THE brand new purpose-designed Cocklebarrow Racecourse will host the Savills Heythrop point-to-point meeting for the first time this Sunday, writes Andrew Norman.
Situated near Northleach, this much anticipated addition to the Cotswolds received rave reviews from both jockeys and trainers when the course was opened to the public on 29th December.
The new track is the brainchild of John Wills, on whose land it is sited, while Nick Phillips is the new clerk of the course.
Phillips said: “We’ve made some slight adjustments including moving the last fence a little bit and tinkering with the bend turning into the straight – that was the point of having an open day.
“We've learnt things, but overall I'm very pleased. The jockeys were very happy with how the ground rode, which is the main thing."
At The Races presenter and former National Hunt jockey Luke Harvey said: "I'm really impressed - you couldn't fail to be. The layout is fantastic.
The fences are well-made and imposing enough - a lot of thought has obviously gone into this track. I think the best horse will win - and you can't say anything better about a track than that."
Gold Cup-winning rider Sam Waley-Cohen could ride Rumbavu in the feature race, the Lord Ashton of Hyde's Cup, over 3m 6f.
The Overbury gelding took his winning sequence between the flags to four at Larkhill last Sunday and could regain the trophy for the Waley-Cohen family six years after Irilut carried their chocolate and orange silks to victory in 2008.
Charles Bruce was no match for Penmore Mill on his seasonal debut last month but proved his stamina when scoring over 4m 1f at Cheltenham in May.
Minella Stars, another with form over an extended three miles, jumped and travelled impressively when scoring at Chaddesley Corbett over Christmas and should go close.
Grade One-winning hurdler Khyber Kim looked in rude health on his pointing debut at Cottenham a fortnight ago and can follow up in the PPORA Club Members Race for Novice Riders.
The 12-year-old, a former runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, bolted up under Camilla Henderson carrying Caroline Mould’s red and blue silks, the very same worn by champion chaser Sprinter Sacre.
Last year’s AGA Ladies Open Final winner That’s Rhythm will bid to qualify for this year’s renewal in the Ladies Open race. The 14-year-old is unbeaten under rider Page Fuller and will have no problems seeing out the 3m 3f trip.
Irish Maiden Point winners She’s Real and Devils Boys are candidates for the Restricted race. The latter is now in the care of Zara Phillips, who has two other horses entered on the card.
Fred Hustby-trained mare Tempered Steel, last year’s South Midlands Area champion after a hat-trick of wins, will bid to retain the Heythrop Hunt Members race. However, the useful Chiquilline is back in the care of Chipping Norton trainer Tom Lacey after a spell under rules and is handed the vote.
Somerset trainer Chloe Roddick landed the 2m 4f Open Maiden last season with exciting mare Tara Point. She is represented by the unraced French-bred Auckland De Re in this year’s renewal.
The track is left-handed with gentle bends and two long straights, with the home straight having a gentle incline. The course is free draining and has taken the recent bout of rainfall exceptionally well, with near perfect ground expected for the meeting. Spectators can enjoy excellent viewing from the grass bank, with every inch of the track.
Children's entertainment will be provided in a heated marquee featuring two mechanical horses, on which children can experience their first taste of race-riding.
Former National Hunt jockey Ollie McPhail, now lead education officer for the British Horseracing Education and Standards Trust, will be on hand to answer any questions as well as guiding technique.
Attractions also include the acclaimed The Ace Of Diamonds Magic Company, face-painters from Cheltenham Face Painting, and the unique fancy-dress experience Bizarre Bazaar.
Seven races are scheduled but with the inevitability of divisions due to an unprecedented number of entries, the first race will now be run at 11am. A well-stocked bar and hot food will be available on site.
Admission is £20 per car, £10 for single occupants. Racegoers are advised to arrive via the A40.