WITH 152 entries in seven races, the third Heythrop Hunt point-to-point to take place on Sunday, January 24 at the Cocklebarrow course near Northleach, is the most popular of all the weekend meetings, writes Jake Exelby.

The two previous winners of the 3m4f Ladies Open, are likely to cross swords again and there is a strong entry from the Weston yard, which had a double here last year.

Speaking to Clerk of the Course Nick Phillips on Monday afternoon, I was told “The ground is good to soft, soft in places. We’re hoping for a drying week and come Sunday, the ground should be good, good to soft in places.”

Meeting Secretary Christopher Marriott professed himself: “Delighted with both the quantity and quality of the entries. With 30 entries in the Novice Riders race and 34 in the three-mile Maiden, we may divide on the day. It should be cloudy but dry and a great family day out.”

The meeting opens with the Subaru Restricted Race, the latest in a series of qualifiers culminating in a Hunter Chase final at Stratford on Friday 20th May, won last year by Meeting Secretary Christopher Marriott’s wonderful mare Dabinett Moon.

Subaru are in their second year of sponsorship and their support extends to over 50 races nationwide. Representatives from the local dealership, John Wilkins, will be in attendance with vehicles from the current Subaru range on display.

The race has attracted 23 entries, of which two are from Julie Marles’ Warwickshire yard, the more likely of which to run is recent Ampton fourth Glassawine. “He’s come out of Ampton like a raging lion,” the trainer confirmed. “If he wants to play, he’ll play!”

A long-distance traveller is Shanks A Lot from Amber Griffiths’ Pembrokeshire yard, 172 miles from Cocklebarrow. I spoke to John Mathias, Amber’s partner and the horse’s jockey, who said. “He’s owned by lovely people in Betty and Byron Mansell. He won his Maiden two years ago and has had a long time off, but could run a big race.”

Others with good chances include Martin Weston’s choice from Devils Boys and Sir Ollar, recent winners Black Banjo (Chaddesley Corbett) and Wotzizname (Larkhill) and Freddy Fox.

Sarah Case’s runner has been off since 2014 but showed progressive form then for former trainer Tom Lacey – and another former Lacey horse, Love Manhattan, won this race last year.

AGA is another well-known national sponsor whose showcase finale is a Hunter Chase at the Stratford evening meeting in May.

They – with their ebullient representative David Simpson – are sponsoring the Ladies Open for which 16 have been entered. Hannah Watson and Ballyjames will be bidding for a repeat of last year’s success, while Moscow Blaze – hot favourite when fourth last year – will want to regain the trophy they landed in 2014.

The legendary Henrietta Knight has entered Ballypatrick in both this race and the Mens Open as she makes her return to the ranks of point-to-point trainers. “He wants good ground and is more likely to run in the Ladies,” she advised. “But I won’t decide if he runs until I’ve walked the course.”

Best form in the race is represented by Tugboat, a dual Hunter Chase winner last season and Stone, who won two Mens Opens before finishing second in the Lady Dudley Cup – winner What A Laugh franked the form in the AGA Ladies Hunter Chase at Stratford.

Another to look out for is Francesca Nimmo’s My Minds Maid, a debut ride between the flags for 16-year old pony race graduate Annabel Willis.

Feature race of the day – and one of the point-to-point ‘Classics’ is the Savills Mens Open for the Lord Ashton of Hyde’s Cup, run over the extended distance of 3m 6½f.

Last year it was won by Say No – trained by James Henderson – who will be bidding to retain the trophy with Oliver James. However, he will need to improve on his Whitfield Intermediate win to beat Sheila Crow’s Connie’s Cross – the form pick of the 19 entries – whose 2015 season culminated in a head second to Lord Fingal in the Champion Novices Hunter Chase at Stratford and who should appreciate both the trip and course.

The progressive Iberico, and Premier Portrait – unbeaten in three runs this season for 17-year-old Gus Levinson – are two more to note.

In 2015, the Knight Frank Hunt Members race was a first success for Dabinett Moon, on her way to Stratford glory.

This year, a small but select group of seven entries will be aiming to take her title. This may be an easier option than the Mens Open for Premier Portrait, but he will be hard-pressed by Buck Magic – also unbeaten this season in the hands of John Smith-Maxwell – who took a notable scalp at Cottenham in the form of Aintree Foxhunters third Last Time D’Albain.

One familiar face making a return to the track is rider Mark Wall, who hopes to have his first mount of the season on Hugh Wilson’s Dandan, trained by Francesca Moller. “Hugh bought him a couple of years ago,” explained his rider.

