Point-to-point: High-calibre field for Garthorpe opener

Garthorpe Races on February 29, 2016 EMN-170221-150358002

Garthorpe Races on February 29, 2016 EMN-170221-150358002

Racing returns to Garthorpe on Sunday as the Cottesmore meeting opens the 2017 point-to-point season at the Melton Hunt Club course.

The meeting has attracted 132 entries for a seven-race card, or possibly eight, with the first race off at noon, and the going currently given as soft.

Garthorpe Races on February 29, 2016 EMN-170221-150412002

Garthorpe Races on February 29, 2016 EMN-170221-150412002

The Garthorpe Hunts Club Members’ race opens the meeting and several of the entries will be hoping for a dry week to return the ground to good running. Love Manhattan stands out as a contender here and Robin De Boss won’t mind a bit of softness in the ground, but Tulsa might run if the ground improves.

* The PPORA Club Members is harder to call with several talented entries, but many watching the weather hoping for quicker ground.

The mare En Passe has won this year already and will certainly be a strong contender, while Golden Tobouggan won well last time out on similar ground at Thorpe Lodge, and must be a favourite.

Dido was second to her at Thorpe, and another to win at Thorpe last time was the Waley-Cohen’s Facile Bien, while Quick Oats loves this track but might be unlikely to run without quicker ground.

Riders and horses take to the Garthorpe countryside in the Open Maiden race at Garthorpe Races in February 2016 EMN-170221-150427002

Riders and horses take to the Garthorpe countryside in the Open Maiden race at Garthorpe Races in February 2016 EMN-170221-150427002

* Nearly half the entrants for the Men’s Open race have a 100-plus rating so this could be a cracker but, once again the ground will be a factor in who runs.

Decade Player and Lough Inch will not run against each other, but the distance suits them both and if the ground quickens one of these will be in the mix.

The Vestey’s Silver Roque will almost certainly race and be a very strong contender having won in January, while Proximo and Old Pride should also be near the front.

* The Ladies’ Open may see a return to Garthorpe for Palypso De Creek if the ground stays soft, and it would be difficult to look past this horse in deep ground.

If the ground quickens, Claire Hardwick also has a ride on His Excellency who won last weekend at Brocklesby. Top Smart will be one to watch in a potentially very good race, but may go for quicker ground at Horseheath.

* Cork Citizen is entered in the Ladies’ Open, but is more likely to run in the Midlands Area Club Members’ Conditions Race, for nine-year-olds and more, and should feature strongly.

There is also a chance that local favourite Lough Inch runs, and if he does he will probably lead the betting.

Others to watch are the Chatfeild-Roberts’ L’Eldorado and Grove Pride, both with recent form.

* The Restricted Race follows and Teeton Power is likely to challenge in this one despite being beaten last time out by the talented L’Eldorado.

Swivel is highly-rated, but lacks recent form, while Chipmunk won for Johnny Weatherby at Alnwick and might go well on his local track.

Tom Strawson is hoping for a good run from Lord Golan, who has had a season off, while Merrydown Black ran very well at Brocklesby for a good second place and Mazurati is another to watch.

* The Maiden race has nearly 30 entries so may need to be split.

Thomas Patrick looks a likely candidate, as does Quizzacle Nomad, Le Fou Royale, Harodale, Emtidaad and Dewi’s Mate who all have second-place finishes on their CVs.

There will also be activities for all the family at Garthorpe which is on the B676, five miles east of Melton.

* Tickets and more information are available at midlandspointing.com