With four meetings in all this past weekend it was a good weekend for pointing followers with meetings at Ballindenisk, Lisronagh, Black Forest Lodge and Cottenham.
The most impressive maiden winner in Ireland last weekend was surely the four year old Oficial Ben who made all to see off thirteen others by an eased down six lengths under jockey Kevin Power. The Terry Ryan-owned gelding was a relatively inexpensive purchase as a three year old store at Tattersalls Ireland in August 2012 and looks likely to make a big impression on the track. The son of Beneficial appears to have sufficient speed to go on to take a bumper in the coming weeks should connections take that route but it looks more than likely that he’ll head for the sales later this month.
Benzel is another son of Beneficial to impress in victory last weekend when the five year old took the Five Year Old Geldings Maiden at the Ballindenisk track, again partnered by Kevin Power. The runner-up, Dark Outsider, had some solid form last season but Benzel readily went past the early leaders approaching the second last and was clear prior to taking the final fence in isolation for a five length victory.
There were two meetings on the first weekend of the UK season, Dreamy George running out an impressive winner of the PPORA Club Members Conditions event at Cottenham. Trained by local trainer John Ferguson, the favourite came 3 ½ lengths clear of a decent sized field that included useful performers Galbally King and Hand Act Or Part. Dreamy George looks likely to go under rules next with a 2 1/2m Novice Chase looking the most likely route for the son of Goldmark who disappointed on his only outing over fences on soft ground in a Hunter Chase at Fakenham in March.
There was little to note down at Black Forest Lodge though Penmore Mill’s winning return to action in the Mixed Open under Tom Ellis bodes well for his chances of improving on his Hunter Chase record this season. The eight year old has already scored in three of his five Hunter Chases and connections will surely be looking to improve on that this season with the Foxhunters at Cheltenham likely to be a target for the son of Shernazar.
There are three meetings this weekend, with a 10am start due to the likely large fields at Tattersalls Farm in County Meath while they also race at Avaune in Ireland and a 12pm start for the UK meeting at Barbury Castle. Ten to follow horse Theatre Queen is engaged in the Intermediate event at Barbury Castle where she could attempt to maintain her unbeaten record for trainer Mark Wall.
Foxhunters third Cottage Oak is engaged in the Ladies Open at the Wiltshire track though the most intriguing race is surely the 2m 4f Club Members Maiden that wraps up the card. Leading trainer Tom Lacey has two engaged in this with both Illicit Illusion and Thedrinkymeister possible contenders for last years winning trainer with Siege Of Troy for Richard Barber another interesting contender.
Former point trainer Hugo Froud did well with his string between the flags and he could saddle the winning pointer Caspian Piper for a return to handicaps in the Novices Handicap Chase at Leicester. The seven year old gelding took a Maiden event at Cothelstone after a few promising efforts in fair contests early last season and followed that up in his second outing in a Restricted at Holnicote in May . His best outing for Mouse Morris in Ireland came over three miles on a faster surface and that appeared to suit him in his UK points, though fast ground doesn’t appear to be a necessity for him and he could be interesting at a decent price in this.
Starburst Diamond tackles a five runner field for trainer Charles Whittaker and jockey Kevin Jones at Wincanton and it’s worth disregarding his recent form over regulation fences due to the soft and heavy ground being against the eleven year old. The son of Old Vic registered just the one success during the last pointing season when taking a three runner Members event at Larkhill on good to firm ground though he twice ran well subsequently at the same track and at Chaddesley Corbett. They were particularly decent races for the grade and he was only caught late on when last seen in action in May and off a mark of 95 he looks more than capable of taking a hand in this should the enigmatic gelding feel like it.
Medieval Chapel has had plenty of entries without running in the past week or so and he again features in the Novice Hurdle events this week with engagements at Chepstow (Saturday) and Warwick (Sunday) both over around 2 1/2m. As mentioned previously the grey son of Ballingarry won twice in points last season for Ian Ferguson scoring at Tyrella and Kirkistown and he looks likely to prove profitable to follow in these sort of races over the coming months.
Wynn Darwi has shown promise in a couple of his hurdles outings thus far on good ground and this drop back to 2m3f could be just what Debra Hamer’s charge needs on his handicap debut. Wynn Darwi shaped well in his pointing outings, most notably when clear prior to falling at the second last at Bredwardine back in May when partnered by Evan David. Jumping has always been his downfall as he fell on his previous outing when he again led prior to coming down at the second last. Both of those outings suggest this son of Anshan has enough ability to be competitive in a race of this nature though it’s worth taking into account that any rain is likely to hinder the eight year olds chances.
Railway Vic is another ex-pointer who could turn up at Exeter this Friday and he would come into this on the back of a promising season in points in 2013. The six year old gelding showed useful form in Irish points in 2011 and a somewhat lacklustre rules career on that side of the Irish Sea has resulted in a mark of just 95 for his UK rules debut. Railway Vic has generally weakened late on in his point outings thus far and as a result I expect this drop to 2m1f to be in his favour. Jimmy Frost’s gelding registered three successes last season under the trainer’s daughter Briony including a Restricted event at Flete Park prior to finishing runner-up in a Ladies Open in which the useful favourite fell at the opening fence. Like Wynn Darwi he would be another for whom any rain would be a negative.
A number of pointers could take part in the Grade 2 Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown this coming Friday including Oscar Fortune and Ballyalton who won successive renewals of the 4yo Maiden at Boulta’s November meeting (Ballyalton in 2011 and Oscar Fortune in 2012). They could be joined by the Paul Nicholls-trained Saint Roque in the event who’s starting to fulfil the early promise he showed when easily taking a Dromahane Maiden in March 2011.
