THE West Mercian Area was created prior to the start of the 2021/2022 campaign and has just completed its first season. There has been competitive racing throughout the year with just one of the 21 scheduled meetings lost to the weather.
Its final meeting of the season takes place at Chaddesley Corbett which has a well-deserved reputation for producing good racing ground and this always reaps benefits at this stage of the year, a fact reflected in the entries.
Jane Allfrey has slipped seamlessly into the Secretarial role at the Worcestershire venue and like her predecessors ensures meetings run smoothly.
This year’s fixture takes place next Thursday 2nd June, the first day of the Queens Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend.
Despite Stratford’s Hunter Chase evening on 27th May and three more meetings that weekend, plus a Point-to-Point at Garthope less than 24 hours earlier, 74 entries have been received for the 6-race programme with only a handful of them entered at other meetings so there is much to look forward to.
The afternoon commences with the PPORA sponsored Novice Riders. Several competitors are still in contention to win their respective National Championships and will be doing all their can to enhance their chances.
At the time of writing, Freddie Gordon and Charlie Sprake are engaged in a ding dong battle for the Men’s Novice Riders Title, while Olive Nicholls holds a narrow lead over Rosie Howarth in the Ladies version.
Gordon and Nicholls have horses entered and both have winning chances although they are required to carry 10 lb penalties and that gives their rivals a sporting chance.
Jenny Gordon’s Winchester stable relies on Captain Bucks who won at the last meeting or Commanche Red who was beaten at Garthorpe recently, while Nicholls s earmarked to ride Virak, with the latter preferred of that trio.
Some of their rivals also have winning form and also have to carry penalties. These include Bawnmore (3 lb extra), Dounikos (3 lb extra), Master Sunrise (3 lb extra), Willywonga (3 lb extra) and Stop the World (7 lb extra).
Weight is great leveller in any type of race and a horse without a penalty has a distinct advantage so it may be worth taking a chance with Slievegar who has been running well in better company, does not have a penalty and will enjoy the services of Toby McCain-Mitchell.
The Restricted is a strong contest for this time of the year and includes Walkin Out who was so impressive when winning at Woodford. She has one way of running and that is to lead from the start to try and burn off her rivals. That tactic has proved successful so far this season, but a slight doubt remains and that is what will she find if challenged over the final two fences.
Hung Jury finished strongly over course and distance last month, while jockey James King had little more than a steering job when guiding Villanesque to victory at Bredwardine. It is difficult to judge her on that performance but she jumped well but now faces a true test of her ability.
Duntish holds a Hunter Chase engagement at Stratford but has this race as a backup if any last-minute problems occur. Macfin is an interesting candidate, previously with Nigel Twiston-Davies he provided 16-year-old Sholto Lacey with a first win on his very first ride at Eyton-on-Severn at the beginning of May.
The jockey did little wrong on that occasion and neither did the horse but this race provides a much bigger challenge.
The connections of Southfield Theatre have much to contemplate over the next three or four days, because the 14-year-old heads the table for the Leading Horse with eight successes so far this season.
Lilly Bradstock’s mount is one of the entries for the Lorna Brooke Memorial Final and this race provides a fitting tribute to a very popular and much missed rider. Southfield Theatre has an easier engagement at Garthorpe the previous day but has to carry a 10 lb penalty. He will not be lumbered with any extra weight at Chaddesley but the opposition is much stronger, that provides the dilemma.
Will Gaskins Tb Broke Her has been on the go since the start of the season and gave Southfield Theatre as real scare when getting within a couple of lengths of his rival at the Worcestershire fixture, although the winning margin was increased when they met later at Tabley.
Jack Dillinger came with a strong run to cut down Myth Buster at Bredwardine, but that horse is not in the same class as his stablemate Southfield Theatre. The Welsh challenger should be suited by the strong pace and his finishing speed will prove useful if he can keep in touch over the final two fences.
Toshima finished runner up to Champagne Lilly at the Wheatland but there were excuses for that defeat as it was his first run since winning at Shelfield Park in March.
Champagne Lilly has blossomed since returning to Point-to-Pointing winning twice since falling at Larkhill. She was impressive when catching Highway One O One at the last meeting and also has the mare’s allowance in her favour.
Chase Me is an interesting entry and may appreciate this shorter distance after being well beaten over 3-1/4 miles in April.
The Men’s Conditions follows and has a definite end of season look about it. Tom Broughton has got a good tune out of Gottagottagetaway on their last three outings, winning at the Berkeley before finishing second at the Wheatland and Golden Valley.
He may run well but lacks sufficient speed to take a hand in the finish, while some of the other entries have been around the block several times and found it difficult to win in this type of company.
Eeze a Saint’s ran in a Cheltenham Hunter Chase so that gives you some idea of what connections think of his potential, while Slievegar, Stop the World and Toshima have alternative engagements during the afternoon.
Willywonga has been brought along steadily this season, which has reaped benefits with 2 wins and 3 second places. This race provides him with an opportunity to finish the season on a hight note.
Rose Iland powered up the hill at Bratton Down but this race may come too soon and with another meeting at that venue in a couple of weeks’ time connections may keep her for another day.
Several of the runners in The Jockey Club sponsored Mares and Fillies Maiden make their debuts but this race will not take much winning so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Rosies Redemption and Stopbeatinyourgums both fall into this category and preference is for the Byron Moorcroft trained runner, while the latter belongs to the all-conquering Luke Price.
Those with racecourse form include Ferny Knap who has run five times and has yet to secure a place, Missmumagum who has a couple of minor placings to her credit and is owned and trained by Jane Allfrey.
My Friend Flicka returned after long absence but was pulled up in a Tabley Flat Race, while Our Nel was eight lengths fourth and weakening prior to falling at the last at Eyton.
Polly Sans is a potential mount for Championship chasing James King and this combination gained a minor placing in Devon last week.
The West Mercian season concludes with the Maiden at 4-55 p.m. Doctor Tom has been knocking at the door throughout the season, so it is surprising that he is still a Maiden – is that down to lack of ability or enthusiasm?
Stephanie Cameron’s No Promises has a similar profile to Doctor Tom and finished runner up to Tom Green at Garthorpe but must go close if repeating that effort and holds Albert Hucklebuck on that running.
Phil Rowley’s Turbo Dave finished a well beaten fifth at Bredwardine while Huriel finished third to a useful prospect in Stolen Shoes at Tabley.
Fran Poste’s Nimming Ned is only a 4-year-old so can only improve after being placed fourth in a Mollington Maiden and that would crown another fine season for Ettington trainer Fran Poste.
The form book suggests Snowy Oscar should be treated with caution which means it would require a miracle for him to win, while Westbell blotted his copybook when he ran out at Bredwardine.
Jeux D’Eau carries the colours of Laura Richardson, while Ifindoubtgoflatout has been entered on numerous occasions in recent weeks but has yet to make his debut.
It remains to be seen if Clive, Will and Carolyn Bennett Bennetts gelding lives up to his name. Both horses qualify for a 10 lb allowance and against this opposition that could tip the scales in their favours.