The Pandemic has taught us the value of the old adage “Where there is a will, there is a way”.
This should be adopted as the motto for the Point-to-Point Authority who worked wonders to keep the show on the road for the past 2 seasons. That experience will prove beneficial, if a similar situation arises again at any time in the future.
We are constantly being told we are not out of the woods yet but recent signs are encouraging, although caution will be the byword over the coming months, but optimism should eventually prevail, and West Mercian stables will play their part in the sports revival.
Phil Rowley – Morville
Phil Rowley qualified horses qualified in the old North West and West Midlands Area so will be keen to land his first West Mercian Area Trainers Title. 24 Point-to-Pointers are listed on the website he shares with his wife Mel who is responsible for their runners under Rules.
The established performers include Ballykan whose performances did not match expectations last year so sights may have to be set a little lower, with Michaela Tallett putting his experience to good use in Novice Races. Tallett hit the bar with Killiney Court on a couple of occasions last year but their first win together is proving illusive.
Salvatore scored on his seasonal debut at Larkhill last year and beat the Nicholls hotpot Arcala in a Musselburgh Hunter Chase. He was always struggling in the Cheltenham Foxhunters and ran disappointingly when an odds-on favourite at Chepstow.
Vivaldi Collonges was fourth behind his stablemate at Larkhill but turned round the form with the runner up Conningsby when they met at Maisemore Park later in the season. An impressive win followed at Kingston Blount before he met Don Bersy on a going day when making a return visit to the course a few weeks later.
Vivaldi Collonges carried the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede under Rules as did Dragon D’Estruval who has moved Willie Mullins stable. Valtor comes from the same source and has won over £4000,000 in win and place money, but his form has dropped off recently.
Burndown has come from Gigginstown, while Complete Sizing joins from Jim Dreaper, so both horses are used to competing at the highest level.
Burndown won just once from fifteen outings under Rules and that was a Hurdle back in 2016. Complete Sizing won his first four Point-to-Points and was favourite to beat Some Man at Down Royal and that represents a high level of form.
Forest Chimes was second when unseating his rider at the last in a Chaddesley Maiden and was placed behind Williewonga at Sandon and also finished in the runners up spot at Tabley. Connections are known for their patience and should be rewarded in the long run.
Optimised was runner up to Saualito Sunrise at Sandon, but a more organised campaign will maximize his chances of success.
Newcomers include the Mickley Studs Achtung Baby who was purchased for £26,000 at Goffs Store Sales. This youngster was bred by Robert and Jackie Chugg at Little Lodge Farm in Worcestershire as was stablemate Galassian.
Bold Princess weakened quickly and was pulled up in two Irish Points and was subsequently offered for sale, while Epitafio was led out unsold at Goff’s Summer Sales in 2020.
Goldenbrave made a good start to his career when beating Organised Solution at Bangor in January 2020 but failed to build on that success at Horseheath a few weeks later.
Irish imports Mystic Man and Outlaw Dream will need to improve on their previous form although the former showed promise when 8-lengths third in a Tipperary Maiden, while Outlaw Dream fell on his debut before finishing third on a retrieval mission at Dawnstown.
Rowley has several newcomers including two that are due to carry the late Trevor Hemmings colours. Both are by Soldier of Fortune and because of their connections are sure to attract plenty of attention.
Ease and Grace was a useful performer in her time and has bred some useful progeny for Bob Barrett including one from this year’s intake by Blue Bresil. A three-year-old filly by Mount Nelson out of Hopeful Gleam completes the team.
Nickie Sheppard – Eastnor
16-year-old Fred Philipson Stow makes his race riding debut this year. The youngster is the grandson of Gay Kinnersley, who won the Amateur Jockeys Title in 1959-1960 before breaking his back at Stratford in 1955 and again at Hurst Park in 1962. He famously ignored doctors’ advice to stop riding and carried on until he eventually retired in 1969 and started training at East Garston.
