Running a Point-to-Point meeting is strenuous at the best of times, but this season has seen an unprecedented number of fixtures abandoned, postponed or cancelled which has added considerable pressure to normal organisational duties, writes Pete Mansell.
A great deal of time and effort has gone into making Andoversford Races one of the major events on the Cotswolds' sporting calendar. It appears the weather is now entering a more settled period, which has to be good news.
This meeting offers the highest prize fund for any fixture in the second half of the season, with the six-race programme worth £4,900. The feature Robert Hitchins sponsored Andoversford Grand Annual Chase will offer a record £1,500, whilst no race on the supporting card is worth less than £450.
Wealth managers Brewin Dolphin are supporting a Leading Trainer Award for the Keeper accruing most points from runners during the day. With a range of scoring from 10points for a winner to 1 point for a runner, this will offer added incentive to run horses.
Dubarry are sponsoring an Outstanding Performance Award, which will offer a £500 voucher to spend at their Cheltenham store to the owner, keeper or rider putting up the outstanding performance of the day.
Other attractions include a three-race challenge as riders go head to head to raise funds for Cotswold Riding for the Disabled in donkey-drawn sulkies. The RE Resource Donkey Derby takes place at around 1pm between Pony racing and the first Point-to-Point race.
The challenge is the brainchild of Andoversford Races’ Chairman Peter McNeile, who explained, “Last year we introduced camel racing to the programme, and it created such a stir we felt we had to repeat something similar”.
Teams representing the racing stables of Martin Keighley (Condicote) and Graeme McPherson (Stow on the Wold) are pitting their reputations against a team from the Cotswold Hunt and a posse of young riders from the Cotswold branch of RDA.
Visitors to Andoversford will be able to meet Adam Henson (BBC Countryfile presenter) and enjoy drinks and nibbles while filling baskets with the finest local ingredients, foods and drinks to take home.
During the day there will be demonstrations, tastings and ideas of how to make the best of spring produce. Information designed especially for children to enjoy will also be on hand.
You can join Adam Henson from 10-30 a.m. for a very special morning celebrating the first Happerley Food Heaven.
Happerley is a food provenance organization and every single mouthful for sale in its Food Heaven will have been verified and checked. If it says it's made in Gloucestershire, from ingredients grown or reared in the county, you can trust that it has. The Happerly logo is a sign of validation and verification, from start to finish.
Cheltenham Racecourse is sponsoring the Pony Racing so they are bringing along their simulator to add to the day’s events.
All these initiatives are proving popular and as Andoversford is based on “Cotswold brash” the racecourse comes into its own when the current conditions prevail.
Charles Levinson's stables are just a stones throw from the course. He and his son Gus will be keen to do well at their local meeting and have a great chance of landing a double with Premier Portrait and Toby Maguire.
Levinson Jnr steered Premier Portrait to victory in a high-class Hunter Chase at Taunton earlier in the year, but the partnership subsequently failed to get round Fakenham and were never seen with a chance in the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
They would have to carry a penalty in the Tayler & Fletcher Conditions Race but are capable of doing so against the likes of Colbert Station, Invisible Man, Out Now and Creepy. Jimmy the Jetplane was a perennial bridesmaid when trained just up the road by Kim Bailey at Thorndale Farm, and he has fared a little better between the flags winning one of his four outings. Kilmacallogue Bay ran well on his return at Hackwood Park and is another likely to figure in the shake-up.
Premier Portrait holds an alternative engagement in the Men’s Open, but obviously faces much stiffer challenges in that event but should still have the measure of Captain Flash, Sacre Toi and Maybe Plenty.
Stone won this race last year but was fortunate to do so after being left clear at the third from home, so connections could run Chasforgold who seems to have all the attributes needed for this course.
Vinnie Red has run well under Rules, but you are always taking a chance with this type of horse, as some adapt quickly to this style of racing, while others don’t. If he does so, he could make his presence felt.
Toby Maguire scored in good fashion at Charlton Horthorne and the 4th horse has run well since so the form looks rock solid and that should be good enough to take the Lumley Insurance Restricted. Master Hide always seems to find one too good for him, while Jetstream Joe ran well until weakening in the closing stages at Ston Easton; he will get plenty of encouragement from his owners the Bean Club syndicate.
Bally River Boy performed well on his first two outings but ran disappointingly for no apparent reason at Didmarton - so this is a retrieval mission.
The Martin & Co Ladies Open is a qualifier for the Skinners Final at Stratford in June and looks an interesting contest. Vasco Du Mee heads the ratings but as the trainer said before he ran at Chepstow recently “He can win this race – it just depends on what mood he is in”, and the same remark applies here.
Start Royal, Goodnight Vienna and Invisible Man all have form in Ladies events, while Watch the Birdie has 10-lengths to make up on Western Diva on their Mendip running, but Claire Hardwick's mount had fitness on her side on that occasion so things could be different on this occasion.
I’m Still Waiting is an interesting runner. He is still a Maiden but connections have entered him for the Ladies where he will be partnered by Andoversford expert Lilly Pinchin. He has not been seen out since finishing third at Cocklebarrow but the two horses that finished in front of him that day have subsequently won several races.
Sam Jukes and The Well Road finish second at last year's meeting and will be hoping to go one better 12 months later. They have a good chance of doing so in the Rendcomb College Intermediate Race against the likes of Master Sunrise and Royal Captain, but neither of those will give up without a fight.
First Goodnight and Lilly Pinchin departed a halfway at Didmarton. That was too soon to make any assessment of his ability but he could go close with a clear round, while the consistent Ballycahane is another for the short list.
The GX Land Rovers Maiden finishes proceedings at 5 p.m. where there is little to choose between Free Scorpian, Oldeddietherebel and Theboss on thehill. The former ran well in the North of England last year but has since changed stables, while Theboss on thehill improved from his Didmarton run to finish second at Ystradowen.
There is also the aforementioned I’m Still Waiting, plus Round Robin who was just touched off at Hackwood Park. Stay out of Court shaped as though he would benefit from his outing at the Beaufort so it would not be a major surprise to see him involved in the finish.
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)