TRAINER Phil Rowley and jockey Alex Edwards head to Chaddesley Corbett this weekend looking to maintain their respective leads at the top of the national championships.
The Albrighton & Woodland (South) event on Bank Holiday Monday is the final race meeting Chaddesley Corbett will hold this season.
With the season drawing to a close Edwards holds a healthy lead over reigning champion Will Biddick in the race for the Riders Title.
After Mondays meeting just three weekends remain so it would need a dramatic turn round in Biddick’s fortunes to prevent the local rider from securing his first National championship.
Rowley is pulling out all the stops to help the rider achieve that ambition, but it also help him consolidate his position in the Trainers Championship.
He is six wins clear going into this weekend’s fixtures but that gap is bridgeable and may go right down to the wire.
The meeting starts with the Novice Riders at 1.30pm, where Aupcharlie is tasked with providing Michaela Tallett with her first success.
The jockey is seen as an integral part of Rowley’s Popular Court stables, but that first winner is proving very elusive as the partnership have been runners up on all three outings this season.
They have been unlucky to come up against some useful horses and unfortunately for them that is likely to be the case on Monday, because Aerlite Supreme and William Money are going to be very difficult nuts to crack.
It is coming to the end of a long and testing season and surprises at this stage of the campaign are not uncommon, but unlikely.
Rowley and Edwards have a close association but when the situation allows the jockey teams up with other trainers including Diana Ralph and that could pay dividends in the closing weeks of the season.
Entries for the Men’s Open include the Rowley trained Bears Affair who is likely to start a warm favourite but if he fails to meet his engagement Edwards could renew his partnership with Drumhart who fought out a close finish with Againn Dul Aghaidh at the last meeting.
They meet on level terms whereas Drumhart was conceding weight to his rival when they last met.
Ralph has also entered Old Pride, while Argot and Jimmy the Jetplane are others to note as is Teeton Kato who will be steeping up in class.
Namako has won his last two races for the Rowley/Edwards axis, but the horse has alternative engagements over the weekend so Edwards has the chance to team up with last weekends winner Rockinrolldixie.
The warmer weather has seen a dramatic transformation in this horse’s fortunes as he followed his win at Maisemore Park with another impressive performance at Bredwardine and with current conditions in his favour it will take a good one to lower his colours.
The Alan Hill trained Hawkhurst is the one they all have to beat, while Kit Barry looks a useful performer based on his Cheltenham run.
The Well Road is another for the short list as is Mirs Choice who chased home the Bennett runner at Cold Harbour.
It is difficult to look beyond Arthurs Secret in the Ladies Open, although he holds an entry for a Worcester Hunter Chase on Friday evening and that may be the preference.
Local hopes rest with Maybe Plenty and Well Mett, but they will find it difficult to live with Patricktom Boru and Watch the Birdie who revel in prevailing conditions and both will be difficult to peg back.
24 horses have been entered for the Restricted including Golanzine who would have won at Knightwick but for a last fence mistake. He has been beaten since but the course and conditions should play to his strengths.
Gadrose may need another season to show her best, but that does not mean she cannot win the Restricted and add to Rowley and Edwards tally.
Soft ground was blamed for her disappointing run at Brampton Bryan while immediately after Cold Harbour connections were voicing the opinion that she was crying out for three miles.
Marcle Ridge finally got his act together at the last meeting, where he jumped off in front and never saw another rival.
Whether the opposition will allow him to dictate the tactics on Monday is debatable but that win will have done him a power of good and he might be ready to take the next step up the ladder.
Stay Out of Court finished second to Ballyriver Boy at Maisemore. T
hat performance was put into context when the winner went on to win a Fontwell Hunter Chase a few days later, which brings him into calculations.
The Mares Maiden presents a challenge to form students who have very little evidence on which to base their assertions.
Here Comes Molly is the highest rated but one of the unexposed runners is likely to have the ability to put her in her place – the problem is finding which one that is.
Tigers Song started favourite for a Mollington Maiden but her fifth place does not fill you with confidence, while Squeaky finished a half-length second on his latest outing and a repeat performance could carry him to victory.
Given the lack of evidence Rowley may hold the key with the unraced Miss Reynard. She is bound to have been well schooled and this looks an ideal starting point as it offers her a winning opportunity.
Round Robin has had numerous chances over the last two seasons, but it seems that whatever the race and whatever the company he simply cannot get his head in front.
His supporters always know they will get a run for their money but just when it seems he is going to break the ice, he inevitably finds one too good for him.
Perhaps an end of season Maiden such as this provides a winning opportunity but that is unlikely.
First Goodnight started an odds-on favourite for an Edgecote Maiden last weekend but the jockey blamed an overwatered course for that defeat and they may find conditions more to their liking on Monday.
Halloween Harry comes from Maxwell Young’s Droitwich stable but for a young trainer to produce him to win at the first time of asking would be a major feather in his cap.
Milzipa looks the answer in a tricky contest.
He has had previous experience with Nicky Henderson, although finishing nearer last than first in most of those outings.
He must have been showing Rowley something at home for the trainer to start him off in Points so late in the season.