After 130 years at Upton-on-Severn optimism was required in abundance when the Croome & West Warwickshire started their search for a new Point-to-Point course in 2017.
A venue was subsequently identified at the Lawnsbrook Farm home of Joint Master Patty Allen and this opens to the public for the first time on Saturday 21st March 2020.
A lot of time, effort and hard work has gone into improving the drainage and a major reseeding programme has borne fruit with the course receiving very positive feedback at its recent open day.
The course is right-handed with a slight bank which provides excellent viewing. The start is at the entrance to the back straight where three fences are negotiated, followed by three more in the home straight and another just before the start. The course is estimated to be just over 3 miles and the runners will face 19 fences.
Judging by feedback from local owners, trainers and riders the sport will be as competitive as ever when the new season starts on Sunday 17th November.
Max Comley became the Leading West Midlands based Novice Rider in 2017/18, trained his first winner 12 months later, but having outgrown his previous base at Rendcomb starts this season from a new yard at Naunton.
When contacted recently Max told us “I had a fantastic time last season but things have snowballed quickly. We started 2018/19 with 3 horses and finished with 14. This year we’re starting with 18 in work and have 21 on the books”.
“I’ve relocated to a custom-built yard in Naunton with incredible facilities and the potential to expand. The yard has been set up especially for race horses, breakers and pre trainers for myself and Lucy Jackson (N.Z. eventer). We’ve got a 5 furlong all weather gallop, schooling ground, horse walker, lunge pen, arena and 47 stables. This is a massive step in the right direction, and I want to say a huge thank you to Neil O’Hara, for building such a fantastic set up for me. We’ve got a lot of exciting horses this year, and the standard has improved”.
Comley also stated “We had a lot of fun with Cloudy Joker last year. He was 2nd at Cold Harbour, won at Tabley, and unseated when leading at the last in a Stratford Hunter Chase. Izzie Marshall gets on well with him, and Ladies races seem to suit him as he’s not the biggest but has a fantastic attitude”.
The grey Cloudy Joker finish second at Cold Harbour
Questioned about Knockaderry Flyer he commented “He was unlucky not to win last year. He never really got his ground, and always bumped into a few too good” a fact illustrated by his 3rd to Marcle Ridge and 6th place behind Hazel Hill who went on to win the Cheltenham Foxhunters”.
“Twentyoneblackjack provided me with my first winner at Horseheath. We have a spring campaign mapped out for him starting off in Restricteds”.
Comley indicated that he has plenty of well-bred 3 and 4-year-olds who are due to make their debuts after Christmas, whereas Paul’s Hill is a new recruit who was rated 128 under Rules.
“Calvins Gal was hampered by a faller and was unlucky to finish 2nd at Cold Harbour, but broke a blood vessel when pulled up next time out”.
“Bitofblinding changed hands for £46,000 earlier in his career but was picked up cheaply. He’s had time to grow over the summer and is showing all the right signs”.
“U No Like came to us midway through last season after finishing 2nd in two Irish Point-to-Points he then occupied the same position on his English debut at Barbury Castle”.
Maximus Maridius won for Tom Lacey and has been placed under Rules for Sam Drinkwater. He is a consistent sort who will probably appreciate a return to racing at this lower grade.
Lucy Hammond rides out regularly for Fergal O’Brien and Sally Randall when her RAU lectures at Cirencester allow, which means more work for her parents Mike and Zoe are preparing Lost Legend from their base near Newmarket.
The veteran finished fourth at Eaton Hall last November but is now back in work and could be seen out at the first Chaddesley meeting.
Lucy Hammond and Ronava score at Knightwick
There is a possibility she could be reunited with Ronava who won twice last season. He would have to carry a penalty as a result of these wins and other successes so may be aimed at Ladies Opens and Hunter Chases where the penalty would be negated by Lucy’s claim.
Ben Sutton is returning to race riding and will team up with Stanton trainer Kim Smyly to partner Maybe Plenty and Minerfortyniner. The latter has won between the flags but despite being placed a couple of times has failed to break his duck under Rules.
Maybe Plenty won two Points in 2014 and has mixed Pointing and running under Rules. It is the former which probably provides him with his best chance of success.
Fisherman’s Tale, a 5-year-old Jeremy mare has had two educational runs in Bumpers at Cheltenham and Ffos Llas and was last in both of them. It will be interesting to see if there is any improvement when she runs over 3-miles with 18 fences in front of her.
Toddington based Jake Slatter does well from limited opportunities and has the ability to improve moderate horses into respectable Point-to-Pointers. Bally River Boy was a case in question so it was sad that connections lost him half way through last season.
Waterloo Warrior was brought as a replacement and went on to win a Bredwardine Maiden and Kingston Blount Restricted. Neither contest had great depth but two wins from two runs cannot be bettered. The family also have an un-named 3-year-old by Arcadio to run in the spring.
Waterloo Warrior (yellow cap) fights back to score at Bredwardine
The dip in form of Victoria Collins’s horses seemed to coincide with a move from Ludlow to a new base near Broadway but having settled into that new environment she has 6 horses to run this year.
The best of which is probably Zamparelli who came from Dan Skelton for whom he won 4 times. He has alternated between hurdling with chasing and that should stand him in good stead between the flags.
Tower View made the journey from Nigel Twiston Davies. The 5-year-old had two runs, a Bumper at Haydock and a Hurdle at Chepstow and may be one of those that needs time.
Flywork is a 4-year-old Maiden who was pulled up in his one run for Sophie Lacey so he was obviously one of that stable’s lesser lights.
