Barbury Racecourse point-to-point season opens with the Vine and Craven event
With the unfortunate closure of Hackwood Park at the end of last season, organisers of the Vine & Craven point-to-point have moved from their traditional Easter Monday slot to Sunday, November 25 at Barbury Castle - hoping to benefit from owners and trainers wanting to run their horses before Christmas.
The six point-to-point races, which kick-off at 12.00pm, have attracted an entry of 47 and Clerk of the Course John White reported on Monday that the going is currently Good, Good to Firm in places with a great covering of grass. Some rain is forecast leading up to the meeting, which should help to ease the ground.
The main race day sponsor is Fullers Brewery, who also lend their name to the closing race on the card – the Open Maiden – for which there are 12 entries, the highest figure of the day.
Predicting the runners at this stage is hard, as many have an entry in the opener or at another weekend meeting, but Tim Underwood plans to send Irish import Shallamar, telling me, “He’s 100 per cent fit and jumps and travels well at home. I hope it rains as it may be too firm for him otherwise.”
Dublin Indemnity is the more likely of Ryan Potter’s two entries to go to Barbury and others of interest include recruits from National Hunt in the shape of Emma Alvis’ Amadoue and Ed Walker’s Rabunda. Watch out too for the once-raced Equus Leader (Mickey Bowen) and Free Ski (Sam Allwood).
Twelve have been entered for the RSM Restructuring Advisory LLP Mixed Open, the highlight of the day. Alan Hill’s Sharp Suit will probably wait for Cottenham next week and James Owen’s Net D’Ecosse wants easier ground than is forecast here.
But Laura Horsfall’s Follow The Paint is an intended starter: “If she works well this week, she’ll probably go. But she wouldn’t want it any quicker than it is now.”
The race looks sure to be a high-class contest, with potential runners including Sam Jukes’ multiple course winner Iberico, runner-up in last year’s Lady Dudley Cup, Heidi Brookshaw’s useful Hunter Chaser Shotavodka, who would be making his pointing debut, and 2017 Cheltenham winner Knockaderry Flyer, now in the care of Max Comley.
Throw in Sally Alner’s consistent Tom Barton and Johnny Farrelly’s Victory Mill, a winning hurdler for Gordon Elliott, and you have the makings of a quality event.
Leading trainer Alan King, whose yard overlooks the course, supports the Conditions Race, which looks an extremely competitive contest with seven entries. The two that stand out are 2017/2018 course winners Chasforgold, trained by Emma Alvis and Alan Hill’s improving Hawkhurst, who won five and was second twice last year and is the likely mount of Ladies’ champion jockey Gina Andrews.
The Aston Rowant trainer said earlier this week: “The plan is to go if the ground allows. It would be brilliant if it rains but we’d be a doubt if it dries any more – being by Flemensfirth, he needs some juice.”
Sally Alner’s Flights – a winner of three races and placed ten times from her 14 starts – is another with chances. And keep an eye out for Kie - the multiple winning chaser for David Pipe is now owned and trained by Johnny Farrelly and, while he hasn’t run since May 2016, he was rated 138 when he last appeared and should figure if fit and back to his best.
The opening contest, a Maiden, for four, five and six year-olds over two and a half miles, is sponsored by Gourmet Gallopers. Their generosity has been rewarded with an entry of ten, four of whom also hold an entry in the closing contest, so the same caveat on runners applies as for the Open Maiden.
Tom Ellis also has Jemma’s Gift entered at Howick, but hopes to run her here: “She’s new to the yard. We got her from Eugene O’Sullivan and she had placed form in Ireland. It’ll be nice to have our first runner.”
Truly Spoken, placed four times last season for Sally Alner, represents the best of the British pointing form, while Ian Prichard’s Tango Du Roy has the best rules form and Sam Allwood’s newcomer Out On The Tear should also be considered.
Five have been entered for the Gwynne Dental Restricted, including Julie Wadland’s Lily’s Got Wings, a course winner last season: “She was very buzzy last season but is much more settled at home now and looks amazing. I just hope the ground is soft enough."
Top-rated is Teresa Clark’s Pancrace, who broke his duck at Upcott Cross on his final outing last season - he's the likely mount of six-times champion Will Biddick, Remaining entries Barrafahona, U Me And Them and Wild Ginger would all have a chance on their best form.
Just two entries – champion trainer Phil Rowley’s Salvatore and Simon Edwards’ Skyhill Allstar – have been made for the British Racing School Intermediate, so let’s hope they both run.
The last race will be followed by The Spirit of Hackwood Hunt Scurry, over one complete circuit of the point-to-point fences, to raise funds for the Hunt and Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
Entrance is £10 per person on the day and tickets can be bought in advance at www.vineandcravenhunt.co.uk/ticketing
For more information visit www.vineandcravenhunt.co.uk/about-us/point-to-point