Sandhurst P2P





Easter Monday, 2nd April 2018


The traditional Easter Monday Vine & Craven point-to point horse races at Hackwood Park – near Basingstoke – are a fixture in the social as well as sporting calendar in Hampshire and racegoers will hope to enjoy a picnic, catch-up with friends, and make the most of the other entertainments that the organisers are offering. With 21 meetings scheduled for the Easter weekend, fields can be small at this time of year – however, one positive aspect of the snowy March reducing the opportunities available for owners and trainers to race their horses is that plenty of point-to-pointers are in need of a run, so organisers are hopeful of a good turnout of runners as well as spectators.

The six point-to-point races, which kick-off at 1.30pm, have attracted an entry of 77 – with double figures in all contests - which is almost 25% up on last year. Clerk of the Course Bill Welling reported over the weekend that, with a dry and cold week forecast, the going is likely to be Good to Soft. The rails have been moved and the dolls on the bends removed, so racing will be on fresh ground.

The main sponsor is JM Finn, who will be providing the mementos for winning owners and riders for all races and who also lend their name to the third race on the card – the Mens Open, run over the longer trip of three and a half miles – for which 10 entries have been received. Top-rated of the likely runners here is evergreen 15-year-old Consigliere, about whom trainer Alan Hill said, “He only gets a 4lb penalty and should appreciate the trip, but he may run in the Members race at Kimble instead”.

Others to note include Templebraden, who won the Conditions race at the last meeting here, Woodfleet, winner of the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham last May but below his best this season, and Charing second Generous Ransom. Seasonal debutant Really Unique is an interesting raider if travelling from Kieran and Luke Price’s Pontypridd base – the stable landed a gamble at the last meeting here and have several possible runners.

12 have been entered in the At The Races Ladies Open – over the shorter trip of two and a half miles – and half of the entrants have a rating of over 100. Arthur’s Secret is one of the best point-to-pointers in the country, won at the last meeting here and will be suited by the shorter trip, where he beat Starkie – who may reoppose – by five lengths. Silver Roque was unbeaten between the flags last year but pulled up in a Bangor-on-Dee Hunter Chase on his reappearance and Throthethatch ran well at Leicester last time in similar company. Karinga Dancer would prefer better ground, while Can Mestret – the likely mount of champion jockey Gina Andrews – should come on for his Charing reappearance.

Two pointing debutants with useful form – both rated 130 under rules – are worth keeping an eye on. Sally Randell trains Vinnie Red for William and Angela Rucker and he won at Market Rasen in December 2016. Alan Hill’s Sedgemoor Express – originally bought as a Foxhunters horse for Victoria Pendleton – has, “Missed the last two seasons with niggling problems,” according to his trainer, “But is a sharp little horse and the trip will suit. Izzie Marshall will ride.”

The Jockey Club supports a series of Mares Maidens throughout the season, to give opportunities to the fairer sex (of the four-legged variety) and to promote point-to-point breeding. 12 have been entered for their event on this card, co-sponsored by Fullers Brewery. One intended runner is Tom Ellis’ Tiger Song, related to his winning mare Tigeralley, and her trainer said earlier, “She’ll run if it’s not heavy. It’s first time out but she’s done loads of prep work and she’s been going well at home – I quite like her.”

Top-rated is Tom Weston’s Brocklesby Park third Dina Maker – the form of that race has worked out well, with winner Bene Regina following up in a Restricted last weekend – and her trainer told me, “We’ll probably run. She’s an improver and the penny seems to be dropping!” Others with a chance on form are Bastante, the consistent Come On Harriet, Milan Time and Truly Spoken, while Laura Thomas’ Night At Tara is an interesting newcomer to points, having been placed twice from two runs for Dan Skelton.

The opening Novice Riders contest is sponsored by J Passey & Son. Their generosity has been rewarded with an entry of eleven, including top-rated Awesome George, a course winner here in 2016 and a definite runner, according to his trainer Martin Weston’s son Tom, who said of the useful 14-year-old veteran, who hasn’t run yet this year. “He’s in good form,” but admitted, “We haven’t decided who’ll ride yet!” Not far behind Awesome George on ratings are Richard Bandey’s Boher Call, a good third here last time, and Nigel Padfield’s Excitable Island, who won on his seasonal debut last weekend.

19 – the highest figure of the day – have been entered for the R Hunt Ltd Open Maiden. Both the Ellis and the Weston yards have multiple entries here – Tom Weston is more likely to run Chaddesley Corbett second Iwasthefutureonce given the likely easy ground, while Tom Ellis has three possibilities but favours Eurobot, whom he describes as “A nice four-year-old out of L’Aventure, who won the Welsh National. He’s a strong stayer and schooled well this week. If he doesn’t run, Holy Street probably will.”

Desert Retreat, a full-brother to Cheltenham winner Summerville Boy, is, “A definite runner,” in the words of Alan Hill. He jumped disappointingly at Ampton, where a sore back was the reason, but is in good order now.” Others worth noting are top-rated Badbury Rings second Emergency Speed, dual runner-up Redmond Hall, Welsh raider Buochas Le Dia, the Henry Daly owned and trained Tekap and Round Robin, a close second at the last meeting here.

The closing event, the BFJ Consultants Conditions race, is for horses that have not won under rules or in Open company since 2015. Standout on form is Alan Hill’s Hawkhurst. “We’re keen to run,” confirmed his trainer. It ticks all the boxes with just a 4lb penalty and (son and jockey) Joe pinpointed this race after he won at Ampton.” Hawkhurst won’t have it all his own way though. The aforementioned Excitable Island and Generous Ransom are also entered here, Well Mett showed a return to form when second at Chaddesley Corbett last time, while top-rated is another Ampton scorer in Tracey Bailey’s Broadway Symphony, who was sixth in a Ludlow Hunter Chase recently.

Gates open at 10am, with the main card preceded by pony scurry races starting at midday. These will be followed by a parade of the Vine & Craven hounds in the paddock. There will be entertainment for all the family with a fun fair, bouncy castle, trade stands and a fully stocked bar.

General parking is £40 per car on the outside of the course or £30 per car on the inside. Single occupancy is £20 per car. Pedestrian admission is £10. There is also a special Reserved Car Park at £50 per car (£45 in advance), which guarantees a reserved numbered space adjacent to the finishing straight plus a free racecard. For more information and to book spaces and tickets, visit or 

Hackwood Park is a left-handed course on a slope with a downhill back straight and an uphill finish. It is sharp, but by no means easy. The course has a mixture of permanent and portable fences and the top and bottom bends are now fully equipped with plastic rails.

It is about two miles SE of Basingstoke and signposted off the A339 (Alton road), leaving the M3 at J6. RG25 2JZ


Jake Exelby

© Hackwood Park Racecourse 2018.