The Midlands Pointing season starts unusually early this season with the Atherstone meeting at Clifton-on Dunsmore, on Sunday 16th December.
Clifton-on-Dunsmore offers excellent viewing of the whole course and will have a family Christmas theme to it this year. A brass band will be playing carols and mulled wine and other hot drinks will be available. Father Christmas has promised to put in an appearance despite his busy schedule and there is a fun dog show with great prizes provided by National Ladies Open Sponsors Skinners Pet Foods. There will be prizes for best dressed dog and best dressed human amongst others so get thinking! This is a great opportunity to show your support for a local event.
The most recent inspection reported the going as good to soft.
There are record 143 entries across the card, which means that there is a high chance of races being split. This is mostly likely to affect the open maiden (safety number 18, 28 entries), the 4,5 and 6 year-old maiden (safety number 14, 25 entries) and the PPORA Club members conditions race (safety number 20, 30 entries).
In order to allow for a (possible) ten race card on one of the shortest days of the calendar year, permission has been sought to begin the meeting early, allowing 35 minutes between races.
As a result the first race will now commence at 10.15am.
The two open races have both attracted strong fields. In the Ladies race the Joseph O’Shea-trainer Irish Anthem would be the top-rated horse here but may prefer quicker, flatter ground. Alan Hill may bring Man Of Steel, with three wins on his last three outings and a near 50% win rate. Like Man Of Steel, Saint John Henry also prefers left-hand tracks like this one and won’t mind slightly softer going. The first two past the post in this race will qualify for the Skinner’s Ladies Open Final at Stratford-on-Avon on 31st May; the winning horse will qualify for the Timico Mixed Open Final at Cheltenham on the 3rd May.
Similarly, the Mens open race winner will qualify for the Timico Mixed Open Final, Cheltenham, Friday 3rd May. The field here includes Hazel Hill, a winner on six of his last seven outings, and comfortably the best rated here. The left-hand track will not be his favourite and he might prefer quicker ground so this could be a good test. Other to consider would include Wither Or Not, twice a winner in the area, returning after a season off. Vivaldi Collonges runs his first Point-to-Point here but has won a hunter chase on soft ground. Another horse with experience under rules is Warden Hill, a runner in the Aintree Foxhunters’ last time out. William Money is another who will be likely to contest this one, as is Bayley’s Dream for the Aprahamians. Both are multiple winners. A great race in prospect.
The PPORA Club Members Conditions race is one which might be split so the usual caveats apply. Sego Success has won multiple times under rules for Alan King and now comes pointing in the care of Philip Rowley. Others to have raced under rules include After Hours, Bellenos, Black Jack Rover, Celtic Intrigue, Local Show and Mister To Mister, to name a few. Distime, trained by Chris Bealby for Mike Chatterton, and Ardkilly Witness, trained by Kirsty Smith for Tim Thirlby, should also feature prominently.
The Intermediate race includes a number of in-form horses. Road To Rome has already won his two outings so far this season, while Mister Robbo and Urban Storm also have wins in the last month. Most of the rest of this field won races last season so we look forward to a strong race.
A number of the runners in the Restricted race won on their last appearances last season and are joined in this lineup by several horses starting their pointing career after racing under rules. Cavs Girl won her maiden at the North Herefordshire meeting last month, but only had one to beat there. Wild Ginger was second of four at the Vine and Craven meeting on the same weekend.
The first and second races of the day will be the Open Maiden and the Maiden race for 4, 5 and 6 year-old horses. A number of the same horses feature as double entries in these so the need to split the races will depend on declarations on the day. The fields include a selection of racecourse debutantes, horses returning from a stint under rules and others with pointing experience in search of their first win. Of the latter a number have second and third placed finishes.
The course is on the A5, 1m North of M1, Jct 18 and the postcode for your satnavs is CV23 0BB. Entry is £10, under-16s are free.