The next point-to-point in the South Midlands Area is the Warwickshire fixture at Mollington on Monday 3rd May, with the first of seven races at 2.00pm. Meeting Secretary Susan Busby confirmed on Monday morning, in advance of entries closing, that the going is now Good to Firm and that watering is taking place this week with a view to obtaining Good ground come race day.
While the fixture will be taking place behind closed doors and there will be no public admission, owners who have entered a horse will be admitted subject to a £5 per person charge. Everyone attending must register and purchase a ticket in advance – owners should buy tickets for the Amber zone while officials and participants should register for the Green zone.
Owners and keepers should remember that declarations to run close on Thursday 29th April at 12 noon.
A healthy 161 horses have been entered for the seven races and local trainer Tom Ellis – who had a treble at the last meeting here and is bidding for a third consecutive national trainers title – hopes to saddle a runner in every race. He gave me a quick rundown of his plans.
"Celtic Silver – owned by former Warwickshire MFH Jenny Hayward – is an intended runner. He ran well last time after a long layoff, just getting tired after two out."
"Blazing Tom is also entered at Dingley but the plan is to run him here. Hopefully he can give Natalya Irvine another good ride after winning on him at the last meeting here."
"We'll run Bawnmore, who's owned by Jenny Hayward, current Warwickshire MFH Ray Randerson, Lynn Redman and Maurice Thomas. He's come on brilliantly since his win here and this is a stepping stone to the Restricted Final at Stratford."
"General Arrow is likely to run in this rather than the Ladies as the shorter trip will suit. He's in great form, having won his last two."
"Free Of Charge is owned by yard stalwart Lennie Owen. He's had leg trouble and needs good ground or softer. We didn't run him last weekend as the ground was too quick, so we're relying on Mother Nature!"
"Wideopenspaces has improved for his run here last time (where he looked to have at least dead-heated) and will benefit from the experience. I think a lot of him."
"Wounded Warrior found it all too quick at Edgcote last time – he stays four miles after all. He's also in at Dingley and we'll look at the entries before deciding. You couldn't find a more suitable schoolmaster for 18-year-old Ellie Callwood – indeed, I might come out of retirement to ride him!"
34 have been entered for the Retraining of Racehorses & Jockey Club Conditions race (Level 2) for ten-year-olds and over, which may be divided on declaration. This series of "veterans" races has proved a popular initiative this season, providing an opportunity for ex-rules horses and older pointers alike. Over half of the entries have a rating of 100 or more, meaning this is likely to be a highly competitive contest.
Owner Christine Banks may hold the key, having entered both Arthur's Secret and Diamond King for her daughter Abi to ride. The former has shown top-class form between the flags in the past but ran badly on his reappearance, while the latter won his Members race last time. Green Winter is another leading pointer – and remarkably consistent – but is making his seasonal debut, while two new recruits who were useful under rules are Aqua Dude and Flintham, who won a Revesby Park Ladies Open on his pointing debut. And if back to somewhere near his best, Ucello Conti would take all the beating.
Former champion trainer Alan Hill is in two minds whether to run the talented but quirky Hawkhurst. "He's also in the four-miler at Dingley," said the Aston Rowant handler. Generous Ransom and Thumb Stone Blues look the threats here on their Aldington form but he may be suited by the longer trip."
Bradley Gibbs, who is now based near Hatfield, will ride his father David's Frelia. The former Cheltenham winner has been disappointing so far this season, but Bradley told me, "Dad says she's in very good form and worked well at the weekend. The ground's been against her so far this season but she's of an age where things have got to go her way!"
The other race on the card that is part of a national series is the Skinner's Ladies Open, for which the final is at Stratford on Friday 28th May. The sponsors have been rewarded with 17 entries, although several have other engagements on the card, including the aforementioned Flintham and dual recent winner Summer Sounds, who holds multiple entries this weekend and may go to Cheltenham on Friday. 13-year-old Spencer Moon may only have walked over at Larkhill at the weekend but remains a useful pointer, while at the other end of the age scale is seven-year-old Ryans Fancy, who is progressing through the grades and bounced back to form when taking a Hornby Castle Intermediate. Baywatch fans will be rooting for No Hassle Hoff, who showed good form for Dan Skelton under rules and was a promising second at Aldington last time. He'd be a popular winner for the Turner family.
Alan Hill plans to run Kimble second Lisheen Prince, telling me, "He'll be suited by the ground being faster than it was at Aldington and ran well enough there in the circumstances."|
Racing commences with another (Level 2) Conditions race, over the shorter distance of two-and-a-half miles and sponsored by Sir James Shuckborough Bt, which has attracted 24 entries. As with the veterans race, it looks hard to pick a winner, with many double-entered – including Aqua Dude and Arthur's Secret - and nine rated 100+ (plus five rated exactly 99!) Recent Chaddesley Corbett form looks the best on offer here, with Bandsman fourth in the Ladies Open on his pointing debut and Robert Waley-Cohen's improving Maitree Express a close third in the Conditions race. A former chairman of this meeting, Robert and son Sam love to have a winner at their local track – indeed, Sam rode a four-timer for his father at this fixture back in 2014.
