PREVIEW: Point-to-pointing returns to Barbury Racecourse
Barbury Racecourse reopens for business on Sunday (November 26) for its first point-to-point of the season - the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders (PPORA) meeting. There are 91 entries for the six races - and when we last checked the going was 'good to soft'.
The day's main event will be the Mixed Open race. This has a new sponsor in Equine Health Centre Ltd. Among the 25 entries – the biggest of the card – are Cheltenham Hunter Chase winners Full Trottle trained just over the hill from the racecourse by Laura Thomas, and Lilbitluso (Joe O’Shea) and last season’s John Corbet victor Now Ben.
Laura Thomas says that the Aintree Foxhunters is the long-term target for Full Trottle: “He’s in really good form – bouncing around and misbehaving enough to let me know he’s well! He goes on most ground and I hope he’s in as good form as last year.”
Last year's winner Vincitore is entered and trainer Sarah Rippon is hoping for a repeat: “I’m champing at the bit and on my way to the gym right now. I’ve been trying hard to keep fit and have been doing boot camp by riding a lot of horses for Harry Whittington! The horse is super-well and raring to go, but will be keeping an eye on the ground – if it stays good to soft, we’ll take our chances.”
Two faces more usually seen under rules may be represented as owners here – Nicky Henderson with Ericht - the mount of daughter Camilla - and Oliver Sherwood with Rouge Et Blanc. Big Casino and Desert Sting are others dropping back from the professional game and worth looking at, while Mon Parrain and Pentiffic, have Hunter Chase form.
First on the card is the Novice Riders race sponsored by Dodson & Horrell, who are in their thirty-first year of their association with point-to-points. The race has 15 entries - including the useful former Philip Hobbs chaser Cloud Creeper giving a first ride between the flags for Emilie Hardy.
While he is still highly-rated, he is unraced for over a year and it may pay to focus on those with more recent form in points, including Laura Horsfall’s recent purchase Mr Bingley, Silvergrove – on whom Tim Gredley won four points last year – and Limpopo Tom.
Tim Gredley has two potential mounts – the other being the ex-David Pipe horse Just Cause. Another young rider with a choice of rides is Connor Brace, who impressed on his first outings over fences last weekend and could make a quick reappearance on William Money, second in the Open at last weekends Bishops Court. His other entry is Robin Des People.
Another booking to catch the eye is Express Du Berlais, who likes soft ground, will run for Laura Thomas and Kate Gowing, who has been riding out for Laura.
The Tony Kemp Memorial Intermediate race is sponsored by pointing stalwart Heather Kemp in honour of her late husband. It acts as a qualifier for the Connolly’s Red Mills Hunter Chase Final at Cheltenham on Friday, May 4 and has attracted 14 entries, all of whom have form between the flags.
The Jockey Club Mares Maiden series has 21 races this year, and 12 have been entered for their first event of the season, co-sponsored by NAF. The best pointing form on show here is represented by Axelle Wall’s Festival Dawn, second at Chaddesley Corbett, for whom Will Biddick is an intriguing booking. While Sally Alner’s One Big Love has placed form over hurdles for Harry Fry.
Katie Lee’s The Spider Catcher is highly regarded and Phil Rowley is sweet on the chances of Pique Rock, who ran under rules for Barbury Castle trainer Alan King: “She’s a lovely filly by Kings Theatre. She ran well in the Mares bumper at Cheltenham then lost her way.”
The closing Maiden is again sponsored by the Valley Equine Hospital at Lambourn and has 19 entries, four of which are also entered in the Mares contest.
Two who stand out on pointing form are Richard Bandey’s Irish Legionnaire, second at Kingston Blount on his final outing last season and Troed Y Melin, runner-up three times in 2016/2017, including here on his debut.
Several of these have form under rules, notably Draco’s Code (Gary Moore) and Champayne Ginger and Sulamani The Late (both Dan Skelton). Locally based Laura Thomas said Sulamani The Late may not run if the ground cuts up: "I bought him at the Doncaster May Sales and am really excited by him. He’s been my little project from day one and he works and schools well – he’s barely put a foot wrong.”
The first race is at 12 noon. Barbury is a gently undulating oblong downland course set in a natural amphitheatre, on a chalk base, giving perfect early season going.
For more information about the meeting, including an early bird ticket offer for online booking, visit the PPORA website
And there is more about point-to-pointing here.