by Jake Exelby
A total of 126 entries - the highest of the weekend's meetings - have been received for the second running of this popular meeting at the Cocklebarrow course near Northleach. Three winners at the inaugural meeting are entered again - Oh Toodles, Bench Warrant and Moscow Blaze - and horses are set to come from far and wide.
For the second year in a row, Meeting Secretary Christopher Marriott and his team have pulled out the stops to ensure that, as well as competitive racing, the meeting provides a great day out for the family. There will be a free heated marquee for racegoers to have their picnics in the warm and dry as well as the return of the popular "Kidszone" from last year, with face-painting, magicians and a mechanical horse for children to learn the art of race-riding, guided by former National Hunt jockey Ollie McPhail. Then there's the first running of the "Tough Farmer Challenge", about which all will be revealed on the day...
As in 2014, the meeting opens with a Restricted Race, which is the first Subaru Restricted Point to Point Series qualifier of 2015. A team from the Subaru Cheltenham dealership will be exhibiting models from the current range, including the new Subaru Outback.
Trainer of last year's winner Oh Toodles, Caroline Robinson, is represented in the race this year by ex-Irish pointer Abhainn Dubh. Opposition includes several promising types who won their Maiden last time out. Love Manhattan has been sold out of the Tom Lacey stable since winning at Paxford last year, Midnight Harry won at Maisemore in the Spring, and Tom Weston - whose horses are in excellent form - will be hoping that Mr Jalfrazy can follow-up his recent win at Chaddesley Corbett. Others to watch include Phil York's Green Winter, who also ran well at Chaddesley and the Claire Hart-trained Gift of Dreams, who finished close behind the impressive Storm Lantern at Larkhill before Christmas.
The following Hunt Members Race may only have attracted six entrants but looks likely to be a competitive contest. Moorland Sunset would be a popular winner for clerk of the course Nick Phillips to follow up his success at the meeting with Cousin Pete last year - he won his first two races of 2014 so goes well fresh. Another popular winner would be Dabinett Moon, owned by Christopher Marriott and the latest home-bred from the "Apples" dynasty who have been running for the Marriotts for over 40 years. Be Definite ran a cracking race on his debut in points at Chaddesley last month and will be bidding to give Gus Levinson a first winner on only his second ride. Icthec (pronounced "I see the sea") has won both his starts this year, dead-heating in a competitive Restricted at Larkhill last time, and the experienced Himalayan Express, who usually runs in Hunter Chases, cannot be ruled out.
With 29 entries, the Novice Riders Race - the latest in the series of AGA All Comers Championship Races - may have to be divided on the day. As ever with this type of event, it is a competitive field and the winner may well be decided on jockeyship. As well as the aforementioned Be Definite and Oh Toodles, interesting runners include National Hunt recruits Lord Lescribaa, who won for Philip Hobbs in September, and Thanks For Coming, who has left one Henderson (Nicky) for another (James) since winning a Novices Chase at Newbury in March. Entries with useful form in point-to-points include Sergeant Dick and Sir du Bearn, who won similar events at Cottenham and Chaddesley Corbett for Lucy Wheeler and Peter Bryan, Overafrica - another Bryan ride who has been running well in Club Races - and Presentandcorrect who won an Open Race at the end of last season.
Top-rated in the 3m 4f Ladies Open Race is last year's winner Moscow Blaze. He has yet to run to his best this season but who will be ridden by the in-form Page Fuller, who won on the evergreen That's Rhythm at Larkhill on Saturday. Tinelyra has been placed for Fergal O'Brien in two Ladies Opens already this season and course winner Oh Toodles is consistent and goes well fresh. Ballyjames and Ben's Folly are other consistent types who cannot be ruled out.
The Mens Open for the Lord Ashton of Hyde's Cup, run over the marathon distance of 3m 7f, has long been one of the highlights of the point-to-point season and, with no entries from the Robert Waley-Cohen stable, there will be a new name on the trophy this year. The form horses are Sir du Bearn and Perfectly Willing, who was a close second to Benedictus in a quality Mens Open at Larkhill earlier in the month, while the quirky Golan Way represents high-class National Hunt form, having run in last season's Grand National. However, he refused to race in his last two Hunter Chases and was well-beaten on his reappearance. Ice Cool Benny won three times last year but also has a mind of his own while De Forgotten Man netted two Mens Opens in 2014 but has disappointed since. James Henderson has two entered - the improving Say No in addition to Thanks For Coming.
Two Maiden Races close the card, the first over 3m for six-year-olds and up and the second for young horses run over 2m 4f. Plenty are in with chances in the first Maiden. Bach to Before and Love The Leader have recent form in Irish points and Tom Malone, trainer of the latter, is one to watch in this type of race. Thoonavolla has been running well in National Hunt races in Ireland and Tom Weston has his horses in excellent fettle. Those to have shown promise in British point-to-points include promising youngster Millrose Boy, Caroline Griffiths' Brown Harp and Toodle Horse from the Sheila Crow yard, who won this race last year with Irish Anthem and who opened her account for the season at Larkhill last weekend.
As is so often the case in young horse Maiden Races, proven form is thin on the ground. Willie Bryan's Lotus Pond and Champagne Benefit from the Katy Price stable have already been running well this year. Bach to Before and Thoonavolla are also entered here and newcomer Wy Worry is from a stable who can get horses ready to win first time out.
Meeting Secretary Christopher Marriott is hoping for plenty of runners and a lot of spectators. "The course has settled and drained since last year and the grass is a year older. It's riding really well. We're hopeful that it'll get warmer during the but we've got lots of bad weather facilities if not and we're aiming for an even bigger crowd than last year."
Cocklebarrow is a left-handed slightly undulating, galloping track, with excellent viewing. There are eight fences on each circuit and 19 in total for the three-mile races.
The course is located at Cocklebarrow Farm, Aldsworth GL54 3PP, approximately one and a half miles south of the A40. The course can be reached via the road signposted to Lodge Park. Please do not follow signs to Aldsworth from the A40 as there will be no access to the course through the village from this direction.
Entry is £20 per car and £10 for single occupancy.