Mr Caffrey an ex-inmate of Dr Richard Newlands stable is entrusted with the task of providing the Kings School Gloucester pupil with experience during the formative stages of his career.
The Herbert family have enjoyed a successful association with Nickie Sheppard with Organised Solution, who ended last season with an easy win at Tabley.
With Risk and Roll departing connections have purchase another horse for their son Milo to ride. Sky Marshall showed consistent form in Ireland winning or being placed in just under half of the 34 races and looks the type to improve in his new yard.
Milo’s brother Ivor starts riding this year on a horse called Welsh’s Castle. He has won Point-to-Points at Horseheath and Brocklesby Park, but struggled under Rules for Ben Case and may appreciate the switch back to this level.
Max Comley – Naunton
Max Comley’s move to Brockhill Quarry coincided with the pandemic but he has all the facilities available to make the move a success and being able to match out a clear strategy for each horse will be beneficial.
Knockaderry Flyer was suited by the stiff uphill finish at Mollington where he staged a fightback having been passed by Waterloo Warrior in the home straight, and may require similar conditions to score again.
Madame Verity started joint favourite for a Larkhill Flat race last year and should have learnt from that experience. The Allsops have a newcomer by Kayf Tara out of Aunt Harriet to race between the flags. They will be joined by another of that mares’ products but this one is by Multiplex.
Clondaw Bunny ran seven times last year, his best performance was being placed third in a Revesby Park Intermediate, while stablemate Prove Me Wrong will be hoping to do that as he showed nothing in his two most recent outings.
Rockingham South ran a promising race when a neck and half a length third in a 2-1/2 mile Maiden at Tabley and the winner Go on Chez has been since been successful under Rules so that form is probably better than the form book suggests.
Comley is Finnick Glory’s third trainer in that horse’s short career. Having been beaten by Jimmy the D in a bumper it is possible he could prove a bargain, with the trainer reporting that he has been schooling nicely and could progress throughout the season.
Call His Bluff’s three runs in 2021 yielded three seconds. The closest he came to success was when a neck second at Worcester in the summer and on that form a Maiden looks a formality.
Homing Star has made the short journey across from Graeme McPhersons yard at Stow on the Wold to Naunton. Now a 6-year-old he won on the flat back in 2018 and followed that by finishing second at Warwick and Stratford when at the bottom of the handicap.
Comley also has four youngsters, a Sageburg by Last Sunrise (well related – but won’t be out before the spring), Champs Elysee by Isityourself, Conduit by Hathamore (has been exciting trainer) and finally a Walk in the Park by Persian Heroine (great attitude and very touch).
Heidi Brookshaw – Market Drayton
Many of the stables old favourites remain including Bletchley Castle who finished behind Gardeville at Ludlow. The trainer must have been sick of the sight of that horse because Duke of Arcadio efforts to lead all the way were thwarted when he was caught in the final strides by the same horse at Tabley.
Ballyrath gave his best performance when beating Green Winter in the Radnor 4-miler back in 2019 but will struggle to regain that level of form, while Delegate has shown ability of shorter distances so connections may need to scour the planner to find suitable opportunities.
Giovanni Medice can only improve after pulling up in a three runner Maiden at Bangor in January 2020, while Karezak was pulled up at Charm Park and his best efforts under rules were over shorter distances.
Iftiraaq put in two good performances towards the end of last year when chasing home Hazel Hill in his Members and finishing runner up to For Rita at Tabley soon afterwards.
Spectacular Rival showed promise when fourth behind Willy Wonga at Sandon and looks a future winner based on that performance, while Salven won a Maiden on the now defunct Hereford Point-to-Point course back in April 2019.
Sam Cavalerro has been the flag bearer for this yard for several years but is swimming against the tide trying to win at 15 years of age, while a newcomer by Dylan Thomas out of Bathwick Lucy is at the opposite end of the scale as they are just starting their career.
Tor Collins – Broadway
Owner Sarah Dawson and trainer Tor Collins have enjoyed considerable success over the past decade, although Sarah has been involved in the sport for much longer than that.
