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By yes Wednesday 19 December 2012 Updated: 19/12 15:59
ENDLESS hard work at Chaddesley Corbett over the last couple of seasons has seen the point-to-point course become one of the best in the country, highlighted once again by the huge level of entries for the Harkaway meeting.
With an entry list exceeding 220, there is the distinct possibility that several races will need dividing for the meeting that takes place on Friday, December 28 (first race 11am).
The Ladies Open is a qualifier for the AGA Final at Stratford in June and could see the reappearance of Billvoddan, who won in 2011 and was runner-up last year.
Philip Rowley’s Bridgnorth trained gelding won at this meeting in 2012 and had Sagalyrique behind him that day, but the latter scored a facile win at Cottenham three weeks ago and may just hold the fitness advantage this time around.
Sagalyrique’s owner Angela Rucker could partner Kicks for Free who has not been out since suffering an injury at Larkhill last January. If he can avoid problems he will make a bold bid in the final.
Anshan was backed into favouritism prior to his win at Barbury and it would be no surprise if the Joe O’Shea trained gelding scored a follow up success, although he will find it more difficult in this company.
Overlut is a confirmed front runner, as is Picaroon although he blotted his copybook by refusing to start at Wadebridge recently. You can also add the prolific Lady Myfanwy to the equation.
Vic Venturi is an interesting entry having won numerous races across the Irish Sea and was purchased for a significant sum over the summer. It will be interesting to see how he fares in his first outing for Stephen Rea’s Belbroughton stable.
The winner of the opening Conditions race will take some sorting. Local hopes rest with Mister Watzisname who runs in the colours of trainer Theresa Morris.
Ashtown Boy, Ice Cool Benny, Over the Phone and Up There all have winning form between the flags, with the latter finishing runner-up in this contest last year.
Keel Road, Made in Japan and Le Burf have had their limitations exposed under rules but that does not mean they cannot be successful between the flags.
Nobby Kivambo put in a scintillating performance over course and distance last year and if a repeat performance could be guaranteed that would be a licence to print money. Things are never that simple though as he got no further than the second fence at Barbury recently so is out to retrieve his reputation.
Oedipe won numerous races in the north 12 months ago prior to his purchase by Rhys Jenkins who then placed him in the care of Nicky Sheppard at Eastnor. It may take his new connections a race or two to find out what he is capable of but it would not be a major surprise if he turned up trumps.
The Restricted was one of the races divided last year and it could suffer the same fate 12 months later. Prof D’Isle is returning after along absence, while Rosemore Déjà vu, Roseyroo, Trouble Digger, Mr Trump and Ease and Grace all have winning form in Maidens.
Music of the Morn, Pillbox, Irish Lace and Gioiello look above average for this type of race and it would be a surprise if the winner did not come from this quartet.
Dave and Julie Mansell have suffered a bout of seconditus so far this season and will be looking to Music of the Morn to put that statistic right. Pillbox runs in the colours of Diana Williams and success for this one would help her daughter Jane start on her way to retaining her National Title.
Irish Lace finally got her act together when scoring at Upper Sapey so a follow up success should not be long in coming. There was a lot to admire about Gioiello’s win at Barbury and it will take a good one to beat Robert Chuggs Droitwich bred mare.
The Men’s Open is also full of quality with the entry including such quality performers as De Forgotten Man, Findlays Find, Fortview, Gerrard, Offshore Account, On Borrowed Wings, last years Dudley Cup winner Rosies Peacock and Rumbavu.
Cottage Oak victory at Barbury earmarked him as a potential winner of this race, while it will be interesting to see how Damman fares after an abortive season under Rules last year.
Two Maidens finish the card, the first a Non-Rules variety. It really is a lottery picking Maiden winners at this time of the season, but Beths Star, Fiddle Faddle, Larking Around, and Gooseberry Hill have as good a chance as any.
Beths Star has been placed on numerous occasions but it is worrying that she has not yet got her head in front, while Larking Around’s form leaves something to be desired but all the family have improved with age and that gives cause for optimism.
Gooseberry Hill comes from the always to be feared Williams yard, while the meeting could have a royal runner in the shape of HRH Princess Royal’s Fiddle Faddle who was travelling well until falling here last February and Zara Phillips has a good record with her point-to-pointers.
Entry costs £10 per person (up to a maximum £40 per person) with u16s being free.
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