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Barbury Castle, 4/12/16

Point-to-Point Owners' & Riders' Club

An ancient hill fort. A fresh but pleasant wintry climate. Sweeping slopes to provide a quality viewing angle. One corner of the track still mysteriously out of view. The track missing only one thing from the perfect pointing venue, and now they have three red kites as well. Instant promotion up the preferred places list. The only fear is that with the estate on the market, the kites may be there temporarily to boost the sales value.

Going: Good - probably edging towards the quick side.

race 1: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members, Novice Riders

1: Karinga Dancer     2: Swallowshide     3: Gizzit

Winner owned: Barbury Racing Club, trained & ridden: Laura Thomas

This race was down on numbers compared to recent years and probably a bit down on quality, although the nature of novice riders' races is that the better horses tend to be old heroes on the downgrade, but this time round there were three seven year olds, one nine year old, three ten year olds and a token eleven year old for compliance with traditions. The field thinned out gradually, starting with Express Du Berlais at the first fence and most notably Carry On Asian at the eleventh, when still setting the pace. By the time it got to four out, just three counted: Karinga Dancer was leading, Swallowshide was in touch but just being urged along and Baltic Blue was dropping out of contention. With Swallowshide not able to sustain a threat and getting very tired in the home straight, Karinga Dancer ensured that the prizes did not have far to travel - approaching from the north sees racegoers drive past his home just before the hillfort. It was an easy win, but as a 140+ rated chaser debuting points, it really should have been no less, the only scare coming when he fluffed fence five. With pointing form of UPPPPP, Gizzit will probably be quite chuffed with this defeat by a country mile. That is the magical allure of £45 third prize. Going back to Carry On Asian, he did land a winners of two in Ireland just back in October, but his overall hairy jumping skills do not make him a great candidate for novice riders - his pilot today is also the owner, rather than someone who has an enemy in the pointing game.

race 2: The Jockey Club Mares & Fillies Open Maiden

1: Teeton Power     2: Suntanned     3: Delineate

Winner owned: Joan Tice, trained: Tommy Morgan, ridden: Dale Peters

This race last year featured a moody second placed effort from Galros Lady, who went on to win her next five, sticking to home territory in East Anglia. Suntanned probably is not going to repeat that progression, if only because she is not trained in East Anglia. She could not handle Teeton Power, who had made a likeable late season racing bow at Dingley in May, a last fence error preventing her beating more experienced rivals. She won this admittedly unexceptional race easily, although with the work done by the final bend, she completed the race in style which raises a question mark over how well she sees out three miles under pressure at the moment. Pelican Mine, who was a bit unlucky in running at Cottenham last week, knocked herself out of contention with a series of sluggish jumps, which she aggregated into chance ending cruncher at the twelfth.
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Teeton Power in the lead at fence eleven, with Fair Duchess breathing down her neck. Suntanned is in their shadow here.

race 3: Barbury International Racing Club Mixed Open

1: Iberico     2: Shy John     3: The Gunner Brady

Winner owned: CJ Bennett, trained & ridden: Sam Jukes

For anyone planning to attend the international (it is hoped) meeting here in mid-January, there is dirt cheap admission available on barburyraces.co.uk, at a price that most people would pay even with the risk of awful weather. This race is a new one on the card, previously having had a mens and a ladies open. As there were no lady riders involved perhaps it should be a Mixed* Open. Iberico has come a long way in 364 days, having blundered his way into third place in the novice riders' event on the 2015 card. He ran pretty well in his subsequent races, and was quite impressive in winning a competitive race here. Whilst not exactly unfit, most of his rivals looked a bit sharper in the paddock, so he could even come on a little bit for this spin. Deploying the stats of six wins from seventeen points, plus a handicap chase and a couple of hunter chases, Shy John represents a good yardstick to have immediately behind you. Disappointment of the race was Tugboat, who was last away, soon detached and never showed any interest - this was worse than can just be blamed on needing the spin for fitness. When he is good, he looks very effective but the score now reads played 13, won 4, which is well below what his best performances should beget.
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Iberico easing down after comprehensive win, unflustered by the zombie attack developing in the middle of the track - pointing as reimagined by George A Romero

race 4: LJH Racing PPORA Members Club

1: Princely Player     2: Royal Riviera     3: Creepy

Winner owned: KP & The Nuts Racing Club, trained: Karen Hobbs, ridden: Sean Houlihan

