The loss of so many meetings over the last month has made it impossible for anyone involved in the sport to make any concrete plans, but with conditions predicted to improve as the week progresses, Saturday could see the return to something approaching normality.
The Duke of Beaufort Point-to-Point at Didmarton always attracts a large and knowledgeable crowd, some attracted to the racing, while for others it is part of the local social calendar.
All of them will need to brace themselves for a long day as the Beaufort Races are combined with a Country Fair that promises to be a great day out for all the family, with Pony and Point-to-Point Racing, A Fun Dog Show, Bucking Bronco, Children’s Entertainment, Trade Stands as well as the normal Food and Bar outlets.
The wet weather has resulted in many meetings being abandoned due to waterlogged ground and that has resulted in many trainers having horses to run but nowhere to run them. Didmarton is well equipped to handle most conditions and now things are improving it is not surprising this meeting has attracted the weekends largest entry of 186 horses.
Both the PPORA Club Members Conditions with 34 entries and a safety factor of 20 and the Open Maiden which has 46 entries and a limit of 18 have the potential to divide, but with the last race scheduled for 4-10 pm, there should be sufficient time to fit in two more races before darkness falls if that is required.
The odds must be high on Charlie Dando landing the Members because his Little Sodbury stable holds six of the thirteen entries (According to Harry, Brass in Pocket, Everybody’s Talkin, Kit Barry, Loodeen and Ravensdale) so it will be interesting to see which horse the rider thinks provides him with the best chance of landing the prize.
Will Biddick’s mount Overland Flyer has to concede lumps of weight to his rivals and has a question mark hanging over him after being pulled up on his last two outings.
Dancing Dave was prominent for a long way behind No Limitations at Badbury Rings a couple of weeks ago but still has something to find on form, whereas Fly West and William Woodman are just starting to gel as seen by their recent effort during the Countryside Alliance meeting in Dorset. The jockey will need to keep his wits about him as it is vital to get a good position on the home bend as that enhances your chances of victory.
The 26 entries for the Intermediate include Benefaktor who has already won a Maiden and Restricted for Tom Ellis but there are some battle-hardened runners in this race and that will test him to the limit.
Risky Gold won at Cocklebarrow prior to finishing third behind Miss Seagreen at Chaddesley, and her second place to Chameron earlier in the season looks even better after that horse took the prestigious Coronation Cup at Larkhill on Saturday afternoon. These two hold a fitness advantage over Monbeg Oscar who beat Miss Seagreen at Bitterley last season.
Getaway Flyer showed great tenacity to win at the Albrighton & Woodland meeting but unfortunately the runner up has not franked the form since, while Teeton Surprise caught the eye with an impressive win at Larkhill.
Journey Juice, Miss Massey, No Limitations, Order in Court and Normofthenorth will all make their presence felt, but Miss Seagreen has most to fear from the Nickie Sheppard trained Organised Solution who continued his upward progression with an impressive win in a Badbury Rings Restricted.
The PPORA Club Members Conditions has attracted a first-class entry with 25 of the 34 entries having a rating of 100 or over.
Dubai Quest is one of those but will need to improve further despite victories in an Restricted and Intermediate as this is a significant step up in class, against Azure Fly (successful at Cocklebarrow), Purple N’Gold (the winner of his last five races in 2019), and prolific winners The Last but One and Tuff Nano.
Ballyboker Breeze was beaten by Salvatore at Chaddesley but the latter had the edge on fitness that day so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this race. Organised Solution has a similar profile to Dubai Quest, while Hawkhurst is gradually coming back to form after some early season disappointments.
Mister Robbo has a course success to his credit, while Templebraden beat Cheltenham Foxhunters hopeful Marcle Ridge at Maisemore last season which puts him onto the short list.
Barney Dwan’s success in the Heythrop Ladies has resulted in a high rating. There was a lot to like about his performance that day and he is obviously a high-class performer but will need to be with another stone on his back and with more challenging opponents than he faced at Cocklebarrow.
Shometheway and Tb Broke Her have the mare’s allowance in their favour and that could come in useful in a close finish.
Vivaldi Collonges is taken to follow up last year’s course victory in the Novice Riders and on the strength of his victory over stablemate Now Ben at Cottenham, he should be able to cope with a 5 lb penalty.
Doc Carver showed great spirit to win at Chaddesley and that will stand him in good stead against Azure Fly for whom this is an alternative objective.
Kaki De La Pree was impressive when winning at Ffos Llas but got too far behind when a well beaten fourth at Bangor. Little Windmill has faced an interrupted campaign since finishing runner up at Barbury Racecourse and he has a capable jockey in Sam Brown.
The Oriental Club Owner-Trainer Conditions looks an open contest and that could provide an interesting result with so many of the runners evenly matched. Crown of Thorns and According to Harry should get the better of Cadeau George, Kings Cross, Master Hide and Order in Court, but that may still not carry them to victory.
Mister Robbo will be looking to follow up last year’s course success, but it is possible that Vasco du Mee could provide the solution to a tricky contest. The 11-year-old had good form in the past and was with the leaders until weakening from 3 out at Horseheath last month. He springs a surprise at least once a season and Saturday could be that day.
Black Jasper looks one of the most progressive horses in the Restricted, but he has other options closer to his Warwickshire base over the weekend. Byzantium Lad looked in trouble when departing at Brocklesby Park, while Dramatic Pause has not been out since pulling up down in Wales in December.
Pomme De Nuit comes from Fran and Chris Marriotts “Apple” dynasty and there was much to like about her winning performance at Cocklebarrow, while Premier Magic could go one better than his recent second at Milbourne St Andrew. Round Robin’s supporters always know they will get a good run for their money, but it is difficult to see him adding to his winning tally.
Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell who retired in 2018, could have his first runner between the flags as his stable hold three entries in the concluding Maiden.
Asterix The Gaul, Grooveur and Risk D’Argent are all 4-year-olds and so will get the maximum weight allowance from the rest of the runners, but their ability is as yet unproven, although it is good to see a retired jockey putting their experience to good use.
Annie Flower and Black Aphrodisiac have racecourse experience but this is in flat races and it could be that a fence in front of them could be more of a hindrance than a help.
The chances of Fran Nimmo’s runners in these types of events always have to be respected and she has the choice between the un-raced Cohen or Imperial Hill (2nd on his only outing) or the more experience Kilrane Road. She also has Vamanos who made the short journey over from Olly Murphy’s yard.
The Tom Weston owned and trained Iron Port is making his racecourse debut so is best watched while Restless Brian is well related but is another who will benefit from the experience.
That same remark applies to the Ryan Potter trained Sonic Gold, Tom Ellis’s Storm Tiger and Phil Rowley’s True Glory while To Be Sure has finished second in a 2-1/2 mile Maiden and connections obviously have no worries over his stamina as this race is another half mile.
Hello Fellas has obviously shown previous connections plenty of ability, as he has started favourite on several occasions under Rules. He was an odds-on favourite when unseating at the first when last seen out in 2018 so Cotswold trainer Sally Randell will have succeeded where others have failed if he manages to get his head in front.