Saturday’s East Devon fixture at Bishops Court and the Ledbury meeting at Maisemore Park less than 24 hours later will provide a blue print for the sport over the next six months.
Local advice has to be integrated into National Guidelines from a variety of sources to provide strict protocols with all the action taking place behind closed doors until further notice.
Maisemore Park has done best of the weekend meetings with 168 entries against 142 for the East Devon. The entry has been so large at the Gloucestershire venue that the Tattersalls Cheltenham Maiden and Flat race have been divided, which means a minimum of 9 races.
Conditions are currently good, with rain forecast for mid-week but course drainage should ensure there are no significant changes.
22 have been entered for the Mixed Open and a vast majority of those have a rating of 100 or over.
With Wishing and Hoping, Vivaldi Collonges, Ballykan and Ucello Conti all holding entries Mel Rowley seems to have a strong hand. The former was impressive when scoring three times in 2019/20 and this is the type of race, he needs to succeed in to put himself in the picture for the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival.
Jatiluwih only defeat this side of the English Channel was when he finished eight in last years Pertemps Final. Owner David Maxwell is currently side-lined and it will be interesting to see who he picks as a replacement.
Marcle Ridge carries local hopes. Fitness will be a major factor because his customary front running tactics will expose any chinks in his armour although he has run well over this course in the past.
Wick Green won two races last year, but this is a top-class field and it is difficult to see him making an impact.
Emma Alvis’s Big Casino seems to run well in whatever company he keeps so it would not be surprising to see him claim a minor placing, while the chances of the Yorkshire challenger Duhallow Tornado have to be respected.
Ravished did well for trainer Joe O’Shea last year and he likes nothing better than turning over the favourite when he has the chance.
The Oriental Club Owner/Trainer Conditions races opens proceedings at 11 am. This series was nipped in the bud by Corona Virus after just one race at Didmarton last year but that was well supported and all the indications are this one will be as well.
Despite 24 possible opponents West Midland qualified horses look well placed to see off all challengers. Workbench has the top rating but Nick Pearce’s gelding provides experience to Novice Riders based with Nick Skelton in Warwickshire, and they face some battle-hardened opponents in this contest.
Silent Man finished 4-lengths second to Tuff Nano at Cothelstone in March and would go close with a repeat performance but that cannot be guaranteed, while Julie Wadland’s Golden Tobouggan recorded three seconds when last seen out and may have to continue that sequence.
Way Back Then will need to step up on his performance at Horseheath to offer any sort of challenge to the rest of the field but Waterloo Warrior won on his debut last year and has shown a better level of form than many of his rivals.
The first Division of the 2 mile 5 furlong Maiden sets the pattern for the rest of the season in these types of events, with horses from Fran Nimmo’s Stratford yard up against runners from Mel Rowleys stable at Morville and to add additional interest we have challengers from the West Country in the shape of runners from Jill Dennis and Chris Barber’s stables.
With very little form to go on, it is prudent to suggest the selections from Nimmo (Another Nightcap or Hooky Street) or Rowley (The Player Queen) as potential winners, while it will be interesting to see how Ask the Lady runs without an obstacle in front of her.
Division II sees another clash between Nimmo and Rowley with the former represented by Mister Moretti or San Fermin, while the Rowley’s rely on The Wrekin or Tikitov.
Samblucky carries the colours of well-known owner Derek Malam so his run will be watched with interest, while Sonic Gold represents Emma Yardley’s Point-to-Point yard at Caradoc now that her partner Ryan Potter is training under Rules.
Tom Ellis could do little wrong last year and when you add Why Annie to the list of participants, the winner is very difficult to identify.
Yardley has a good chance of taking the following PPORA Club Members Intermediate with No Limitations, who on form appears to have a few pounds in hand over some of his rivals.
Organised Solution did little wrong last year but may need an outing to get him fully race fit. Any runner from Alan Hill’s stable has to be respected but Captiva Island appears to have some ground to make up on the market leaders.
Voie Dans Voie and Golden Rebel both maintain a good level of form but Mr Snuffles scored three times last season beating some useful performers along the way and may be the key to this tricky looking contest.
I’m Wiser Now has had ten outings and been placed in nine of those but all of those races have been short of 3-miles. Sally Randell has taken charge of Jim Collett’s gelding and fences could be the making of him.
The Conditions includes several horses who are taking a step down the ladder from previous careers under National Hunt Rules. Buywise and Court Minstrel both had good form in that grade but unfortunately have struggled subsequently but would not be the first ones to be rejuvenated by the drop into Point-to-Points.
Rolling Dylan is another is this category who is aiming for a revival, while those with form between the flags include The Last but One, Workbench and Perfect Pirate.
Although trained in Yorkshire, Carter McKay does have local connections because the Qatar Racing Partnership is headed by Tweenhills Stud Supremo David Redvers, who is Chairman of the organising committee for this meeting.
28 entries have been received for the 6-year-old and upward Maiden and with a safety factor of 16, division is a possibility.
A Tipple or Two and Black Aphrodisiac both had good form in the past but have a long absence to overcome so are discounted for those reasons, while Golan Warrior was placed sixth in an Irish Point-to-Point but that does not look good enough in this company.
Mythical is owned by fellow PRO Jake Exelby and trainer Alan Hill but this may not be his day. Kilmoganny and Winter Holiday have their supporters but Jim Collett’s runners should prevail. Rose Iland finished second at Chaddesley last year, while I’m Wiser Now is so far clear on the ratings, he looks a shoe in for this contest but we all know it is never that simple.
Mel Rowley has two entries in Division I of the Flat Race. Malaita and Latitude. The latter is related to a winner and could be another in the long line of winners to carry the colours of Enville owner Diana Williams, with Jo O’Shea’s Williewonga likely to provide the biggest challenge.
Seven of the ten entries for Division II have yet to see the racecourse. Talk of a Storm, Salvino and Madame Hannah are the exceptions. The latter finished runner up in a similar event at Larkhill and looks the most likely winner.
REMEMBER – THIS MEETING IS RUN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS – LIVE STREAMED
FURTHER INFORMATION IN DUE COURSE