Sarah is keen on the chances of a Maiden called Welsh Rarebit who she acquired from Lucinda Egerton. An 8-year-old by Dylan Thomas he finished three and a half lengths behind the winner in a novice hurdle at Ayr and might be worth following if he can reproduce that form in Points.
Dawson expects China Flower to have benefitted from a Covid enforced break, but it takes a leap of faith to see her making her mark between the flags, as there is no form to speak off following six runs for Toby Lawes.
Zamparelli was successful in a 2-1/2 mile Hunter Chase at Ludlow where he came with a storming late run under Lucy Turner before falling behind Marcle Ridge at Cheltenham.
Bandsman’s final run of the season was his best as he finished third in a short Tabley Mixed Open getting within 5-lengths of More Bucks – that indicates better things to come.
Solomon Grey is interesting as he had good form under Rules for Dan Skelton, including when starting favourite for a Uttoxeter Hurdle earlier in the year, and he will need to match that to make his mark between the flags.
Recently the owner explained “I have six maidens and as I bred the horses, I’ve wasted my money if I don’t run them. These include Flick the Switch who fell at the first in his first race in points. Galavantin is owned by Martin Haines and will need to step up on his last run at Kimble when he was pulled up half a mile from home.
Jake Slatter – Toddington
Slatter took a lion share of the trophies at the recent Area Awards, but is likely to struggle to repeat that feat again this year.
Waterloo Warrior had to concede weight to a majority of his rivals in all of his races last season, but performed with credit. His efforts included trying to concede 6 lb to Golden Tobourgan (beaten half a length and a short head at the Ledbury) and put in an even better performance when beaten a head trying to give 10 lbs to Getting Closer at Wadebridge.
Waterloo Warrior ran his only disappointing race when finishing 8th on a return visit to Maisemore Park with a 10 lb penalty. He held a 3-length advantage entering the home straight at Mollington before being beaten by Knockaderry Flyer, and then outclassed his rivals in a Knutsford Conditions off level weights.
Slatter will be responsible for Collett’s new acquisition Jim’s Last Fling, who came over from Ireland in the summer. Given connections eye for a horse, coupled with the trainer’s ability, it would take a brave person to bet against this one opening their account over the next six months.
Will Gaskins – Dymock
Gaskins have just one horse to carry their colours this year, with R Bren sold and enjoying their new career in the Hunting Field.
Tb Broke Her was destined for the paddocks but failed to get in foal, so Gaskins in planning to train the mares himself. Early indications are that she is progressing well and will be fit enough to run at one of the early season meetings, possibly in Novice events with Katie Sinclair in the saddle.
Caroline Robinson – Sheriffhales
The Dellercheckout did well to finish third behind Marcle Ridge at Barbury but was not seen out after pulling up when favourite for a Fakenham Hunter Chase.
Emerald Chieftan gave Guy Sankey some good rides last season and was prominent until pulling up 4 out at Larkhill and then finished last of three in a Sandon Conditions.
Mithmaar can only improve on his Knutsford run when he was pulled up at the 12th in a Maiden, while Ryans Fancy started last season with an impressive win at Bishops Court but subsequent runs set the pattern for the rest of the season.
He pulled up the last after a mistake at the 12th at Revesby, before collecting first prize at Hornby Castle and then reportedly made a noise when pulled up in a Cheltenham Intermediate and finished the season by pulling up at Tabley.
Myoldman returns after a spell on the side-lines. This ex-Irish 9-year-old confirmed the promised he had shown in Ireland by winning a 2-1/2 mile Chaddesley Restricted and finishing a close second at Friars Haugh.
Bestfriend Barnaby is a newcomer for owner Brian Orchard, while Bearhill and Ballymoy have already shown what they are capable of. The former was fourth on his debut for trainer Wilson Dennison, but failed to trouble the judge and was purchased relatively cheaply over the summer.
