The countdown is on to this year's Andoversford Races, one of the most established fixtures in the Gloucestershire sporting calendar, and also one of the fastest growing and valuable Point-to-Points, writes Pete Mansell.
There's a packed programme of entertainment built around the Robert Hitchins Group Andoversford Grand Annual which was first held here in 1834. The racing offers a valuable programme with over £4,000 on offer across 6 races.
The entertainment starts at 10-30 am and carries on all day and includes something for the whole family (including Pony and Sheep Racing, plus dog agility). Pony Racing starts at 12 noon, followed by the first steeplechase at 2 pm
For those that surf the web or rely on their social media feeds to enhance their enjoyment of great local events, you can thank Cotswolds estate agents Harrison James & Hardie who have partnered with local broadband provider Wurzel to add on site Wi Fi to the experience.
Spectators will be able to log on and qualify for a free draw for hospitality at the following year’s event. As a green field site, Andoversford has suffered from poor reception for many years, limiting the event’s ability to engage with spectators on social channels at the event itself.
Several horses who performed well at last year’s fixture are expected to run again this weekend and with course experience in their favour their chances have to be respected.
The Well Road won the Intermediate last year and this meeting has provided rich pickings for connections in the past. Sam Jukes mount has a choice of engagements either in the Tayler and Fletcher 9-year-old and upwards Conditions where he has to give 7 lb away to his rivals or in the Robert Hitchins Group Andoversford Grand Annual where he meets most of the opposition on level terms.
He lacks the star quality of some of his stablemates but is an honest and consistent performer who always gives his supporters a good run for their money.
Premier Portrait is owned by Dr Charles Levinson who lives just a stone throw from the course so success would go down well with the locals. The 12-year-old has struggled for form so far this season but like The Well Road connections his owners have to choose between the Conditions and Mens Open - a decision that will be watched with interest.
With its enhanced prize money and entry fee returned at declaration, the Mens Open has attracted the biggest entry of the day. Dandan runs well over this course and his front running tactics will find any chinks in his rivals armour, while Bedrock Fred comes into his own at this time of year so could spring a surprise.
Abricot de L’Oasis has faced better company than this while Son of Suzie seems to have found a new lease of life in recent months – a statement that will be put to the test in the closing stages.
The Martin & Co Ladies Open has a small but select field which includes Hellorboston who scored a narrow victory 12 months ago. Chu Chu Percy comes from a good stable while Well Mett does not look the most enthusiastic of horses but has given connections a lot of fun over the years.
TB Broke Her put her rivals to the sword at Monmouth last weekend and has little to fear from these rivals but whether connections decline this winning opportunity remains to be seen.
The latter’s owner Will Gaskins purchased R Bren after her Kingston Blount success but her first run for Sam Jukes stable proved inconclusive as she was an early casualty at Maisemore.
She has a potential winning opportunity in the Porsche Centre Tewkesbury Restricted but could come up against Cheltenam De Vaige who scored an impressive win at Monmouth 7 days ago. Connections may be keen to strike while the iron is hot but he would not be one to back at short odds as he had unseated his rider twice before that success.
The concluding Concierge Medical Open Maiden is unlikely to see anything of the quality of last years winner Eurobot who was sold for a six-figure sum after that victory.
Bespoke Cave will probably start a short-priced favourite on the strength of his two recent runs, but those were over 2-1/2 miles and two trips up the stamina sapping hill may cause him problems.
Skarloey, Lady Legend and Give a Hoot will be there to pick up the pieces if more fancied rivals fail to perform, while Jake Slatter will need to be a magician if You’re the Man claims the prize based on that horse's recent performances.
Jason Warner has travelled far and wide in search of success so far this season but appears to have found a winning chance much closer to his Brookthorpe base.
Diplomatico finished last of four at Bangor recently but was prominent for most of the journey and if ridden with more restraint may just be able to deliver the goods.
There is no such thing as a racing certainty, but the nearest you can get to it is Mankala in the GX Land Rovers Intermediate. The 9-year-old has won his last 3 races and his record is head and shoulders above that of his rivals and a clear round is all that is needed to prevail over Jungle Legend and Order in Court who are likely to fight out the minor placings.
STOP PRESS: Racing abandoned due to Virus concerns
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)