemate BETTY BATTENS is also 4 years old but this time out of Where’s My Slave – a debut between the flags is expected this season.
Julie and Dave Mansell have SACRE TOI in their care at Hasfield. He provided Ledbury Joint Master David Redvers with his first winner last May and is now entrusted with the same task for George Daly, the son of one of Redvers Joint Master Louise Daly. The partnership did well on their first outing together finishing a strong finishing fourth in a hot Men’s Open.
George has enjoyed success Pony Racing and that will stand him in good stead as he endeavors to continue his families’ successes between the flags.
JOEY KANGAROO won a Cocklebarrow Maiden 2 years ago but was only seen out twice the following season when 2nd in a Larkhill Restricted before he was the subject of major support at Maisemore where he pulled up.
WATCH ME BOP BOP is a Doncaster Sales purchase who has had a few niggling injuries which have delayed his racecourse debut.
FOUR ALFIE had one run in a Navan Bumper for Willie Mullins but has been purchased by Bill Hawkins who will be hoping he can improve on that performance.
Swallows Delight provided Bill and Ade Sparey with some great memories over the years so NO LIKEY has some big hoof prints to follow in. The 10-year-old best form has been over short distances and that type of race may provide him with his best chance of success in the future.
LIVERPOOL LAD was brought late last season by Sylvia and Chris Edmunds, while FINDLAYS FIND is well known to Hunt racing enthusiasts. He has been enjoying himself over the big hedges in the cream of the Ledbury country and could make a return to racing if things go well.
It must be the individual attention horses receive at Pup and Lucy King’s yard at Weston sub Edge that proves beneficial as proved last year by Knockaderry King.
A 20-1 winner of a Mollington Maiden under Lilly Pinchin, he was then surprisingly beaten when odds on favourite for the North Cotswold Members. He then scored another big priced win when storming to victory at Cheltenham’s May evening fixture.
It was always going to be difficult for the Kings to retain the horse after that major success and he subsequently returned to owner Dave Shorey and is now in the care of Fergal O’Brien.
The Kings have acquired a new horse called FIRST GOODNIGHT but the form summary for his only run in a Kinsale Maiden in May 2015 does not make good reading while previous trainer Gerald Bailey said a year later “He was in training in Ireland and schooled atrociously when he first came, but we’ve hunted him, and he’s improved massively.” From that low starting point, he can only improve.
Abbie Meyers and Patrick Berkins are both based with O’Brien at Naunton and they continue their quest to win with VAILLANT CREEK who ran a couple of promising races last year.
Down in the Cotswold Vale Farmers country Jason Warner is lining up AMERICAN LEGEND for one of the early meetings. Jumping is his forte and there was a lot to like about his win at Andoversford, but he always seems to find one or two better than him at the finish.
MR BURGEES is a newcomer to the yard having travelled up from David Pipe’s. He ran 15 times for 4 wins but at 8 years of age this son of Westener still has time on his side.
Ben Pauling’s assistant Mary Vestey did well with Silver Roque last year. He was an experienced chaser, but U NO LIKE is a different challenge. The 5-year-old was second of eight on his Belharbour debut and that gives his trainer cause for optimism.
Down in the Berkeley country Reg Hopkins is preparing BALLYFORE CROSS who claimed a controversial decision in the Stewards Room at Whitfield, but had won a Parham Maiden prior to that in Tim Underwood’s colours.
Speaking with Charlie Dando at the PPORA meeting he was waiting for an assessment regarding riding in Point-to-Points this year. Charlie suffered life threatening injuries in a shooting accident at the beginning of last season but made a marvelous recovery and was back at work about two months later. While taking nothing for granted he is cautiously optimistic about returning to the saddle and last years Woodford winner BRASS IN POCKET is amongst several the Dando’s are priming for the coming season.
Elsewhere Ryan Potter is hoping to build on last years successes with BRAVE JAQ and FOXCUB amongst others.
The former, a 6-year-old by Network, won a 1-1/2 mile AQPAS flat race in France but has not shown anything subsequently for Paul Nicholls and Tim Vaughan. Foxcub has tasted success 5 times under Rules the latest at Bangor back in 2015.
Sue Bowen has acquired THE ABSENT MARE from Sarah Jane Davies but this one has struggled since winning 2 years ago.
David Fitch Peyton’s BOUND FOR GLORY has a fondness for Cottenham and he followed up last year’s success by taking the Ladies Open at that courses December meeting and the Leigherton based trainer should enjoy another successful season.
Axelle Wall’s Coln Rogers stables houses ASK CONNIE and FESTIVAL DAWN and judging by last seasons performances the latter should have not difficulty improving her record in a Maiden.
MAN FROM SEVILLE won at Andoversford last year whilst in Fergal O’Brien’s care but has now been qualified with the Clifton-on-Teme by John Walker, while John Bryan is preparing ASK THE GUVNOR for Jack McGrath and given their record it would not be wise to dismiss his chances.
Andrew Campbell early runners are likely to include YOU’RE THE MAN, GEORGE HERBERT and LIGHT FLICKER and judging by his recent effort at Bishops Court the latter still has a lot to learn.
The Tom Weston trained THE LATE LEGEND is only 4-years-old but he is bound to have been well schooled and that should stand him in good stead when he makes his racecourse debut (He finished 3rd in a Larkhill Maiden last weekend).