This featured an interesting condition - the horses to qualify had to have won a race, but none since 24th November 2014, except hunt members' point-to-points.The upshot is a race for those who have been injured, are mentally undependable, fluked a win under Rules once and are no good for opens in pointing, or have been carefully plotted up from so long ago that the idea of the race did not exist when the plan was hatched. The winner, Princely Player, had not been in any form of action since June 2014, so was absolutely in the injury reclamation project category, but that last run was a win from a 132 rating in a handicap chase and he certainly appeared fit enough to do this job well. A subsequent check showed that he had been second to Karinga Dancer in a novices' chase, so anyone who was at Doncaster on 14th December 2013 had a shot at getting rich today. Given that he is not a prolific winner and never in the class of the one that beat him, Royal Riviera put up a fair show for second, although history suggests that we should not assume it will springboard him into more success. Behind him were the sort of motley gang that was envisaged, although the once very decent Creepy did finish and will come on for the run.
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Royal Riviera could not match Princely Player (11) in the sport, so he shows what happens when a methodical approach falls into the wrong hands - copy his stance, stride and all demeanours exactly.

race 5: Connolly's Red Mills Intermediate

1: Treacyswestcountry     2: Chasforgold     3: Live For Today

Winner owned: Mrs BA Hunt, trained: Laura Horsfall, ridden: Jack Andrews

The best race of the day as far as close finishes are concerned. By the time that he crossed the line Treacyswestcountry was five or so lengths clear of the field, but approaching the final fence it threatened to be much closer, with the winner having made all of the running and not shaking off three of the four opponents. Unfortunately the big threat offered by Missing The Babe was ended by that horse going lame, and losing two places late on. Having had two years off, Chasforgold could not summon up that enough extra effort to change the result further. Live For Today ran an interesting race. He won a 2m 4f race at Ystradowen last March, then showed nothing in a bumper at Exeter. When the first two started to move away from him after the fourth last, it seemed that stamina was giving out, but in the home straight, he started eroding the lead again. This was not the greatest Intermediate, but he should be able to win a Restricted.
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Treacyswestcountry in front after almost a circuit (fence eight) from Missing The Babe (beige & brown) and Chasforgold (pink & grey). Live For Today condemns Always A Chance to an enduring last.

race 6: Valley Equine Hospital Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds (2m 4f)

1: Wither Or Not     2: Troed Y Melin     3: Palmaria

Winner owned, trained & ridden: Dale Peters

Three newcomers lined up amongst the total of thirteen, and several of those with experience would come on for the race, so inevitably the field scattered quite early. It did produce another close finish at the line, but it was only very late that there seemed a chance of Wither Or Not withering and not winning. He had started a short priced favourite, and people who got stuck in will have developed a few grey hairs at the death. For a horse making his debut Troed Y Melin ran a very nice race. Had he picked up more quickly when under pressure it could have been a winning start. Palmaria also ran well in her own way, as she looked to not be fit enough and far too sweaty to put in a big race. She also was quite keen early in the race and it only seemed a matter of time before she dropped away. It only really happened from the final fence. Under Rules she was mostly a flop, but did run well in a novice hurdle once at Exeter, so perhaps there is something to work with here. Amongst the unplaced, Middle Barn was a paddock attention grabber, but he did not figure in the race and had previously been utterly hammered in two bumpers, so this may be one of those cases where looks greatly deceive.
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