With the point-to-point season entering its busiest period, organisers of the Bicester with Whaddon Chase point-to-point are encouraged by a total entry of 96 horses in the seven races on the card, starting at 1.00pm. Clerk of the Course Graham Tawell reported on Friday that the going is now Good, Good to Soft in places and that some rain is forecast this week. Among the entries are four from the powerful yard of Tom Ellis, who moved on to 29 wins for the season after five victories at the weekend, and who looks to be champion trainer in waiting. Tom's wife, jockey Gina Andrews, has now notched up 37 successes this season after a stunning five-timer on Sunday, and is close to breaking the record of wins in a season by a female rider.
Highlight of the day is the Timico Mixed Open. 12 have been entered, including Samarnni from the Ellis stable. "He never stops surprising us," said Tom. "It's a step up from a Confined and he could bump into one too good, although I wouldn't be surprised if he took it in his stride. His Brafield-on-the-Green form with Gunmoney looks good and he's busting out of his skin at home. He's a real star, having come back from injury twice."
Jamie Goss' improving Tricky Silence is another intended runner, his trainer telling me, "He's in great form and has been team chasing since his last run. He does nothing in front – he has to get there at the last minute and we call him 'Mr Cool' at home – and Jamie Brace rides him perfectly. After this race, he'll go for the Cheltenham Intermediate Final." Others to consider are impressive Maisemore Park winner Ballyboker Breeze, Sarah Rippon's Hunter Chase winner Pass The Hat, who was last seen in the Aintree Foxhunters, and Welsh raider Ramble On – who won this race last year.
Novice Riders races are usually competitive events and 19 entries – the highest of the day –have been received for the Nimrod Veterinary Products sponsored race on the card. Alan Hill has entered Stage One here (as well as the Intermediate), but admitted about running plans, "We'll see how the races look. We may wait a week, as there are plenty of opportunities over Easter." Highest-rated is Teeton Kato, who may bid to atone for unseating his rider when odds-on at Guilsborough last weekend, Minella Friend has won three already this season for rider George Chatterton and remains in good form, while Son Of Suzie has run well twice since his Howick victory.
The Savills Restricted – over the shorter trip of two miles five furlongs – has 16 entries, the second best of the day. Alan Hill could run Desert Retreat and said, "We may run him again, as he unseated at halfway on Sunday, but he's entered all over the place." Tim Underwood intends to run Bluebell Sally, who is trained by his daughter Sarah Braclik at Henley. "I work her, then Sarah takes her home," explained Tim of the mare's training regime. It suits her there as she's such a fly-by-night – the mare not my daughter! You can forget her third at Penshurst last time – she couldn't breathe, which is why she faded, and she's been on a nebuliser since."
Of the others, Buffalo Sabre looks the pick based on his three second places this season. Another from Luke Price's Pontypridd yard, Deshan, could follow up his Cotley success and An Scairp – trained by the shrewd Hannah Mahon (former jockey Hannah Watson) – is one from one between the flags. And keep an eye on Dannys Star, who shaped well on his Monmouth reappearance after a long absence and will appreciate the shorter trip.
The card opens with the Hunt Members race, which has attracted nine entries and – on paper at least – looks a match between Alan Hill's Kashmir Peak, who won on his seasonal debut and was runner-up last time and Fran Nimmo's Summer Sounds, the latter already three times a winner in 2019 and second on his most recent outing. Alan told me, "This race has been the plan all season and will hopefully compensate owner-rider Dan Cherriman for not being able to ride the winner of the Pytchley Members last weekend as he was on duty at the meeting as Huntsman!" The only other to consider on this season's form is John Aprahamian's Mia's Anthem, who has been running consistently in better company.
