Barbury International Preview (Sun 15th Dec)
The fourth renewal of the Barbury International Racing Club fixture meeting at picturesque Barbury Racecourse, situated high on the Marlborough Downs, again draws together horses and riders from the UK and Ireland on a UK point-to-point course. The fixture is the only British point-to-point meeting open to both Irish horses, trainers and riders and professionally trained horses.Clerk of the Course John White confirmed on Monday that, following weekend rain, the going is now Good to Soft, Good in places and organisers are delighted with a total entry of 150, easily the highest figure of the season so far. Ten horses have been entered by Irish trainers, including seven from Eugene O’Sullivan.
Meeting Secretary Ilona Barnett told me earlier, “We are delighted to receive our largest entry to date. This has, however, meant we will be starting half an hour earlier and have divided the Novice Riders race. All other races are on or near the safety factor with the exception of the Conditions race. This has 32 entries, but a large number are double entered in the Novice Riders race. Due to the short daylight hours, we will not be able to make any more divisions on the day so would encourage owners and trainers who wish to be guaranteed a run to declare in the Novice Riders.”
“We would also like to remind owners that they will need to take their horse’s passport to the declarations table for checking when declaring. We very much look forward to some very competitive racing and still have a few hospitality places available if anyone would like to book lunch in the warn and the dry.”
The racing highlight of the day looks likely to be the Plusvital Mixed Open with 19 entries, including useful rules recruits Thedellercheckout, now with Caroline Robinson and Chris Bealby’s consistent Inchcolm, who won six and was placed in six of his last 13 starts. Ex-French Fixe Le Kap is an interesting newcomer for James Henderson while Don Poli is more likely to run at Alnwick. Unusually for a race of this type at this time of year, the pointing and Hunter Chase form looks stronger, headed by the classy Master Baker, who won two Hunter Chases in 2019. Dunsmore winner Don Bersy is talented but quirky, Templebraden is consistent, Sonneofpresenting was impressive when scoring on this card last year and both Ballynagour and Robin De Boss ran well on their seasonal debuts at Larkhill.
“He’s come out of it bouncing,” enthused Ryan Potter of Don Bersy. “We didn’t want to take on Wishing And Hoping at Ffos Las last weekend and, while this is another hot race, I could see him winning.” Asked about the six-year-old’s occasional reluctance to start, Ryan laughed again. “He’s only failed to do so once for us!” Phil Rowley’s Optimised was most eye-catching when winning at Cottenham first time, albeit over a shorter trip, while the Bridgnorth-based handler is also responsible for an intriguing entry in Champagne Lilly, unraced since 2018 and unbeaten in three points, but stepping up in class from Intermediates. Another with a similar profile is Angela Rucker’s Tossapenny, who won a Chaddesley Corbett Restricted in February.
The most popular event on the card is the Jockey Club and Retraining of Racehorses Conditions race, for “veteran” horses aged nine and over, the first in a new sponsored series of point-to-points that culminates in a final at Garthorpe in May. 32 entries have been received, and it looks unsurprisingly competitive. Joe O’Shea’s Irish Anthem was regarded at a Foxhunters contender early last season, but hasn’t been seen for a year, while Lotus Pond won the Lady Dudley Cup in 2018 before a successful rules campaign. The Dapper Fox won this race last year – but over six furlongs further – and Global Power and Minella Friend are consistent performers in this grade, the latter racking up three wins early last year. The two Irish entrants look to have something to find on form.
Another who has something to find on the book is Dusk Till Dawn, but trainer Annabel Wheatley is hopeful of a good run, saying, “He’s been knocking on the door and – while he can be susceptible to infections – he seems fit and well. His summer holiday has done him good and he’s better than his form suggests.” Accord, now in the care of Michael Kehoe, won two late season points for David Bridgwater in 2018/2019, Robin De Boss may also appreciate the step down from Open class and – of the newcomers to pointing from rules – Thumb Stone Blues looks most interesting.