"It took him a while to calm down but things fell into place last year. He ran well twice at Cocklebarrow and the form stands up well.” In response to my cheeky enquiry about his delayed return to the saddle, Mark confirmed that all is well with him. “I’ve just been busy doing other things. I’m quite happy to stay nice and dry on a Sunday!”

An interesting contender for the Kings Head Novice Riders race is Laura Thomas’ ex-Irish Gift Of Dgab. “He’s a lovely horse. He’s been off for two years but he’s fit and well and shouldn’t need the run,” enthused his trainer-rider. “He ran in high-grade races under rules and is badly handicapped, but should be capable of winning a Novices race.”

Amber Griffiths is likely to run Gale Force Lucey, a recent third behind Big Fella Thanks at Chaddesley Corbett in the hands of Wayne Gordon. “She’s an absolute little star,” said John Mathias fondly of his partner’s charge. “She’s only a pony but wears her heart on her sleeve and is the yard favourite. Wayne gave her a smashing ride last time.”

Leading novice rider Gus Levinson will rely on the consistent but frustrating Be Definite, Bench Warrant won this race in 2014 but has not been in such good form since, while Iberico could run here with Sam Jukes rather than the tougher-looking Mens Open.


Martin Weston has two entered, Cold Knight and the talented but quirky Ice Cool Benny, both of whom would have chances. Real Milan showed promise when third at Larkhill on his first run in points while Tim Underwood rates Knowhentofoldem highly and the horse won first time out last year.

The 3m for six-year-olds and over, sponsored by Carter Jonas, looks a real puzzle. Clerk of the Course Nick Phillips won here as a rider on Cousin Pete in 2014 and will be bidding to follow-up with Paskalis.

“He should have a squeak,” Nick admitted. “He’s from a good family, being a half-sister to Easter Legend and Easter Meteor and has been doing a bit of hunting.” Sam Canning has his second ride on Sand Artist, who was second favourite when pulling up on his debut between the flags at Black Forest Lodge. “He was placed several times for Gordon Elliott,” said his trainer Claire Hart. “We bought him in August and took time to get him right, but he should win a Maiden.”

The best pointing form in the race is represented by Cab On Times and Dr Anubis, but both have had plenty of chances, so it may be worth considering a lighter-raced type such as Martin Weston’s Bignose Kate, Amber Griffiths’ Master Eleanor or Sheila Crow’s Sweet Belle, who was favourite when falling on her debut last season.

Other pointing debutantes with placed form under rules are Simon Gilmore’s Come On Harriet and John Bryan’s Detank.

The closing contest, a 2m 4f Maiden for four, five and six year olds sponsored by B A Hull Contractors, has attracted 23 entries and features several promising types. One of these is Superior Fire, trained by Fred Hutsby.

“We think a bit of him,” confirmed his trainer. “We got him from Charlie Longsdon and he’ll love the track. Whether we run depends on the ground and Hannah Watson will ride.”

Big Bang De Loire, Brice Canyon (both owned by David Maxwell), Duke of Spain and Gustave Mahler have all been placed in points this year.

The latter, trained by Alastair Ralph, was second to Galros Lady at Cottenham and his conqueror has gone on to frank the form in a Restricted.

Earl The Pearl was well-fancied at the same meeting and Bennie O’Connor and Pink Eyed Pedro are pointing newcomers trained by David Brace, whose runners should never be overlooked.

Finally, Outthewindow, a four year old newcomer trained by Nicky Tinkler with a Derwent certificate, should definitely be considered if he makes the long journey south.

As well as a variety of trade stands, a well-stocked bar and hot food, there will be a free bouncy castle and childrens' obstacle course, some toy JCBs and a free to enter heated family tent, with face painting artists and other childrens' entertainment.

As in 2015, the Tough Farmer Challenge will be run - offering good prizes - between the horse races, with heats and a final.

So if the weather is at all inclement, the organisers have laid on plenty of activities, in addition to the seven races, which will appeal to families!

Cocklebarrow is a left-handed slightly undulating, galloping track, with excellent viewing.

It is a wide, rectangular course with eight portable, well-built fences on each circuit - 19 in total for the three-mile races.

The quick-draining chalk soil should ensure that the going does not become too testing.

The course is located at Cocklebarrow Farm, Aldsworth GL54 3PP, approximately one and a half miles south of the A40.

The course can be reached via the road signposted to Lodge Park. Please do not follow signs to Aldsworth from the A40 as there will be no access to the course through the village from this direction.

Entry is £20 per car and £10 for single occupancy. The first race is at midday.