By Bob Bracher
THE first of 21 meetings scheduled for the Wessex point-to-point area is on Sunday when the Portman Hunt hold their fixture at the popular Badbury Rings course between Wimborne and Blandford.
The course has been in existence for over 70 years and has seen many successful horses, riders and trainers racing over the Dorset turf. As it is on chalk, it is quick draining and has been able to cope with the rain over the past few weeks. The latest going report is good, good-to-soft in places, so all is set for an excellent day’s racing.
The first race of the six races, which have a total of 71 entries, is at 12.30pm.
Race-goers have trade stands to browse, including food outlets, bookmakers to have a bet with, and a big screen near the paddock to watch the action unfold.
The meeting begins with a Maiden race for four- and five-year-olds over the shorter trip of two-and-a-half miles.
Most of the leading stables have entries among the 11 horses with Chris Barber having two entries with the once-raced Two Becomes One placed at Kilworthy in March and the unraced Machu Picchu, who is out of a mare which won a Bumper for Willie Mullins.
Tom Ellis has entered the unraced A Law to Himself and he should be on the short list. Joe Hill has the unraced Kingston Blount, named after the point-to-point course.
Of those which have raced, Chief Hopper has the best form in an Open race at the end of last season while the Bradley Gibbs trained Reine des Tartes was placed on his last outing.
Chris Barber won this race last season and his representative is the selection.
The Conditions Race for Grassroots Riders – who have ridden fewer than 20 winners – has attracted 12 entries headed by the veteran Give Me a Copper who boasts Hunter Chase form from 2022 but has not been seen since.
Robert Varnham has entered the prolific Count Simon and Imperial Esprit and his representative is likely to be ridden by Daniel Kyne.
Moratorium brings good form and is likely to be partnered by his trainer Myles Osborne, and he may be the one to beat.
Oneupmanship won a Hurdle for Jack Barber and is now with Chris Barber, and he looks an interesting ride for Jack Instance.
The Conditions race holds an entry for the Robert Varnham trained Trappist Monk who won four races last season, including at this meeting last year, and he boasts the best form.
Wagner has good form including winning a Hunter Chase at Wincanton in 2022 and he may prove the main threat.
Captain Woodie won at Kingston Blount at the end of last season under Charlie Marshall and he is another to consider.
The feature race of the day, The Mixed Open, looks a classy race on paper with a number of highly rated horses including the evergreen Southfield Theatre, who keeps his enthusiasm despite now reaching the age of 15; the prolific Paloma Blue, who culminated his season when winning a Hunter Chase at Cheltenham; King’s Quay, who won a Hunter Chase at Exeter last season; and Normofthenorth, who was runner-up in a Hunter Chase at Stratford.
Tom Barton is a regular at Badbury but if making the journey from Cheshire, Time Leader, winner of four Hunter Chases last season, could prove the winner. He finished fifth in the Aintree Foxhunter Chase and a repeat of that form should be good enough.
The Restricted race has 14 entries with another winner from last season’s meeting, namely Another Furlough being one to consider even with a five pounds penalty.
Fusionice won two races for owners Matt and Fliss Hampton and is progressive.
Iskander Pecos won his last two races in 2023 and could be another winner for new trainer Hannah Roach.
Urban Grit from Alan Hill’s stable looked promising when last seen and Chato Santana when last seen won a Restricted at Bratton Down – and the stable had a winner at Dunsmore last weekend. Fusionice is the selection.
The meeting concludes with a Maiden race with no weight for age allowances.
Chief Hopper and Reine des Tartes hold entries in this race as well as the first and the first named may find this race easier.
Tim Vaughan has entered both Getaway Cory, who was placed over Hurdles for Kayley Woollacott, and Jean Genie, who brings a lot of experience over fences and either should give his 16-year-old son Ed a great chance of that first winner.
Jet Smart placed in an Irish point-to-point, was then runner-up for David Pipe at Worcester, and now in the capable hands of Dean Summersby he could be the one in an open-looking race.
Badbury Rings is four miles north-west of Wimborne on the B3082, postcode DT11 9JL.
Entry is £15 by cash or card on the gate.