This Saturday sees the third fixture in the Yorkshire calendar since the resumption of point-to-pointing as the Bedale take their turn to hold their meeting at Hornby Castle.
As with the previous two meetings it will be held behind closed doors, therefore no paying public will be allowed entry. A six-race card has produced 97 entries with 28 of them in the Open Maiden, which could result in a division.
The first race is a Conditions race for adjoining hunts, so only locally registered horses can compete. Despite only nine entries, it still appears competitive. Absainte was running a big race until coming to grief at the last in a Musselburgh hunter chase, while Sartorial Elegance has the beating of Neville Woods on their Hurworth form, although there is a chance the latter may have benefited for that run. Royal Chant will relish any quicker ground and the Furness pair of Shantou Prince and Monbeg Chit Chat have claims having both finishing second at the Middleton meeting. The latter looks the better of the two and could be the likely winner.
Next is an Intermediate race and the one with the strongest form is Snow Castle, who has performed in open company in the past and has already finished runner-up in a hunter chase this term, but disappointed recently. Rattle The Cage is a strong stayer, whilst Caviar d'Allen was progressive last season but was held on his most recent start when coming to grief in a competitive-looking Leicester hunter chase. McMurphy is a front runner who loves quick ground and, if given an easy time on the lead, could be hard to peg back.
The Restricted looks to have three stand out entries in Fire Rock, who finally got off the mark at the age of 10 at the Hurworth for trainer Sarah Dent; Super Lunar, another veteran who has never been out of the first three since joining the pointing ranks and whose last two efforts have seen him finish within a few lengths of open grade horses; and the Paul Frank-trained Vent d'Automne, a bumper winner in Ireland for Willie Mullins and runner-up to decent hurdler Pencilfulloflead. The latter was still going well when unseating two out in a race won by Sartorial Elegance at Hutton Rudby last month. Teescomponents Boy failed to build on his maiden win last year but could have more to offer this term.
The Ladies Open is run over 2m 6f and a couple of these will be suited by this shorter trip including Oliver’s Gold, who joins the Jones family after a prolific career with Mark Walford. He was campaigned over 2m-2m 4f, so this trip should be fine. Winged Crusader’s front running tactics should be seen to good effect over this trip, whilst Seefood was unlucky at the Hurworth and should strip fitter for that effort after a year off. Merrion Avenue will need to raise his game once again but looks a progressive type after finishing strongly at the Hurworth to beat McMurphy. The former Ben Haslam-trained Inca Gold could be worth noting being a son of Galileo and a former hurdle winner in Ireland, but he has failed to shine on these shores despite representing an in-form stable.
The Men’s Open is another with some strong contenders entered. Will Easterby’s Black River secured a sequence of wins last season and will no doubt be ready to strike here, whilst hunter chase scorer Duhallow Tornado looks inconsistent of late and is hard to predict. Six A Side is one trying this track for the first time and is a consistent performer, so should give his all, while Sartorial Elegance and Monbeg Chit Chat could be contenders for the placings.
The final race is an Open Maiden and there are several with form, including recent Hurworth fourth Miss Charlton. She was runner up twice last year and her recent return should have blown away the cobwebs. Others include Coniston Spa, who was fourth in a hot hunt members race, and Desjay, who finished second on his debut only last week at the Middleton. Master Thyne was knocking on the door plenty last season and this longer track is likely to suit, while Tiger Orchid was prominent when unseating two out at the Hurworth when he had Villa Moura behind him, who eventually finished fifth. Jack Teal, Nicky Tinkler and Will Easterby’s debutants are all ones to be noted, however, the most interesting entry is the Karen Lynne-trained Imperial Elixir. Formerly with Fergal O’Brien, this eight-year-old son of Doyen earnt himself a mark of 114 over hurdles and was only beaten three lengths when third in a novice hurdle on his penultimate start, but does have a two-year absence to overcome.