Ballymoy raced at the highest level for the Muniore and Suede partnership for whom he won 9 times including for for Nigel Twiston Davies at Perth in May before falling at the last when holding every chance at Stratford a few weeks later.
Nick Pearce – Alcester
Pearce who is one of the many cogs in the wheel of Dan Skeltons yard at Lodge Hill stables, Shelfield Green, near Alcester. Experience in race riding has proved beneficial for staff at the yard and Workbench has played a major part in that process in recent years.
Despite advancing years he returns for another season and on the evidence of his two runs at Maisemore Park last year, Murray Dodd, Heidi Palin, George Cowley and Aidan Weaving will all gain from his experience.
He will be joined by Azzuri who has run 52 times and has won or been placed in half of those outings, although most of those have been at distances short of 3-miles. The trio is completed by Mr Love who won three races in a golden period back in 2019. Softer conditions may be required for him to show his best.
Three staff associated with the yard are busy preparing their own horses with Jemma Justice due to make her debut on Knockoutloaded who finished fourth in a hot race at Garthorpe, while Clara Brewitt teams up with Doctor Wong who showed some promise for Tom George.
Finn Mulrine has acquired the ex-Dale Peters trained Bonamargy who ran well on his seasonal debut last year at Sheriff Hutton. He started favourite on that occasion and looked likely to justify his position at the head of the market until folding in the last couple of furlongs.
James Ridley – Ketford
Few horses in training match the consistency of Green Winter who is the apple of Sarah Oliver’s eye. He has made 36 appearances in Point-to-Point since 2014, winning 12, and has been placed on 17 occasions.
After finishing second to the rejuvenated Thumb Stone Blues at Mollington, the 13-year-old son of Well Made gave the best performance of his career by beating the odds-on favourite Dolphin Square in a Huntingdon Hunter Chase.
Crews Pitch was pulled up on unsuitable ground at Chaddesley before winning a Point-to-Point Flat Race at Revesby Park. He then finished runner up in a Goff’s sponsored Bumper at Exeter and fourth in a similar race at Aintree.
Enthusiasts with long memories will recall the exploits of Grimley Gale, winning the Horse and Hound Cup back in 1999. She won 26 races in total, 16 between the flags and 10 under Rules while her daughter Grimley Girl could not match her dams’ exploits. The line continues with a Black Sam Bellamy gelding out of Grimley Girl due to make her racecourse debut this year.
Ellipsism has already run 20 times in his short career winning two 3-mile hurdles back in 2019, while Flying Colum looks a late maturing type. The ex-Mouse Morris 6-year-old ran 5 times over hurdles but has never finished beyond mid-field but he is out of an unraced full sister to Gold Cup winner Synchronised. Darcey Sarto is another bred in the purple as he is out of a winning full sister to Gold Cup winner Kicking King.
Helen Woods Chase Me enjoyed mixed fortunes last year, which started well when he dead heated with Incholm at Chaddesley Corbett. Two unsuccessful forays into Hunter Chases at Leicester and Ludlow followed before he got rid of Will Gough in a Maisemore members. He ground out a win in an Exeter Hunter Chase but found 4 miles too far at Dingley and disappointing at Garthorpe.
The yard has several 4-year-olds for the new campaign such as an un-named youngster by Gentlewave and another by Blue Brasil plus one by Yourgunnabelucky out of 5 times Point-to-Point winner On Holiday. Those with names include Dasher Riley, a 4-year-old by Schiaparelli, Olly Norse who is by Norse Dancer and a 3-year-old filly by Black Sam Bellamy out of Trea Newells Maisemore winner Hopstrings.
Cashmoll had just one run last year when a fast finishing second to Happy Larry at Larkhill. That was an eye-catching performance as she was 4th approaching 2 out and 5-lengths second at the last but ran on tenaciously to be beaten just half a length.
Ben Pauling – Naunton
Pauling is in the process of moving to a new yard adjacent to Naunton Downs Golf Club is it is rumoured he is aiming Le Breuil at Hunter Chases with the Cheltenham Foxhunters as a potential target.
