Tedworth Hunt Point to Point at Barbury
Tedworth Hunt Point to Point is back at Barbury this weekend.
Somerset trainer Sam Loxton is hoping the ground will be suitable to let Virak take his chance in the JM Finn Tedworth Gold Cup Mixed Open at the Tedworth Hunt meeting at Barbury Racecourse on Sunday.
Clerk of the course John White reported on Tuesday that the going was Good to Firm, Good in places. "The main thing is the ground hasn't been raced on for three years, so there is a good growth of grass and it is totally level," he said.
Virak heads a seven-strong entry for the feature race at the second Sandhurst Area fixture of the season, and Loxton is keen to send him up from his Bruton base.
He said: "It is weather dependent. He does want a good cut in the ground, so we are hoping to get a drop of rain, but because it's 3m 6f they will be going a bit steadier."
The 13-year-old got within half a length of subsequent Exeter winner Famous Clermont at Charlton Horethorne last month, and the way he finished under Olive Nicholls encouraged the trainer that he will stay the extra distance.
"He should have beaten the other horse really," he said. "It was bottomless going and he just galloped on. Olive is riding. She gets on well with him and is learning all the time."
Gran Paradiso, from Bea Coward's Barrow Street yard, near Mere, looks the main danger after pipping Broadclyst by a head at Cothelstone.
The trainer said: "We are using it as a bit of a prep run before he goes to Cheltenham for the four-miler at the hunter chase meeting.
"He ran last time out over 3m 4f at Cothelstone and I think the further the better with him. Obviously this race is level weights, which should help as he has been carrying extra."
Local hopes are set to be carried by Sonneofpresenting for Overtown owner-trainer-rider Sarah Rippon, who said of her course winner: "We are hoping to run, although I would love a bit more rain."
The 12-year-old was third to Virak at Cothelstone in May and made a promising reappearance when fifth to the Loxton-trained Caid Du Berlais at Badbury Rings.
"I was really pleased with how he ran," she added. "He led the whole way until we got overtaken at the end. He is in good form, and I am hoping to get a good run on Sunday."
Minella Friend could represent Phil Rowley's Morville stables, near Bridgnorth, while Blandford-based Mary Tory has entered Imogens Thunder, who was third to Country Legend at Milborne St Andrew. Calett Mad, from Brooke Gardener-Wollen's Gloucestershire yard, and Peeping Thom for Shrivenham trainer Craig Pilgirm, complete the line-up.
It will be the first time since 2019 the meeting has taken place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and 52 entries have been received for the six-race card.
Will Biddick could send Monsieur Gibraltar on a retrieval mission from his Somerset stables after the prolific winner parted company with Nicholls at Andoversford last Sunday.
The Alhampton handler has entered the 11-year-old gelding in the Ramsbury PPROA Club Members Six-year-olds and over Conditions Race (Level 3) for Veteran and Novice Riders and the Rural Planning Practice Eight-year-old and over Tedworth Conditions Race.
Nicholls has the option of riding Old Guard, trained by her mother, Georgie, at Kingston Lisle, near Wantage, in both races.
The pair feature among 10 contenders for the veteran and novice riders' contest, which also include Bistouri d'Honore, who was second to Country Legend at Milborne St Andrew for Mike Felton. Joanne McCain's Slievegar was edged out by Sine Nomine at Askham Bryan College and is another to consider.
Monsieur Gibraltar and Old Guard's potential rivals in the Tedworth Conditions Race could include Champion Chase, who is unbeaten between the flags in this country for Francesca Poste's Ettington stables, near Stratford, following wins at Sheriff Hutton, Horseheath and Buckfastleigh.
Bawnmore, second to Ahead Of The Game at Shelfield Park, holds an entry for Tom Ellis's Marton yard, near Rugby, while Tim Underwood, who trains at Beedon, near Newbury, has Parham runner-up Cheltenham Mati in both conditions' races.
Loxton is looking to run his Cotley winner Westhill in the Parade Cinema Marlborough & Birkmyre Property Consultants Restricted Race, which opens the card at 1.15pm.
The seven-year-old romped home by 10 lengths from Young William over 2m 4f at the Somerset track, and is now set to step back up in trip.
Loxton said: "He could do with a cut in the ground. It was plenty firm enough when he won at Cotley the other day where it was nice turf. I would like to run him if possible."
Didmarton winner Lanzealot is the more likely of Hatfield trainer Bradley Gibbs's two entries to run with Whotheman bound for Mollington, while Miss May Hill, a half-sister to Shishkin, could bid to follow up her Cothelstone triumph for Lucy Smith's Dymock yard, near Ledbury.
A bold show from Miss May Hill would be a pointer to A Midnight Kiss's chances in the Jockey Club and Butterworth Family Maiden for Mares and Fillies.
The seven-year-old finished three lengths adrift of Smith's charge at Cothelstone for Stratford-upon-Avon owner Richard Evans, who landed this 2m 4f contest with Hott Lips when it was last ran three years ago.
Misstree Song, twice second at Kingston Blount last season, has to be respected for the champion team of Ellis and Gina Andrews, while Missusmumagum was placed in Irish point-to-points before joining Worcestershire handler Jane Allfrey.
Eye To The Sky could carry Zara Tindall's colours in the Tattersalls Cheltenham Four and Five-year-old Maiden over 2m 4f.
Having finished third in a Fontwell bumper for Jamie Snowden in September, the well-named son of Telescope is now with Ciaran O'Brien, who trains out of AP McCoy's Lambourn stables. He also has Time Theft engaged here.
Baseline is an intriguing entry for Oxfordshire trainer Alan Hill with Biddick booked to ride, although the son of Coastal Path could head for High Easter.
Top Wood Bareliere got no further than the first on his debut at Maisemore Park for Poste, who does well in these type of races, while the booking of Ben Bromley suggests Mystic Man is more likely to represent Rowley than Moon Hunter, who was second to Surprise Attack at Shelfield Park.
The point-to-point races are preceded by two pony races from 12.15pm, sponsored by Keyflow Feeds, and the meeting is rounded off by the William Bartholomew Charity Race (Tedworth Derby) on the Flat in aid of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. There will also be a dog show and children's entertainment.
Dubarry, the premium country clothing and footwear company, are sponsoring an outstanding achievement award with the prize of a £500 voucher.
Admission is £15 per person on the day, under 16s go free. Racing staff who produce a valid stable pass will get a discounted entrance fee, paying £10.