Duke of Beaufort point-to-point
MONSOON-LIKE conditions resulted in the point-to-point fraternity being deprived of numerous meetings during the early part of the season, but conditions have now stabilised so Didmarton races will prove a major attraction on Saturday afternoon.
The course is in tip-top condition and a bumper crowd is anticipated with a significant number of horses entered. Proceedings get under way at 12.30 with the last of seven races due off at 4.10.
Tim Sage, based near Dursley, took the Members last year with Presentandcorrect. That horse is entered again this year but should he forego this engagement the stable has a useful second string in the shape of Perfectly Willing who just failed in his bid for victory at Larkhill.
Mark Wall, from Coln Rogers, will ride the Sage-selected.
Bonnie Witness and Legend Sky carry the colours of meeting secretary Carol Clift, although they may have better options later in the afternoon.
Mike Hawker holds two entries, Loose Preformer and Numbercruncher and the horse's Chippenham-based handler, who has won this race several times in the past, will be keen to get the trophy back in his hands.
Little Sodbury’s Charlie Dando could team up with The Big Freeze or Fairwood Massini. The latter had useful form under rules for Tim Vaughn and that gives him a good chance in this company, while Punter Friendly needs to improve significantly to take a hand in the finish.
The ground is beginning to dry out so early-season form may not prove that reliable in coming weeks with good ground horses taking centre stage and Presentandcorrect will start among the favourites for the Mixed Open.
He won the Members 12 months ago but will do well to see off the challenges of Fruit Fayre who has been on top form since winning over course and distance last year.
Brimham Boy is another who will relish the conditions, while Ned The Post is a consistent sort but the lack of a recent outing could find him out. Over The Phone got no further than the first fence at Cocklebarrow a month ago and will be hoping to make amends in this company. Michael Muck and Time For Spring have form under Rules and they will also have their supporters.
Jockey Mark Wall could be in for a good afternoon, with the highly-rated Boston Article one of the entries for the Restricted, although the horse does have several alternative engagements over the weekend.
There would not be much between Before The War, Hall Kelly and Duke Special on paper, while those looking for something to pop up at more rewarding odds could do worse than side with Music Of The Morn.
There is a competitive field assembled for the Restricted. Tom Weston has entered recent winners Cold Knight and Star Of Massini, while Dandan was disappointing after racing prominently at Black Forest Lodge. Clive Bennett’s stable always does well at this meeting which gives Iberico a chance. Cold Knight was impressive at Larkhill and is the selection if he lines up.
The eight-year-old and over Maiden provides a winning opportunity for an inmate of Weston’s Worcester stable in the shape of Soutine. He was a one-paced third in heavy conditions at Chaddesley just after Christmas and with the stable in such good form he could add to their winning tally.