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Grafton attracts healthy entry

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The Grafton point-to-point at Edgcote on Sunday 14th May has attracted an entry of 104, the highest of the weekend fixtures, for the seven races on the card, which start at 2.00pm, writes Jake Exelby. Clerk of the Course Graham Tawell reported on Sunday that the going is now Good, Good to Soft in places. Rain is expected between now and Sunday week, but the course will be watered if necessary to achieve Good going on race day. The bends will be moved following the previous meeting to ensure racing takes place on fresh ground.

Centrepiece of the card is the PPORA Novice Riders Championship Final, with £1,000 total prize money and £500 to the winner. 15 have been entered, including Chenery, who has won his last two at Paxford and Tabley and Cobra De Mai, two out of three this season for Ricky and Chloe East. Sum It Up beat a subsequent winner last time at Garthorpe, Give Us A Swig was an unlucky loser before a Mollington second, The Composeur has been runner-up on both his pointing starts and Largy Mountain has been consistent this season without getting his head in front, and will have the services of leading female novice Amber Jackson-Fennell for the first time. Another leading novice, Molly Landau, will ride the enigmatic Captain Buck’s, who has loads of ability but his own ideas!

Verity Taylor will ride her mother’s Rizzardo, looking to follow-up their Paxford win. “It’s not ideal as he’ll be carrying lots of lead with his penalty, but he needs to run as there’s nothing else for him. I’d prefer it if the ground were good.” Amber is looking forward to riding Largy Mountain for her employers Station Yard Racing, saying, “It’s the perfect race for him. He’s been running in better company recently and the race should suit, because they’re likely to go a good gallop and he stays well.”

The highest quality contest of the day is likely to be the John White Funeral Directors Mixed Open. It has attracted 12 entries, the vast majority of whom look to have claims. Nine of the 12 have won at least one race this season and, of those who have yet to score, Hunter Chase form is represented by Solomon Grey’s third at Cheltenham last week and Red Maple’s Kempton second. Clara Sorrento has won three on the bounce for David Kemp. Alan Hill’s Getting Closer has won his last two, as has the improving Prairie Town, Tom Ellis’ Dundrum Wood has won three this year plus a walkover here and Thegallantway tops them all with four successes this campaign. If all the leading contenders turn up, it promises to be a cracking race.

“He’s come out of his last race well,” said Alan of Getting Closer. “He’s an intended runner as he proved at both High Easter and Mollington that he’s got to have a hill to finish up.” Charlie Poste advised that Muckamore is also entered at Dingley, although likely to run here, where he won his penultimate start. “The track seems to suit him, and he could be competitive if he and Harry Arkwright get into a rhythm.”

10 entries have been received for the Savills Owner-Trainer Conditions Race, which looks a tight contest. Although the aforementioned Chenery stands out on ratings, several others are in with a shout, including Aldington winner Padjoes Legacy for Nigel Padfield, who has a good record here and The Wonky Tonk (also entered in the Novice Riders final) if reproducing his Paxford Open third. Amber Jackson-Fennell’s consistent Heaven Scent is another but is unlikely to run.

The Towcester Vets Restricted Race has 20 entries, an impressive total for a race of this nature, and – with most of them closely matched on ratings, this could be the tightest contest of the day alongside the Mixed Open. Five won last time out – highest-rated Best Friend Barnaby, Ultra Viers, who was probably the best maiden in the country on form before breaking his duck, Politicianspromise, Gamalou D’Alene (albeit last season) and All The Ammunition, at the last meeting here. Another to score that day was Super Dawn, while others worthy of consideration are Alan Hill’s Fakenham second Tres Francais, the consistent Marton Abbey and Black Aphrodisiac, a good runner-up at Witton Castle on his seasonal reappearance.

“That was a good comeback run,” Alan told me about Tres Francais. “We’ll know more about it after the winner runs in a Hunter Chase this week and he’ll run as long as there’s some cut in the ground. Phillippa Taylor runs Garthorpe winner Ultra Viers and daughter Verity confirmed, “Charlie Case will ride as Joe Stevenson broke his wrist team chasing the day after they won! The aim is the Stratford Restricted Final, so Edgcote will be a good stepping stone.” “Secret Scripture came to us with problems,” said Charlie Poste, “But he’s run two solid races recently and, although three miles isn’t his best trip, he should have a chance if Harry can drop him in.”

The card opens with the Heygates & Sons Members Race, which has attracted seven entries including In Our Dreams for last year’s winning stable, Station Yard Racing and Champagne Noir for champion trainer Tom Ellis. The latter is the form choice, with three wins and a good second last time out, while the former is on the upgrade, having won his last two starts. Creaden Grey has a chance on his rules form and a Larkhill third, while the others look to have improvement to find. “Champagne Noir is going to be difficult to beat on form,” admitted Charlie Poste, but In Our Dreams is owned by a real Grafton partnership and they’re keen to run if the ground is on the softer side of good. We’ve got nothing to lose as it’ll be his last run this season.”

The NFU Mutual Open Maiden Race has 24 entries, the highest of the day and several are interesting newcomers and lightly-raced types from top stables, namely Badger’s Hill, pulled-up on his only start for Station Yard Racing, newcomers Don’t Mind It and Hugh De Lacy for Tom Ellis and Phil Rowley respectively and two “No mores” – Alan Hill’s No More No, who was pulled-up at Kimble and Bradley Gibbs’ Nomoreblackjack, third on his debut. Several possess placed form this season that could bring them into contention, most notably Equus Flight, Gentleman Sam, Horizon Dove, Queenhill and Quickly Now Please (owned by Christian and Geri Horner).

“No More No ran green on his debut,” admitted Alan. “He’s come on a serious amount for that run, and we hope to build on that, though he’s a longer-term project, not a sales horse.” Novice title chasing Amber Jackson-Fennell rides Dennis El Menace for Andrew and Alice Campbell and told me, “They like him, he goes well at home, and I’ve done a lot of schooling on him. I rode against him last time and hopefully he’ll come on for that run.” “Badger’s Hill never went a yard when pulled up at Dingley,” said Charlie Poste. We were hopeful of a decent performance but didn’t get one – I’m not sure if it was ground-related. We hope he’ll run a lot better on Sunday – he’ll need to!”

The final race of the day – with 16 entries – is the Framptons Planning Conditions Race, for veteran horses ten years old and over. Master Sunrise won this in 2021 and is in with a chance again for in-form jockey Freddie Philipson-Stow. Aintree-placed Clondaw Westie is potentially the classiest horse in the race, but Alan Hill is more likely to run Craigmor rather than take on his Dingley conqueror Pass The Glass again. Buster Edwards won at Bitterley, but has changed hands since, Hidden Charmer and It’s For Alan have been admirably consistent this season, the latter winning at Paxford, while Touch Tight has scored twice this year before a Mollington second for veteran Phil York, one short of his 400th career victory.

In addition to the seven point-to-point races, there will be two pony races sponsored by Ben Case Racing, starting at 12.45pm. There will be a big screen to watch the racing, hosted by Charlie Poste. A parade of hounds will take place between the third and fourth races. Other attractions include vintage cars, plenty of trade stands and a children’s area.

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