Two Maidens follow the opener, the first of which – sponsored by Club Veeda with 15 entries – is the latest in the series of Jockey Club Mares Maidens. Tom Ellis has two entered, Icallherkaytee and newcomer Latenightfumble, a half-sister to his multiple winner Latenightpass. He explained why the former has been absent since her Horseheath third in early February. "She doesn't handle lots of racing so I've given her a good break, but she's in good order." Tom described Latenightfumble as, "Not a sales horse – she's owned and bred by my mother and we'd like to keep her to keep the line going. She does everything right at home but the ground would have to be decent for her to run. She may go for the Open Maiden to take advantage of the allowance."
South Midlands trainers are well represented here, with locally-based Jamie Goss planning on running Just Henny, a promising fourth in a Barbury bumper last time. "She's in good form and she knows her way round here," he laughed. "But whether she'll stay three miles is a big if." Tim Underwood has entered Miss Massey, a half-sister to his prolific Timmie Roe. "I've only had her a fortnight and that's why I bought her," he admitted. "She fell first time in heavy ground, then ran two bad races but – looking at the form of her most recent fourth, it's not too bad."
I Will Follow Her may represent Phil Rowley, champion trainer in 2017/2018 – she would be making her debut over fences having finished second in a Barbury bumper in February. Jeans Lady has been placed twice in points, while Jon Barlow is a young handler making a name for himself and he has entered Ellary. She was fourth in a Restricted in her first run between the flags and is taking a step down in class.
14 have been entered for the TMF Networks Open Maiden. Pauline Harkin and Richard Pringuer – who also have chances with their Secret Getaway and Cup Of Gold in the earlier Mares Maiden – plan to run Ted Thistle, a promising third at Brafield-on-the-Green, and When I'm Ready respectively. "Ted Thistle was a disappointing favourite at Guilsborough on Sunday," admitted Pauline. "We ran him in a Dutch gag, so we'll use a different bit this time." "When I'm Ready is a late-maturing, 18 hands, home-bred for owner Jeff Tredwell, whose full-brother is with Ian Williams" Richard confirmed. "He has pulled-up in two good races at Garthorpe and the stiffer track at Edgcote will suit better." Standout on form here is Michael Kehoe's ex-Irish Occupied, who has been third on both his starts in this country. Catwalk Frank should improve on his distant Bangor-on-Dee third, while Phil Rowley's newcomers always merit respect, so watch out for The Grey Scholar.
The Bentley Cambridge Intermediate, which closes the card, has 11 entries and, based on recent form, could be the race of the day. Tom Ellis is sweet on King Of The Clothe, an intended runner a week after his second at Mollington. "I really like him – I think he's well above average – and was surprised he was beaten there," Tom admitted. "I think the track beat us – he didn't handle going downhill – and we were thinking of going to Cheltenham before that. He's a strong stayer and a good jumper and we'll ride him less conservatively next time." Three of his potential participants won their last race – Cheltenam De Vaige at Andoversford on Sunday, following up a Monmouth win the week before, Damut I'm Out at Maisemore Park and Peter Mason's Wick Green at Siddington. And King Willie has been third in Conditions and Confined races on both his starts this season after an absence.
Two pony races follow the point-to-point action. As well as the usual trade stands and bar, there will be a Bucking Bronco, a Tractor Pulling Competition and the Hook
Norton Brewery horses will be in attendance.
Edgcote is about six miles north east of Banbury, near the A361. The postcode is OX17 1AG but this covers the whole estate. The best way to arrive is to come off the M40 at junction 11, follow the A361 to Wardington then turn right at the Hare & Hounds pub and follow the road round to the right. Cross the pond then turn right at the electric gates for Lodge Farm and Trafford Bridge stables. It is also possible to arrive coming from Culworth or Eydon.
Entry is £10 per adult (children under 14 go free).
For more information and to purchase VIP car passes in advance, visit www.bicesterhunt.co.uk/point-to-point/ or visit the Bicester Point to Point Facebook page Information about the course is also available at www.edgcoteraces.co.uk
Visit www.pointtopoint.co.uk for a full list of entries for this meeting.