The traditional pre-Cheltenham curtain-raiser Blackmore & Sparkford Vale Point-to-Point at Charlton Horethorne, near Sherborne, has attracted an impressive entry of 125 horses for the six scheduled races, the highest total since 2009. The going is currently reported as soft, good-to-soft in places. After the Hunt Race, there will be a Cheltenham Festival talk, sponsored by Woolley & Wallis, on the very latest Cheltenham news with leading National Hunt trainers Colin Tizzard and Paul Nicholls.
The feature Mixed Open, sponsored by Alec Jarrett Ltd, has attracted a very strong entry of 26 horses. Philip Rowley, whose trips from his Shropshire base have been very successful over the past weeks, has entered both Wishing And Hoping and Vivaldi Collonges, with the former boasting very strong form in Hunter Chases, including winning at Taunton. Chameron holds an entry in this race but only ran last weekend when landing the Coronation Gold Cup at Larkhill. Fishy Story and Sixteen Letters had a real battle at Milborne in February, with the former coming out on top in a thrilling race. Both have a chance in this race. Silsol won at Chipley but this is a potentially stronger contest and connections may decide to run in the easier-looking Hunt Race. Risk And Roll won a Hunter Chase at Leicester and is another in good form. Herbert Park was second to Virak in this race last season but is yet to appear during the current campaign. His last run was behind Heaney, who also holds an entry in the race. If Wishing And Hoping makes the journey, he may be too good for Fishy Story and Sixteen Letters.
The meeting opens with the two-and-a-half-mile Tattersalls Cheltenham Maiden for four- and five-year-olds. Last year this race was divided, and with an entry of 25 and a safety factor of 15, that could happen again. There is little form to go on, with many due to make their racecourse debuts. Christopher Barber has both Gratien de Bruzeau and Miltiades, Fran Nimmo has newcomers Adjournment and San Fermin and the twice-raced Falloway Dubreau, Tom Lacey has Grizzman, and Neil McLean has entered John and Floss Symes' Charley Bones, a full-brother to Sylvies Dance. Philip Rowley has No Authority and The Wrekin, who will both be due to make their debuts. A check in the paddock and with the bookmakers would be wise before making a selection.
The Longman Cheese-sponsored Hunt Race holds entries for both Chameron and Captain Buck's, who both ran last weekend, with the last-named more likely to reappear. Surprisingly beaten in a match, this talented individual is not an easy ride and may once again find one too good for him. Silsol, another former resident of Paul Nicholls' stable, won well at Chipley and could be the likely winner. Sylvies Dance is improving and won her Restricted at Chipley but this is a step up. Saffron Wells won a Hunter Chase last season at Huntingdon but is better over shorter distances. Silsol is the choice.
The biggest entry of the day (33) is for the Open Maiden, sponsored by Mount Farm Partnership, and this might be divided on the day. Again, several of those entered in the two-and-a-half-mile Maiden hold entries in this race, including Christopher Barber's two horses and two of Fran Nimmo's three entries, although she has added another potential newcomer in the shape of Arressveepee. Tom Lacey, who won this race last year, has Scipion, a four-year-old Shantou gelding. The horses with form include Kings Cave, who finished second at Chipley, and Milanford, placed in three Irish Maidens and now with Tom Malone. Again, it is likely that the winner may come from one of the newcomers.
The Conditions Race, sponsored by the Bishop Family, is for riders who have ridden less than 15 winners at the start of the season. Organised Solution is in good form and has won his last two starts but this is a rise in class. Roseyroo took on two class individuals in a Hunter Chase at Warwick on her seasonal debut and this is much easier. Ed Walker has entered both Inch Rock and Kernel Victor, and his selection may give Chloe Emsley a good ride. Emtidaad won his only outing last season and is yet to run this season. The veteran grey Grand Vision, previously with Colin Tizzard, is now with Emma Moseley and, despite his age, could be too good for his rivals if he has retained his ability.
The meeting concludes with the Church House Investments Restricted, for which 13 horses have been entered. Gottagottagetaway won well at Buckfastleigh and could well follow up for his trainer/rider Sam Jukes. Taken by Force was a good second at Badbury Rings, and Truly Spoken won on her only outing last season for Sally Alner but may need the race. Accordini was a distant fourth in the Dunraven Bowl Hunter Chase at Chepstow last season but won well at Howick in February 2019, and a chance is taken on him.
First Race 1.00pm; Pony Racing at 12.00pm. Charlton Horethorne is off the B3145, three miles NE of Sherborne, DT9 4LJ. Entry £10 per person; Racecards £3.