That race should play to his strengths as he won the N.H. Chase at the same venue back in 2019 so will have his supporters in the big event.
Christine Banks – Worcester
For the first time in many years, Christine Banks is unlikely to have any runners following the decision to retire Arthurs Secret and Abi Banks deciding to follow the same path. Her sister Phine is now the proud mother of a baby boy and has to balance those responsibilities with work and getting fit enough to race ride – the latter is likely to be the casualty.
Christine’s mother Pat Tollit is hoping Hidden Charmer can add to her already long list of successes and extended her involvement in the sport.
Katherine Smith-Maxwell – Himbleton
The Smith-Maxwells have provided support for the sport for many years, with their Horse Ambulance Service seen at many Point-to-Points and N.H. Meetings, and the family are closely involved with the Worcestershire Point-to-Point.
Their son John is currently working in Newton Abbott, so it makes sense for their daughter Alex to have Sausalito Sunrise and Blackwater Bramble with her at West Buckland, near Wellington.
Blackwater Bramble enjoyed a purple patch when winning 3 races a couple of seasons ago and was staying on well from two out in an Edgcote Conditions last year. Sausalito Sunrise won the marathon Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup when it was last run at Cocklebarrow back in 2020 and showed his wellbeing with an easy win over Optimised at Sandon last season. Watch out for him when conditions are testing or when the emphasis is on stamina.
Julie Mansell – Hasfield
Shamilan was headed on the post when beaten a short head by Racing Snake at Chaddesley last December, but was unable to build on that and failed to complete the course on three subsequent outings. That has to be a cause for concern and his seasonal debut prove informative.
The Farmers Arm Syndicate have purchased another horse over the summer with Night Combat part of the Gigginstown clear out. The ex-Noel Meade trained 6-year-olds best effort was when he finished 20-lengths fourth to Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Sir Gerhard at Down Royal. The trainer is hoping that Finley’s Find will provide Patsy Page with a few rides early in the season.
Charlie Dando – Little Sodbury
Charlie and his partner Brooke Gardener-Wollen have four horses for the new season, but will struggle to find a race with Carrig Dubh who had two runs last year. Accordingtoharry weakened from three out behind Robin des People and Ballykan at Maisemore in March but would have a good chance in his Members.
The partnership Iftheycanseemenow from Nick Phillips in the adjoining VWH country. The 7-year-old son of Stowaway came with a storming late run to land a 17 runner Larkhill Maiden, but his form after that left something to be desired.
9-year-old Calett Mad has not shown much for the last two season for Nigel Twiston Davies but his form in 2018 had shown what he is capable of, and he seems best when racing over distances in excess of 3 miles.
Martin Weston – Worcester
There are numerous unraced 3-year-olds based with the Westons, but they are all un-named, so there is not much point identifying each one. Needless to say, there are probably one or two gems amongst them.
James King – Ettington
James will be riding on the opening weekend of the season, but realises he faces major challenges in the months ahead as he attempts to follow up last years success in the Riders Championship, named Jack Andrews, Will Biddick and Bradley Gibbs as his most likely successors.
Now based in the overflow yard of Fran Nimmo and Charlie Poste at Ettington, King rides under a West Mercian certificate and this area is a hotbed of talent with Tommie O’Brien and Zac Baker plying their trade in this area.
As well as being stable jockey at Nimmo academy, which should ensure a steady stream of winners, King will be hoping to build on last years training success which provided him with 5 wins from just 8 runners.
Thumb Stone Blues proved a revelation last year winning all 4 races he contested, but will be aimed at Opens and Veterans races. He goes on any track and any going but seems to be better going left handed with a run in The Lady Dudley Cup pencilled in.
He will be joined by Durl Rock who has made the short journey over from Dan Skeltons yard near Alcester and is being targeted at one of the early season meetings on good ground and a left handed course. He is reported to have had wind surgery prior to his three runs for that yard and that may hamper his chances in the future.