The rules have recently been relaxed so owners are now able to attend, which is good news for those who hold entries in The Lady Dudley Cup, the centrepiece of the Worcestershire fixture where all bar two of the 20 entries have a rating of over 100.
Phil Rowley has won this race three times in the last decade and holds a strong hand as he attempts to do so again with Hazel Hill, Salvatore and Vivaldi Collonges. Hazel Hill has the highest rating but was surprisingly beaten over this course in December before winning a Hunter Chase at Ludlow and running fifth in the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
His long-term partner Alex Edwards is now professional and his replacement will do well to match Edwards exploits on a horse he knew so well. Hazel Hill did better than his stablemate Salvatore who was pulled up in the Cheltenham show piece, but the latter has an exemplary record between the flags and could atone here.
It is time the Welsh had another winner of the big race and their hopes rest with Premier Magic who caused a surprise at the Wheatland before Christmas and subsequently won a Hunter Chase at Leicester. With Bradley Gibbs stable in such fine form, he has to be added to the short list.
Ballyboker Breeze was favourite to beat Wishing and Hoping back in 2019 and his recent run at Maisemore shows he is no back number. Zac Baker has every confidence in this horse and their combined strengths will be useful in a close finish.
Barney Dwan went down on his sword at Barbury last autumn but is held by Salvatore on their running at Didmarton back in March 2020 but Sally Randall knows what is required to land this prize.
Ennistown won a Hunter Chase at Fakenham but struggled behind Hazel Hill at Ludlow and it is difficult making a case for him on what he has done so far and that remark also applies to Igor although the Waley Cohens will be keen to repeat their win in the big race following Irilut’s success back in 2007.
Sausalito Sunrise won The Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup when it was last run so stamina is not an issue and he showed his well-being with an easy success at Sandon recently. The Smith Maxwells are another family keen to win this fabulous trophy so don’t be surprised if John Smith Maxwell tests his rivals’ metal and kicks on a long way from home.
Ravished finished 6th in last week’s Aintree Foxhunters but that races sometimes leaves it mark so Cheshire trainer Joe O’Shea will have his work cut out reviving his fortunes in the Skinners sponsored Ladies Open. Back Bar, Barney Dwan and Haymount look evenly matched and it will be interesting to see which one of those comes out on top.
Like the Dudley Cup this race is run over the extended distance of 3 miles 2 furlongs and Southfield Theatre’s front running tactics will ensure a good pace and expose any cracks in their rival’s stamina, and this could pave the way for Clive Bennett’s Shometheway.
She was putting in his best work at the finish of a similar event at Maisemore and the extra two furlongs is in her favour and she has an astute pilot in Hannah Lewis.
No doubt the winner of the Tattersalls Cheltenham 4 and 5 year old Maiden will be making their way to that firms upcoming sale but at least they will be going there with some kudos as this race has attracted entries from all the big “sales” stables.
Between You and Me is based with Dorset trainer Chris Barber from where the horses’ Irish connections have already enjoyed some success and if they could lower the colours of their English rivals that would be a feather in their cap.
Charlie Poste and Fran Nimmo are always an invaluable source of talent in these types of events but Dondiam is their sole representative. Tom Weston’s Money for Jam and Notoriety carry the hopes of his Hindlip yard while Whotheman is the only one with racecourse form but he failed to finish twice in Ireland and that has to be a cause for concern.
Herefordshire based Clive Boultbee-Brooks has enjoyed a successful association with Tom Lacey’s stable, but is now training Pointers in his own name and sent out a winner at Chaddesley before Christmas.
Connections are obviously biding their time with Guinness Village who has been entered at numerous meeting since the season restarted, so take the hint if he lines up, while his stablemate Milfolhas Has holds an entry in the Flat Race later in the afternoon as well as in this contest.
The Conditions is run over 2-1/2 miles and could be a retrieval mission for Arthurs Secret who has failed to sparkle recently, but has several things in his favour. Conditions are unlikely to be as testing as they were earlier in the season, and he will be suited by the shorter distance. It will be interesting to see if he can take advantage of that situation.
Connections may be tempted to bypass the Dudley Cup with Ballyboker Breeze who has won over this distance in the past and his rivals could be in for a torrid time if he establishes an early lead.
Deans Road, Diamond King, Early Retirement and Maitree Express are others to catch the eye, while Gottagottagetaway probably lacks the pace to be involved at the finish.
Fier Jaguen won a Wheatland Maiden back in December but lost it in the Stewards Room after missing a marker, so Bradley Gibbs will be keen to prevent a repeat performance and they will take a lot of beating in the 3-mile Maiden.
It is hard to be optimistic that Jason Warner’s Best to Come will live up to his name, while Mythical Prince’s last run gives his connections a ray of hope, and both Tous En Coeur and Wykham are capable of springing a surprise.
Shamilan’s run over this course in December gives him an excellent chance but he then ran out at Maisemore, so George Daly will need to keep his wits about him to avoid any potential catastrophises, and if so, the horse may provide him with that illusive first winner.
It must be a certainty that the Members will be won by a horse carrying blue and cerise hoop colours with three of the five entries sporting them. Arthur’s Secret and Diamond King carry the hopes of Christine Banks and her family, while her sister Katherine Smith Maxwell saddles Silvergrove.
Lauren Poole’s Little Jimmy has been placed on the odd occasion, while it is difficult to see Tom Grettons unraced Bon Jette scoring on his debut.
16 horses hold entries for the 4 and 5 year old Flat Race with just two of them having racecourse experience including Fountains Chief who chased home He’s a Knowall at Barbury, but whether that form is good enough remains to be seen.
Optical Girl is the second horse with course experience but his third place behind Crews Hill at Revesby Park does not bode well in this company.
Chris Barber’s Rebel Intentions is an unknown quantity but judging by the standards set by the rest of his “Irish imports” whatever beats him will win. Tom Weston’s Hollow Style will have his supporters while Alys Rose may be one for the future.
However, all the signs point to If I Say. David Redvers youngster has impeccable breeding is trained by David Dennis and with Gina Andrews in the saddle this looks the winning combination.