The fate of the Wheatland Point-to-Point hangs in the balance as clarification is sort regarding the sports status during the forthcoming Covid lockdown. Until the situation become clearer it is a case of hoping for the best but fearing the worst.
Some owners/trainers may have automatically assumed that Saturday’s announcement would have resulted in the meetings demise, so it was heartening it received 150 entries which has resulted in the division of the Older Maiden and the Veteran Horse Conditions.
The meeting throws together some interesting clashes which will provide form students with clues as they try to beat their old enemy – the bookmakers.
The Mixed Open has attracted 25 entries with four of them (Barney Dwan, Big Casino, Marcle Ridge and Wick Green) rated over 120, while another 13 are rated over 100.
Marcle Ridge is a confirmed front runner who ran well for a long way in last year’s Cheltenham Foxhunters; he already has form over the course so that is a point in his favour.
14-year-old Big Casino continues to astound and enhanced his reputation with an impressive win at Maisemore and that gives him a good chance, even in this exalted company.
Wick Green is another with a lofty reputation but faces his biggest challenge to date. Barney Dwan scored an impressive win in the Heythrop Ladies and lost nothing in defeat when chasing home Salvatore at Didmarton.
Organised Solution continues his upward progression but connections could have chosen an easier race and on paper he has something to find on some of these rivals.
Roc D’Apsis chased home Big Casino at the Ledbury but that does not look good enough in this company, while Vivaldi Collonges has easier objectives elsewhere on the card.
Mel Rowley has won all four of the Tattersalls Cheltenham Maiden qualifying races this season and will be biding to extend that sequence when the next race in the series takes place at Chaddesley Corbett on Sunday morning.
This race is restricted to 4-year old’s only and the sponsors must be pleased that 18 horses have taken up the challenge.
Latitude and Willwonga renew their rivalry which saw them finish first and second in a Maisemore Flat Race and having been beaten 12-lengths on that occasion it is difficult seeing the later turning the tables over fences.
Fran and Charlie Poste, Chris Barber, Tom Ellis and Tom Lacey stables all have excellent records in these types of events but with a limited betting market confidence may be difficult to assess.
Foxinthebox, Gold of Win Potier and Rhetoric represent the Poste’s Ettington yard, with the Ellis’s relying on Harper’s Brook or Honestlyntrufully, while Tom Lacey’s sole representative Scipion who may give the Rowley runner most to do.
Chris Barbers West Country yard is another to note but Jupiter Rising did not show anything on his racecourse debut, while stablemate Miltiades had every chance until falling four out at Maisemore.
James Ridley could saddle Crews Hill and his run will be watched with interest, while Nickie Sheppard’s Eastnor yard introduces One Fer Mamma who could come up against Laura Gretton’s Passing Secrets and the Sam Stronge trained Poet’s Causeway.
Hannah Lewis seemed to get the best out of Gottagottagetaway at the Ledbury (where they chased home Organised Solution) and on that form looks a good thing for the Restricted.
At the same meeting Winter Holiday showed all the attributes which will carry him to further victories while R Bren, Phoenix Park and Pomme De Nuit have shown they are capable of winning races of this type.
The first division of the 5-year-old and upwards Maiden should concern Barley Hill who chased home Winter Holiday 2 weeks ago and Same Opinion who held every chance until making a mistake and unseating his rider at the penultimate on the same day.
Division II is another tricky contest. Rose Illand did not jump with any fluency when third to Winter Holiday, but there was much to like about her persistence which only faded over the final two fences.
Shamilan has plenty of experience under Rules but has so far failed to get his head in front. At 7 years of age he may finally be in a position to put that record straight and provide George Daly with his first winner.
Big Casino and Vivaldi Collonges both have alternative engagements elsewhere on the cards, but it would not be surprising if connections let them take their chance in Division I of the Veteran Horse Conditions.
Their form is head and shoulders above that of the opposition which includes Man of Steel, Thumb Stone Blues, Upswing and Roc D’Aspis.
Chase Me impressed when winning at Larkhill last season so obviously comes to hand early and gets on well with Zac Baker while The Well Road is sure to run his normal honest race.
The second division looks more competitive and if the connections of Ballykan and Barney Dwan opt for this engagement they might be surprised by the strength of the opposition.
Kaki de la Pree ploughed through the Welsh mud to score at Ffos Las last year and will probably need similar conditions to repeat that feat, while Ozzy Thomas races in the colours of Henry Oliver for whom he had good form under Rules.
Three Faces West, Silsol and Troubled Soul are others for the short list, but Workbench did little wrong when beaten at Maisemore and with that race under his belt could upset his more fancied rivals.
Just one of the fifteen entries for the Flat Race has ever seen a racecourse. Mrs Jones finished sixth on her racecourse debut but will be vulnerable to the rivals faced on Sunday afternoon.
If all else fails always follow stables that have a good record in these types of events.
Mel Rowley’s trio of Autumn Equinox, Castle Keep and Heeratsunset will have been well schooled and whatever beats them is likely to win.
Liberty Rock and Transition Period represent Dean Summersby’s West Country stable, while the East of England based Storm Ciara is sure to go well if making the long journey. Patch Me Up connections are Welsh but luckily Bradley Gibbs moved to new stables in the summer and his connections know how to get a horse fit.