With lockdown restrictions easing, it is ironic the rules are being relaxed to allow a limited number of spectators to attend Mondays (31st May) Albrighton & Woodland (South) fixture at the Areas final meeting of the season.
Due to Covid only half the fixtures have taken place (behind closed doors) and although certain restrictions are still in place (tickets have to be prebooked to aid Track and Trace), this is a small price to pay to get back on the path to normality.
At the start of the season until the end of March, a bet on James King winning both the Area and National Titles would have been perceived as speculative or even fool hardy.
However, since the restart his strike rate has been phenomenal and he now holds substantial leads in both awards. He will be crowned Area Champion at Chaddesley Corbett on Monday afternoon and as he is 10 wins clear of his nearest rival with just 6 meetings remaining, the National Title is his for the taking.
As well as riding 26 winners between the flags King has also extracted 5 wins from 2 horses Jason Warner placed in his care. He is joint leader in the Trainer (with less than 7 horses) category and landing this prize would be another feather in his cap.
As a jockey he is equally at home, guiding an un-raced and in-experienced 4-year-old to getting the best out of an experienced old chaser; making the running or playing cat and mouse with the opposition before coming with a late burst to land the spoils.
After a dry April, the weather recently has been such that there has been no need for courses to be watered (which is normally obligatory at this stage of the season), and the going is expected to be perfect on race day.
Chaddesley Corbett has a well-respected management team and that no doubt accounts for the fact, the meeting has attracted the weekends biggest entry with a competitive day’s racing looking assured.
With meetings every day of the holiday weekend Kings services will be much in demand, but he will be keen to end the season on a high and looks to have a good chance of landing the Men’s Conditions with Risk a Fine.
The Welsh challenger made a promising return behind Marcle Ridge at Cheltenham. That was a good performance considering such a long absence and with that run under his belt he must give a good account of himself.
Vivaldi Collonges and Ben Bromley have won twice this season but were no match for Don Bersy at Kingston Blount recently, but that may have been an off day. Ballyboker Breeze showed he was no back number with a facile win at Tabley. This course will suit him and he will be difficult to peg back if he gets his head in front.
Jo Priest has a useful second string in Chu Chu Percy, although both of these horses have alternative engagements in the Ladies Open, so connections will be weighing up their options having checked out the opposition.
Duke Arcadio was caught in the dying strides by Garde Ville at Tabley, but he is unlikely to be given as much rope on this occasion. Fifty Shades and Midnight Cowboy will have their supporters, while Uppertown Hawk has obviously shown connections that he retains his enthusiasm but it is too much to expect him to win against this opposition.
Alan Hill and Tom Ellis’s yards are likely to go head-to-head in the Ladies Conditions, with the former holding four entries and the latter two. Getting Closer is the highest rated of the Hill quartet but is closely followed by Captiva Island, Lisheen Prince and Stage One, while Ellis could saddle Blazing Tom or General Arrow.
Streets of London recent form gives him a winning chance, but Shometheway looks the one to follow. The 8-year-old mare has had the misfortune to come up again three top class horses this season, finishing runner up to Virak, Southfield Theatre and Dubai Quest but there is nothing of that quality in this contest.
Shometheway should be reunited with Ladies Champion elect Hannah Lewis but earlier in the afternoon she will put her training hat on when saddling Grageelagh Girl in the Novice Riders which opens proceedings at 2 p.m.
The mare actually led at the penultimate until fading to finish fourth at Kingston Blount and this course plays to her strengths. Victoria Sollitt rode her on that occasion whereas Katie Sinclair in pencilled in for the ride on Monday afternoon. She has had a couple of rides but this is her best winning opportunity to date.
Sollitt could team up with her own Spanish Arch, while Optimised has to give weight to most of his rivals. Attention Please and Danny Archer have the potential to win while State of Origin’s second place behind Master Sunrise at Shelfield Park is looking better after that horse won again at Edgcote recently.
Edabean, King’s prospective mount in the Restricted is sure to give a good account of herself. She won impressively at Edgcote but was unable to quicken in the final 100 yards when finishing fourth at Bratton Down. That course has a stiff uphill finish whereas Chaddesley home straight is all downhill.
Lady Trifaldi, Man of Means and Risk and Co all catch the eye, but this is one of the most difficult races on the card.
On paper at least, Misstree Song has plenty in hand over her rivals in the Jockey Club sponsored Mares Maiden. She has shown form under Rules but that does not necessarily transfer to the Point-to-Point field. Max Young’s Irish import Clarina finished 6th in an Irish Maiden in April, while Festival Dawn and Viva La Vega need to improve to make their presence felt.
Rose Illand has been placed on all four outings so far this season all against horses that have run well when upped in grade. She has finished runner up twice over course and distance and with James King’s assistance she may finally get her reward.
Maidens as this stage of the season are difficult to evaluate. Most of the runners have had winning chances but have been prevented from doing so for a variety of reasons.
Barley Hill, Coisa Blanco, Howsitdone, Looden and Shamilan all started the season well but have not been able to maintain the same level of form. That’s Me showed improvement on his last outing, while Clive Boultbee Brooks duo of Guinness Village or Milfolhas Has probably have more potential than some of the other runners.
Hazel Hill is the stand out in the combined Members race, but running him in this race would be like taking candy off a baby. Iftiraaaq ran better than he has done all season when second at Tabley and gets the vote in Hazel Hills absence.
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