FIRST POINT-TO-POINT RACE: – 12-30 PM
PONY RACING 11-30 AM
It is difficult to believe that 12 months ago this meeting was cancelled due to the “Beast from the East” while this week has seen the highest February temperatures recorded in England.
The meeting at Didmarton literally has the field to itself, as it is the only Point-to-Point meeting in the country on Saturday afternoon, so the crowd should be swelled by enthusiasts who travel long distances to participate, but also by people who fit this event into part of their social calendar.
The Members Race is dominated by entries from three stables which account for a majority of the potential runners. Little Sodbury based Charlie Dando and partner Brooke Gardener-Wollen have a total of four horses entered including Brass in Pocket, Carrig Dubh, Everybody’s Talkin and Kit Barry.
Everbody’s Talkin won on his seasonal debut last week, while stablemate Carrig Dubh has a course success to his credit (having won last year’s Intermediate) so the stable selection is sure to give a good account of themselves.
Ed Walker is also multi-handed and probably holds the key to this contest with the highly rated Fly West, Mothers Rest, The Flying Doc and Vinc’s Vinnie. The Ottery St Mary trainer was successful for the Francombe’s with Punter Friendly last year and will be keen to repeat that feat with Mothers Rest 12 months later.
Robert Harraway always has a runner in the Members but it seems a placed effort is the best Brandy and Red or Too Scoops can hope for. A few years ago, any runners carrying the Bush families black and white colours were a standing dish in this contest but their star has waned recently and it would be a major surprise if Double Cool were to win.
Walker teams up with owner Richard Kelvin Hughes in the 4-5-6 and 7 year old Maiden. Santini made his debut at this meeting in 2017 and is now one of the favourites for one of the major races at the Cheltenham Festival.
There is now way of knowing if St Barts is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath but at this stage of his career, he has more in his favour than most.
Francesca Nimmo is another stable that is worth following and her two un-raced 4-year-olds Breaking the Ice or Falloway Dubreau receive major weight concessions from their rivals. The Ettington based trainer has a well-deserved reputation for spotting young equine talent so it will be interesting to see how they perform.
After his success last week Mankala will probably start favourite for the Restricted and that support may well be justified. Rules of War won at Chaddesley before being beaten on his travels a few weeks later, while Jo Priest has her stable in fine form which gives Buffalo Sabre a chance.
Draft Pick has a similar profile to Miss Seagreen as they both beat Ballyjim at Larkhill but preference is for the latter who needed every inch of the 3-mile trip before scoring. This course should play to her strengths and the combination of the long run in and mares’ allowance may just tip the scales in her favour.
Whatever the fate of Draft Pick in the Restricted, James Ridley has a good chance of extending his winning run with Chase Me in the Open Maiden. There is not a lot of strength in depth in this race but the 8-year-old has a much higher profile than most of his rivals. He was third in a Hunter Chase recently and a repeat performance should see him prevail.
The Novice Riders has attracted the day’s biggest entry, but in these races the ability of the rider counts as much as the horses. Pantxoa threw away a winning chance at Cocklebarrow so must go close with a clear round, while William Money has Jack Tudor to assist him.
Drumhart jumps well and is consistent, but we do not know who he will team up with, while those wanting something at longer odds could do worse than have a few bob on Victoria Sollitt’s mount Spanish Arch.
This meeting always attracts runners from across the Severn Bridge and even more this year now that the tolls have ceased. Tommie O’Bryan performed miracles to keep the partnership intact when Billygwyn Too scored at this meeting 12 months ago, and the horses ability to quicken at the end of his races plus the 5lb weight concession he gets from the Jo O’Shea trained Fair Exchange could be crucial.
Master Baker, Moral Hazard and Richmond feature high in the ratings for the Conditions but it will be no easy task for any of them if Fly West, Victory Mill and Financial Climate line up. Local hopes rest with The Well Road and Viva Steve, but Blackwater Bramble has won his last three races in workmanlike fashion, is in top form and just gets the vote.