PREVIEW - BERKS & BUCKS AND STAFF COLLEGE & RMAS DRAGHOUNDS

KINGSTON BLOUNT - SUNDAY 25TH MAY 2014

 

By Andrew Norman

 

The South Midlands season concludes at Kingston Blount on Sunday as the venue plays host to the Berks & Bucks And Staff College & RMAS Draghounds Point-to-Point.

Megan Nicholls, who leads the National Lady Novice Rider Championship, can press home her advantage in the Ladies Open. The rider could partner either hat-trick-seeking Current Event or Gwanako, a winner of his last seven races. Opposition includes dual course scorer Ravethebrave, although the ten-year-old flopped at this meeting a year ago. Despite Alan Hill’s gelding mastering Niki Royal here a fortnight ago, Page Fuller’s mount could pose a threat. Volcan Surprise, the Leading PPORA Young Horse in East Anglia, and last Sunday’s Whitfield victors, Cutlass Silver and Darby’s Turn, look next best.

The Mens Open could be a showdown between horses from each of the two most successful stables in the country this term. Both Alan Hill (dual-course winner Alpha Native and King’s Legacy) and Ed Walker (four-time course winner Ned The Post and Before The War) have a pair of horses to choose from. Walker (19 winners) trails Hill (23) by four in the Connolly’s Red Mills National Trainers Championship but poses a threat as four meetings remain in his home county of Devon. However, New Alco could spoil the party. The Sarah Case-trained gelding was a fifteen-length winner here earlier this month and gets the vote.

Another course winner from a fortnight ago, Triggers Ginger, is set to return to the track for the Intermediate. Whatever happens on Sunday, the nine-year-old will be crowned the Area’s Leading Mare but she must improve again to register her third course success in this grade. James Tudor will partner his cousin Jonathan’s Tiger Rag, a consistent performer this term. The six-year-old may prove too good for One Wish and Commanche Conflict, second and third in this company at Whitfield on Sunday, with Alan Hill’s Viel Gluck completing the shortlist.

Hill will hope that Tudor can coax a victory out of Earl Grez in the Restricted as the rider partners the son of Turgeon for the first time. Unsuccessful in five visits to the track, the nine-year-old has something to find with Mine Sweeper, and especially Blue Benny, from the Kimblewick. The latter is selected to continue his progression from chief threat Aboo Dreamer, who broke his Maiden here in March.

The Pauline Harkin-trained Lady Barfad appears to hold the strongest form on offer in the concluding Open Maiden but nine-year-old Rogue Dancer, set to make his debut between the flags after a string of disappointing efforts under rules, could be the fly in the ointment.

All three Area Rider Championships are still alive with Sam Davies-Thomas (One Wish) and Hannah Watson (Ravethebrave) currently holding narrow advantages in the Gentlemen and Lady Divisions while Laura Jenkins and Tom Kindleyside are tied for the Novice award. The leading horse prize is also finely poised with five animals still in contention. Roger Brown’s Soupcon D’Albain heads the list after scoring at Whitfield on Sunday but four runners can leapfrog the gelding by scoring points on Sunday.

The first race, the Hunt Members race, is due off at 2.30pm with the meeting’s famous Draghound Challenge Cup run between the Mens and Ladies Open races. Racegoers are invited to stay after racing for the presentation of the South Midlands Area Awards before the stars of the future take to the course for Pony Racing.

Kingston Blount racecourse can be found just off the B4009 Chinnor to Watlington road (two miles from Junction 6 of the M40). Postcode code for Sat Nav: OX39 4SG.

Admission is £5 for pedestrians while car parking (admits all passengers) ranges from £15 to £25 with a £5 discount for single occupants.