Alan Hill’s Horizontal Speed has ability but can lack resolution, and his trainer is hoping for an improvement on his Cottenham reappearance, telling me, “He schooled well this week and needed that run after a long lay off. We’re putting blinkers on so he travels better, but it’s a competitive race.” Another who doesn’t always give their all is Claire Hardwick’s multiple-winning mare Western Diva, who should find this event easier than Opens. “She’s difficult to train, not easy in a race and can be frustrating, but she is my comfort blanket! She’s won six for us and I know there is more to come – if she is in the mood!” smiled Claire.
Highflyer Bloodstock again sponsors the Novice Riders race, which has already been split into two divisions, each with 15 entries, So often in these contests, it pays to focus on the jockey and Ben Bromley, who is likely to partner his Ballykan in Division Two for his father – well-known bloodstock agent Anthony – is already off the mark for the season. The nine-year-old, also entered in the “veterans” race, has shown consistent – mostly placed – form for Nigel Twiston-Davies in recent seasons. Luke Scott is another pilot with plenty of experience in this type of race and may partner both Fran Nimmo’s consistent Summer Sounds (another with a double entry) in the first contest and Laura Horsfall’s Ballycahane in the second. Fran confirmed her side of the plan. “Luke got on well with him last year. He has a big penalty but it looks a nice option after he slipped on the bend at Dunsmore.”
Call Me Vic, the likely mount of Albi Tufnell in Division Two, boasts the best recent form with his Larkhill Open third, Drumhart (Division One) won two contests of this nature in 2019 and – while his rival Judge John Deed’s recent form may not appear inspiring, he was highly regarded as a youngster and ran well here last season. First time out may be the best time to catch him. Poetic Presence in the first heat and Sambremont in the second both had useful pointing form in Ireland and the latter was considered good enough to run in the Champion Hunter Chase at Stratford in May.
Claire Hardwick plans to run What A Joke in the first division and described him as, “A legend and a firm favourite. He’s provided George Prince with his first ride, first winner and first ride at Cheltenham and is a pleasure to train.” He’s likely to take on Ryan Potter’s Little Windmill, the mount of Sam Brown, who has joined Ryan as Novice Rider this season and will be having his first ride for his new employer after three for Julie Mansell in 2019. “He came from Neil King and is rated 112,” reported the trainer. He’ll be a good fun horse for his syndicate and should be competitive on Sunday. He’ll go Hunter Chasing later on.”
Proceedings open with the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Point-to-Point Flat Race for four and five-year-olds. Surprisingly, given the popularity of this relatively recent innovation, there are just 15 entries. Form in the Bumpers is not just thin on the ground, but virtually non-existent (!) as conditions state that horses may never have run over fences in the UK or Ireland. The best British form is represented by So Socksy, runner-up in two similar contests here last season. 2017/2018 champion trainer Phil Rowley – in blistering form so far this year, who has entered newcomer Raffle Ticket as well as I Will Follow Her, a good second here in February.
The other 11 British entrants are unraced but two look of particular interest. Another former champion in Alan Hill could have his first ever bumper runner in the shape of Vain Girl, while leading bloodstock agent Gearoid Costelloe has started training pointers in Lambourn and his Mount Corbitt is definitely worth keeping an eye on. “Vain Girl is well bred. She was broken in by Will Biddick and came to us from Alan King, who thought a smaller yard and more time would suit, which is which she came to me,” confirmed her trainer. Both Irish entries are unraced and trained by Eugene O’Sullivan.
As well as the flat race, the card includes three Maidens, framed to promote young pointing talent on both sides of the Irish Sea. The first is the Goffs UK two-and-a-half mile Maiden for four and five-year-olds, which has attracted 17 entries. Like the “veterans” race, this is a new series for the 2019/2020 season, which concludes in May.