Claydon Horse Exercisers sponsor the 14-entry Mens Open, again over the shorter trip. Bradley Gibbs thinks a lot of his Hunter Chase and Open winner Rio Bravo and explained why the 10-year-old missed a recent engagement at Aldington. "His tracheal wash wasn't 100% but we've done it again since and he's clean now. The break may have benefitted him as he had a hard race at Revesby Park." Just Cause, who was just beaten by Rio Bravo there, is entered again, but may find this coming too soon after a Garthorpe third on Saturday, while Welsh raider Ramble On is likely to come on for his recent Flete Park second. Georgie Nicholls has entered two who were former useful hurdlers when trained by husband Paul – Capitaine and Old Guard, who won here last time out. Will Biddick is an interesting jockey booking for her selected runner.
The Topspec sponsored Maiden is the third race on the card over the reduced distance and, with 40 entries, and is also likely to be divided on declaration.
Of those to look out for, Ballinagore showed form last season but fell here last time – trainer David Kemp's yard is running into form. Barley Hill, Kates Lane and Shamilan were all second on their seasonal debuts but have disappointed since, Felino De Bersy showed promise here last time and Howitsdone was a good second at Charing, just in front of Mere Peak. Four-year-olds often have an advantage over their elders in these races and Hermes De Gouet (Chris Barber) and Heron Creek (Tom Weston) both represent stables who have a good record with their youngsters.
Bradley Gibbs has entered two of his own – disqualified Chaddesley Corbett scorer Fier Jaguen and Gareth Cael, third here on his debut – as well as Dance Monkey for father David. He said, "Both of mine are in at Dingley too so I'll run one there – I need to look at the entries. Fier Jaguen had ten days in a field before his second at Aldington last time, where he needed the run. Gareth Cael has come out of his race, where he ran green and was giving weight away, well. He was sent to me from Ireland as there's no pointing there at the moment."
Charlie Poste, who runs Station Yard racing with his wife – named trainer Fran Nimmo – also has two possibles. "Everything Now could be quite exciting," he admitted. "He's owned by his rider, Alex Ingram, and came to us from Tom Symonds, where she rides out. He was rated 115 and we've got a good record with our horses from Tom – the likes of Summer Sounds and Dr Time." James King will ride Vamanos and Charlie told me, "We'll be guided by James on where he runs so that he has the best chance of winning. We'll be supporting him in his quest for the jockeys title – it's great to have our stable jockey in with a shout."
Alan Hill is likely to run both his entries and was particularly bullish about the chances of Bon Calvados, a free-running fourth at Aldington on his debut for the yard. "The shorter trip will definitely help him and we'll go there with every chance," he confirmed. "I also intend to run Festival Dawn, who owner Nick Sutton has sent me from Philip Hobbs. Nick's son Ben (who's in pole position to be champion novice) will ride."
Nine have been entered for the Butler Sherborn Hunt Members. Joint top-rated are veteran Big Casino and last-time out Kimble winner Agamemmon, who is trained by four-time champion jockey David Tatlow and ridden by his grand-daughter Alice Homer. Beau Sancy will represent Charlie Poste and Fran Nimmo for rider Gordon Hopkinson, who won this race back in 2009 on Uppertier. Charlie said of the recent Larkhill winner, "The Members looks the easier of our options. Some of his rules form is useful and he and Gordon will build on Sunday's performance."
The final race of the day is a (Level 3) Conditions race for Veteran and Novice riders, sponsored by F N Pile & Sons and has 23 entries. Aqua Dude holds his third engagement on the card and is clear top-rated, however others have shown better recent form, including Aldington first and second Tangoed and Cheltenham Mati and recent winners After Hours (Shelfield Park) and Gun Shy (High Easter). "Follow the jockey" is often a useful clarion call in races of this type and Desert Roe's rider Harriet Tudor is certainly bred for the job, being the younger sister of Jack and related to former champion James.
Alan Hill may again run two – Supreme Danehill with Bertie Symonds and Knight Bachelor and Emily Westwood. "Supreme Danehill had a nice tour round the Essex countryside on Sunday," laughed Alan (he unseated early before galloping a full circuit of the track), "So Bertie will have another go on him. And Knight Bachelor was a good fourth in what looked a hot contest at Edgcote."
The day's racing will be live streamed on YouTube at We Stream events with pre- and post-race interviews by former riders Sam Davies-Thomas and Charlie Poste. The link for the live streaming will be made available on the Mollington Races website and Facebook pages. Please give generously on the Mollington Races Just Giving page to help support the sport of point-to-pointing.
A digital race card with the declared runners, colours and form guide will be available from the Mollington Races website prior to racing. Bookmakers will be taking bets on course and Mark Hill is providing a telephone betting service. To open an account beforehand, visit Mark Hill Racing or call Mark on 07831 293363.
Mollington is a wide, undulating, galloping track with four long, sweeping bends and a stiff uphill finish. It is on the A423, five miles north of Banbury. Postcode OX17 1QE
For more information, visit https://mollingtonhorseraces.co.uk or find us on Facebook @MollingtonRaces