The first meeting of the newly formed West Mercian Area takes place on Sunday afternoon with crowds allowed to return after a two-season sabbatical due to Covid.
Knightwick is the best supported of the weekend fixtures but entries have still not returned to pre-Covid levels.
Last year’s Champion Rider James King is pencilled in for several rides at the Dunsmore meeting in Devon and this provides an opportunity for Tommie O’Brien (one of his main rivals for the Area Title) to capitalise on his absence.
O’Brien has a good chance of taking the opener, the PPORA Conditions where he partners Miss Seagreen for Dymock owner Clive Bennett. She proved too good for Southfield Theatre at Larkhill last year and was placed behind some top-class horses later in the season and is sure to give her supporters a run for their money.
The Caroline Robinson trained Ryans Fancy and The Dellercheckout are among potential opponents. The latter is top rated, but there have to be question marks over both of them, with Ryans Fancy pulling up on three occasions last season, while The Dellercheckout disappointed at Fakenham after a promising run at Barbury.
Findlay’s Find won the opening race at the initial fixture at this venue back in 2018. He is being lined up for a return and should provide safe passage for Patsy Page who works for trainer Julie Mansell.
Alcester based Nick and Ella Pearce rely on Azzuri and Workbench. The former is having his first run between the flags whereas Workbench in an established performer in this type of company.
Iftiraaq was placed twice last year, but like Knockedoutloaded and Haven’t Time look destined to fight it out for one of the minor placings.
The Mixed Open has attracted top class horses including two already mentioned earlier in the preview Miss Seagreen and TheDellercheckout. That appears their easiest options as in this race Ballymoy, Zamparelli and Trio for Rio appear to have stronger claims.
Ballymoy made hay whilst the sun shone during the summer, winning three races and holding every chance until falling at the last at Stratford, so we know he will be race fit.
Zamparelli has a Ludlow Hunter Chase to his credit, but this could be another winner for Tommie O’brien as he teams up with Clive Boultbee-Brooks Trio for Rio who never runs a bad race but might be vulnerable of his seasonal debut.
Ridgeway Flyer and Mr Caffrey who was still in front of Hawkhurst when falling at the final obstacle at Pyle last weekend could make amends and provide Fred Philipson-Stow with his first success.
O’Brien has the chance to record a long-priced treble in the 5-year-old and upwards Maiden with the un-raced Felicie du Marquis. Admittedly, this is a speculative selection, as she has no racecourse experience, but she is in the right stable, is able to claim the mare’s allowance and is up against horses that have already had plenty of opportunities.
Finnick Glory (Max Comley), Midnight Jitterbug, Pretty Fantasy, Rufio and Flying Colum (James Ridley) have all shown glimpses of form under Rules, so the market may provide the most reliable guide in a difficult contest.
The Conditions (Level 3) has attracted the largest entry but following an in-depth analysis of the form book it is still difficult to predict who might come out on top.
Tb Broke Her is top rated but is unlikely to turn out again after running at Badbury Rings last weekend and the same remarks applies to Welsh’s Castle who gave Ivor Herbert a memorable first ride at the same meeting, while there are question marks over Dounikos, Dr Time, Our Three Sons and Popelys Gull.
Bradley Gibbs had a field day at Pyle two weeks ago and could added another to his tally with Blossoming Forth in the Restricted, while the newcomer El Diablo may have to get the better of Flying Colum to win the concluding Maiden.