Sandhurst P2P

 

PREVIEW VINE & CRAVEN POINT-TO-POINT HORSE RACES HACKWOOD PARK

Saturday 5th May 2018

After the postponement of the Easter Monday Vine & Craven point-to point horse races at Hackwood Park – near Basingstoke – organisers are delighted to have been able to rearrange the meeting for the next Bank Holiday weekend, as a Saturday evening fixture. Meeting secretary Jane Fox said earlier, “We endeavour to make it a fun and sporting day out for the family, friends and competitors. There will be a beer and alcohol tent, plenty of varied food and trade stands, a bouncy castle and family boot picnics, all encompassing what we hope will be an enjoyable and exciting day’s racing.”

The six point-to-point races, which kick-off at 4.30pm, have attracted an entry of 96, nearly 20 more than for the original fixture. The going is currently on the soft side of good, with a good covering of grass, and Clerk of the Course Bill Welling provided the following positive bulletin on Monday morning, “We seem to have escaped the heavy rain that was forecast, which is to the east of Hackwood Park and moving away, so we only have the next small band of rain due on Tuesday night to cope with, after which the rest of the week is dry. On Wednesday, we will mow the paddock, strim in front of the take off boards, repaint the greenery on the fences, and generally get everything ready to run and I am hopeful that, by Saturday, the going will be Good.”

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 12 entries have been received. With the top-rated horses unlikely runners and William Money also entered in the Novices race, this is likely to be fought out between two consistent types in Sally Alner’s mare Flights, and another course winner in Templebraden, although Peter Mason’s Pithivier would come into contention if reproducing his best form under rules.

16 have been entered in the At The Races Ladies Open – over the shorter trip of two and a half miles – and news of drying conditions is music to my ears as co-owner of Broken Eagle, winner of 11 of his last 12 points and an intended runner here unless the going is on the fast side of good at Cheltenham on Friday evening. Otherwise, trainer Alan Hill intends to run fellow Fakenham scorer Sedgemoor Express. Several of the entries have useful form under rules – Risk A Fine may travel from Wales but missed last season, while Vinnie Roe and Claire Hardwick’s Royal Guardsman have yet to show their best professional form between the flags.

Another ex-National Hunt horse who has performed well in points this season is Starkie, runner-up here in March, who would be a popular local winner for Anthony Ward-Thomas, while Joan Johnston’s Storm Lantern is also consistent and Laura Thomas’ Karinga Dancer is one of the best horses around who is yet to score in this company.

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. 13 have been entered for their event on this card, co-sponsored by Fullers Brewery. Several of the entrants have shown consistent form without managing to get their head in front, including top-rated Country Legend, another from the Sally Alner yard in Truly Spoken, Fred Hutsby’s Kinlochspelve, Tim Underwood’s Thirdtimeben and Come On Harriet, whose trainer Simon Gilmore confirmed, “We’re off to Hackwood Park next” after her good third at Edgcote on Saturday.

Other lightly raced types who should improve are Laura Thomas’ Night At Tara and Kathleen Haughey’s Gunner Be Sweet, while Tom Ellis’ newcomers are always worth a look and he has entered the well-bred Tiger’s Song. He told me earlier in the week, “I’d favour running her, as the owner is local and the track will suit. She’s a nice mare with a lot of speed and has been ready to run for a while – she’s been doing a lot at home.”

The opening Novice Riders contest is sponsored by J Passey & Son. Their generosity has been rewarded with an entry of 20, including two contenders for the National Leading Horse in Welsh raider William Money (five wins) and Nick Pearce’s recent Edgcote winner Kashmir Peak (four). Sally Alner’s Badbury Rings specialist Tom Barton is top-rated, while others to have won last-time out include Toby Hunt’s Done A Runner, Chris Loggin’s mare Kimora, and Tim Underwood’s admirable Tempelpirate, who took his career tally to 20 when scoring at Kingston Blount.

Locally-based Richard Bandey plans to run Little Chip, with Gordon Treacy on board, and is hoping for an improvement on this season’s form figures, explaining, “They went too fast at Penshurst on ground that didn’t suit and he was running a nice race at Badbury Rings when he came down. He wants top of the ground and is down in class.” Alan Hill’s According To Trev ran out last time but his trainer said, “He just got pushed out and is 100% now – he’ll probably run if the ground is good or faster,” while Fran Nimmo’s seasonal debutant Green Bank will like the forecast quicker ground.

20 – the joint-highest figure of the day – have been entered for the R Hunt Ltd Open Maiden and James Henderson’s Order In Court possesses the best form, having been runner-up in a Lockinge Restricted and a Barbury Maiden. Other highly rated types are Emergency Speed and Fred Hutsby’s consistent Kalinite – runner-up here in March – and Shanoule Wood.

Laura Horsfall’s Hammer And Anvil is on the upgrade and was second at Fakenham recently. “We’re waiting for the weather,” she admitted, when asked about running plans. “He loved the ground at Fakenham, where we put cheek pieces on to sharpen him up after he made mistakes at Higham.” Fran Nimmo’s youngsters are always worth watching in the market and her Generation Gap was second on his Bangor-on-Dee debut. “We’ve always loved him and he’s always worked well,” she told me while sunning herself in Croatia! “He jumped novicey on his first start and - on bad ground and a sharp track - he was always having to be rushed. I’d hope he’d improve for the experience and better ground.”

The closing event, the BFJ Consultants Conditions race, is for horses that have not won under rules or in Open company since 2015 and has attracted 15 entries. Changeofluck is one of the highest-rated for Alan Hill and is likely to run here, subject to good ground, in advance of a tilt at the 3m 2f Novices Hunter Chase at the Fontwell evening meeting. Tom Ellis may run Ginuwinefizz (also entered in the Novices), saying, “If the ground’s quick and he runs like he did (when third) at Higham, he’ll take the beating.”

With top-rated Hawkhurst and Excitable Island probable non-runners, the other main competition could come from Claire Hardwick’s Creepy, although don’t rule out Maller Tree if he makes the long journey from Pembrokeshire. Like so many of his stablemates, he has improved for the switch to Mickey Bowen.

Gates open at 1pm, with the main card preceded by pony scurry races starting at 3pm. These will be followed by a parade of the Vine & Craven hounds in the paddock. There will be entertainment for all the family and plenty of food outlets, with the bar open from 2.30pm to 9.30pm. Entry is £10 per adult (children under 16 go free). For more information and to book tickets go to www.hackwoodparkracecourse.co.uk/index.php/buy-tickets-vine-and-craven

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.