Trainer Dan Skelton has made a positive start to his training career and he could saddle the six year old gelding Toby Lerone in Saturday’s Grand Sefton Handicap Chase over the National course at Aintree. The son of Old Vic has finally started to confirm his early promise when running out the winner of a traditionally hot Barbury Castle Maiden event as a four year old in December 2011. Toby Lerone has now won his last two including off a four pound lower mark than he’ll race off here on heavy ground at Lingfield a month ago. His rookie handler is now 2 from 3 with this half-brother to the useful chaser Mr Warbucks and he looks capable of going well off a light weight (out of the handicap should top weight Wishfull Thinking run) in this big race.
The opening event at Chepstow this Saturday features a number of former pointers with the likes of Big Hands Harry, Buywise, Gunner Fifteen, Medieval Chapel, Midnight Thunder and Pamplona Run all engaged t the five day stage. Medieval Chapel has already been touched on elsewhere while Midnight Thunder is another who holds other engagements in the coming days. Gunner Fifteen proved to be one of the most impressive bumper winners of the season so far when easily winning at Uttoxeter last month for trainer Fergal O’Brien and it’s not surprise to see this Inch Maiden winning son of Westerner switched to hurdles so soon. The gelding made all last month on soft ground and he appears to have plenty of reserves of stamina as well as a lot of class with this more testing track likely to suit. Big Hands Harry has had just the one outing thus far with that coming when seeing off ten others to take the Four Year Old Maiden at Ballysteen at the end of April. The two directly behind Big Hands Harry on that occasion have both tasted success in points since and this drop in trip shouldn’t inconvenience him too much. Two ex-British pointers currently engaged in this are Harry Fry’s Pamplona Run and the Evan Williams-trained Buywise. Pamplona Run was unbeaten in two starts as a five year old last season with the most recent of those seeing him justify odds-on favouritism in a Restricted event at Upcott Cross prior to which he’d easily taken an Open Maiden event at Trebudannon in Cornwall. The son of Flemensfirth was green on both occasions and should shape better for the experience. Owner Graham Roach has regularly debuted some of his better youngsters in points in recent seasons and this one out of the Bilboa was one of the better bred maidens to run in 2012/13. Buywise received an eyecatching ride on his debut here two weeks ago when held up in rear for much of the race prior to making good progress under tender handling in the straight under jockey Adam Wedge. The horse probably wants a stiffer test than the 2m1f he encountered there and this trip should suit though there’s a possibility that he will be more of a long-term prospect.
Onenightinvienna took a Four Year Old event at Inchydoney at the end of May and he is taken to make a winning rules debut for the Philip Hobbs yard in the concluding bumper on Saturday’s Chepstow card. The son of Oscar had finished fourth behind Minella Scamp on his debut at Inch two months earlier but he stepped up on that on the better ground at Inchydoney to see off subsequent pointing winners Draycott Place and Royal Raise in addition to Donald McCain’s Musselburgh winner Theatrical Style with just the four completing in gruelling fourteen runner affair. Amongst his rivals here could be Themanfrom Minella who looked a more than useful stayer when winning a division of the Four Year Old Maiden at Templemore back in April for then trainer John Nallen and he was subsequently sold to trainer Ben Case later that month. There was a distance back to the third at Templemore and this brother to the useful, if a little headstrong Marky Bob can make his presence felt on his rules debut despite his trainers relative inexperience with bumper performers in recent seasons.
The Philip Fenton-trained Casino Markets again holds engagements this week in bumpers at both Navan on Saturday and Cork on Sunday. The son of Fruits Of Love broke his maiden at the first attempt at Ballydarragh at the end of March when good late jumping saw him see of Beallandendall on soft ground in an eleven runner event and he looks worth noting should he turn out this weekend. Also engaged in the Navan bumper is Philip Rothwell’s Thornhill Flyer who stepped up on his Tinahely debut in March to score from Oakledge Lad and subsequent winner Fight Away Boys on good ground whilst both Noel Meade pair of Sucker Punch (a winner last season) and Wounded Warrior (already bumper placed) could also contest this.
Bothar Clei has two engagements this coming weekend at Cork with entries in both the opening Maiden Hurdle and the two mile Handicap Hurdle for his trainer Daniel Murphy. The eight year old showed good form over staying trips on the track back in May 2012 when finishing close-up behind Kilcross Boy and Boss Croaker on good ground, including here at Cork. The gelding spent last season racing between the flags where he went through the grades, ending it with a Winner Of Three success at Kilfeacle in January. Bothar Clei is clearly a horse with a fair level of ability given he saw off one of the UK’s leading pointers in the shape of Woodview Prince (the only horse to defeat leading Foxhunters contender Harbour Court) to take his Maiden at Knockanard in February 2011 and he is interesting here for all that a greater test of stamina would likely suit him better. The seven year old son of Beat All has already made the frame off a three pound higher mark when third on soft to heavy ground here in April under amateur rider Gerry Mangan and he could go well here for his local trainer.
Willie Mullins could unleash the Andrea & Graham Wylie-owned Black Hercules in the concluding bumper at Punchestown this Sunday. The four year old took a Dromahane Maiden back in April by 6 lengths from Are You Listening and Like It A Lot in impressive fashion. The last named was just touched off in a Galway bumper at the end of last month while the fifth Valgor Du Ronceray has also run well in a bumper since and Black Hercules looks a potential star of the future here.