Galavantin’s third at Ballindenisk was the best of his 4 runs in Ireland. He was purchased at Ascot in June and has some way to go to justify his purchase price.
Collins’ also has two un-named 4-year-olds, the first by Universal and the second by Great Pretender.
Claire Hardwick’s yard at Adelstrop is on the boundary of the Warwickshire, Heythrop and North Cotswold so she has horses qualifying with all three packs.
6-year-old Champagne Poppy started life with Tom Lacey before making her way to Ben Pauling’s and finally Adelstrop. Disappointing in 3 runs under Rules Claire hopes the change of scenery will prove beneficial.
Charmond is a lovely home-bred mare who works well and a 2-1/2 mile or Mares Maiden this side of Christmas is a likely objective.
Exclusive Rights has proved frustrating although she did finish runner up in a Bicester Maiden first time out last season but she must have quick ground.
Jennifer Juniper sustained an injury to her hock last November but has experience under Rules and that will stand her in good stead when she reappears.
Man in the Moon finished 3rd in a North Hereford Maiden when trained by Phil Rowley. He is not devoid of ability and the plan is to run in an early season Maiden.
Reality Bites has an Irish Maiden win to his credit and finished third in a Mollington Restricted last spring, while Western Diva has won 6 times and been placed on numerous occasions; she jumps brilliantly and stays forever.
What a Joke has been a wonderful schoolmaster for George Prince and they will continue to ply their trade in long distance and novice riders’ races, while 2 un-named 4-year-olds complete the set up.
The first by Apple Tree is owned by David and Sheila Spearing, has done everything we have asked of him with little fuss, while the other is by Yourgunnabelucky and from a strong staying family which means he will probably start off in a 3-mile Maiden.
Brookthorpe owner Jason Warner has some of his horses based at Byron Moorcroft’s stables near Cowbridge so they can launch assaults on races in both the West Midlands and West Wales.
Jason Warner (left) and Bryon Moorcroft (right) are hoping to build on last years successes
Mister Dix was placed on seven of his ten runs last year and deserves a change of luck which may come in Ladies Races. Diplomatico won a 2-1/2 mile Tedworth Maiden but struggled afterwards, while Long Mile Road opened his account on the last day of the season at Umberleigh, but was all out to do so.
Not at All finished third on three occasions and looked to have a winning chance until slipping up on the bend at Lydstep, while Beneficial Joe will need to be carefully placed to improve his chances of winning.
French Piece won a short Maiden at Pyle prior to a 3-length success in a Llwyn Du Restricted. The 5-year-old has done little wrong and connections have their sights set on bigger prizes this year.
Warner will see his colours carried for the first time by Always Lion a 9-year-old who had excellent form under Rules for the Rooney’s, but had his progress has been hampered by fragile legs. The in running comments when Thumb Stone Blues finished second at Worcester in July 2018 indicate he has some ability, while Best to Come seems to reserve his best form for Sedgefield.
Ahead of the Game may need time as he ran green in a Taunton Bumper for Johnny Farrelly, while Finleys Eye’s had 2 runs for Dan Skelton although both his placed efforts were over shorter distances.
Edabean was previously based with Giles Smyly. She has been unplaced in eight runs under Rules so is definitely work in progress.
Sam Jukes and Clive Bennett contribution to the sport were acknowledged at last year’s Point to Point Owners and Riders Association lunch at Stratford Racecourse.
Stone has won the most races for the Dymock based partnership. He was not seen out until April last year and was not disgraced behind Ballyboker Breeze at Chaddesley. He took the notable scalp of Knight Batchelor two weeks later and you would not bet against him improving on his winning total in 2019/20.
Uppertown Hawk always comes good towards the end of the season and ran up a sequence of three seconds at Maisemore, Bitterley and Cothelstone before returning to the Somerset venue to land a Mixed Open at their final meeting of the season.
The Well Road struggled to repeat the form he had shown in 2018/19, while Rye Cross finished the season with a flourish with two placings before scoring at Chaddesley. Chasforgold had a similar profile and did well to cling onto a Woodford Mixed Open.
Marcle Ridge fulfilled his potential last year progressing from winning a Confined, Intermediate and Cheltenham Hunter Chase. He was finishing with a flourish when beaten a head by Templebraden at Maisemore before disappointing behind Killaro Boy at Warwick.
Clive Bennett and Sam Jukes in a familar post in the winners enclosure
He benefitted from a wind op immediately after that race and has had plenty of time to recover. Connections have an ambitious campaign mapped out for him which could culminate in a tilt at the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
Showmetheway’s form improved as she gained experience and she was particularly impressive when beating Message to Martha to whom she was conceding lumps of weight in a Mares Maiden at Brampton Bryan.
Miss Seagreen also progressed after winning a Larkhill Maiden and was putting in her best work at the finish behind Dalkingstown at Brampton Bryan and Monbeg Oscar at Bitterley. The trainer reports that both have filled out and matured during the summer.
Russian Maze could make her debut in the coming months. She is another product of Labyrinth and is a full sister to the Nicky Henderson trained Shishkin. She is being aimed at a Point-to-Point Bumper in the spring.
Jukes is hoping that Gottagottagetaway will provide his farrier Daniel Garlick with his first winner between the flags. The 7-year-old had two runs between the flags in 2018. He was third when squeezed for room before running out in a Stradbally Maiden and fourth when he made a bad mistake and was pulled up at Kinsale.
Tb Broke Her and R Bren did the stable and Will Gaskins proud last year. R Bren won twice, while Tb Broke Her ran nine times for two successes. She came up against some top-class horses earlier in the season and could be in for another good year, if these rivals can be avoided.
Will Gaskins (right) and R Bren at Woodford