The potential runners have amassed a grand total of just four (!) runs in UK points between them so concentrating on trainer form may be the best option. Phil Rowley has two entries – 2018 Coldharbour second Mr Knowitall and 2019 Bitterley “bumper” winner Quinta Do Mar. Claire Hardwick’s Man In The Moon was third at Brampton Bryan in 2018 while Tom Ellis’ Mental Micky fell early when well-fancied on his recent Larkhill debut. Chris Barber and Fran Nimmo have a great reputation with their youngsters and introduce Thechaseison and The Whiskey Man – both of whom have Irish pointing form – respectively. Fran said earlier of The Whiskey Man, “He looks a young, progressive sort and has settled in well since arriving from Ireland. It will be a new experience riding a Maiden for owner-rider Harry Arkwright, but we hope he should be thereabouts.”
“We like him a lot,” said Tom Ellis of Mental Micky. “He’s a nice type and his fall at Larkhill was novice. Jack Andrews will ride again.” Claire Hardwick’s Man In The Moon is, according to his trainer, “A beautifully bred five-year-old who has been very straightforward in his training and is more like a ten-year-old on a day-to-day basis! Will Biddick will ride”. Two newcomers to watch are Sophie Lacey’s Lagonda and the aforementioned Mount Corbitt and, of the four Irish entrants, Cormac Doyle’s Demothi has the best form. However, don’t rule out Eugene O’Sullivan’s Military Poet, who has been running over hurdles.
Alan King Racing, on behalf of the local trainer, and the Jockey Club sponsor the Mares Maiden, also for four to six year-olds over the shorter distance. 19 have been entered, among them recent Dunsmore second Janeslittlevoice for Robert Hawker and Les Jefford’s Arctic Milly, who has been placed three times. Julie Mansell’s pointing newcomer Diva Du Maquis has rules form, Kates Lane represents Tim Underwood, who is keen on her chances and I Will Follow Her, Lagonda and So Socksy have been talked about earlier.
Dark horses include Tara Gael for Chris Barber and Claire Hardwick’s Charmond – “She’s a real professional who's stepped up to the mark and answered every question I have asked of her,” – while Heidi Brookshaw’s You Too Bonny Lass was tremendously impressive when landing a Hereford “bumper” by 28 lengths and her debut over fences is eagerly awaited. Eugene O’Sullivan’s New Money should also be considered, despite her uninspiring form figures.
The third non-winners contest is an Open Maiden over the full three-mile trip, and is sponsored by Tattersalls Ireland. With 18 entries and being open to older horses, there is more form to go on, both in British and Irish points and in National Hunt racing. Best recent form is represented by Fran Nimmo’s close Larkhill second On Parole and Family Man, who had form in Irish points and was third on his Dunsmore debut for Ryan Potter. Catwalk Frank and Howld Your Whist have multiple placings between the flags in Britain, although the latter can be temperamental. Of those with rules form, the ex-Keith Dalgleish Best To Come has the most solid credentials, while Peter Mason thinks improvement will come from new purchase Barley Hill.
Ryan Potter is keen on the chances of Family Man, telling me, “We really fancied him when he was third at Dunsmore but he stopped quickly and we couldn’t work out why at the time. He may want better ground but he’ll go with a chance.” Fran Nimmo is equally upbeat about On Parole, confirming, “We’re delighted with how he ran at Larkhill and, if he repeats that, he should go close.” Eugene O’Sullivan (who else?!) is responsible for sole Irish entry Carrigeen Star.
Barbury is a gently undulating oblong downland course set in a natural amphitheatre, on a chalk base, giving perfect early season going. It is located 3m NW of Marlborough (10m from Exits 15 & 16 of the M4). The main entrance is off the Marlborough to Broad Hinton road. SN8 1RS.
Entrance will be £15 per person on the day, to include a race card, and tickets can be bought in advance at the discounted price of £10 at www.barburyraces.co.uk/tickets
Visit www.pointtopoint.co.uk for a full list of entries for this meeting.For racing enquiries, please contact Meeting Secretary Ilona Barnett on 07774 692242. For hospitality and sponsorship, please contact Peter McNeile on 07850 091523.