With last year’s meeting held behind closed doors due to Covid, racegoers have their first chance to assess the merits of the Croome & West Warwickshire’s course at Shelfield Park when the fixture takes place on Saturday 19th March.
It is set on a slope, and provides outstanding views of the track. The land is owned by Chairman of the Race committee Patty Allen, who offered the use of the land after the loss of Upton-on-Severn and extensive work has been carried out on drainage and roadways. Course preparation is in the hands of Nick Pearce who has been involved in the sport in various capacities throughout his career and is responsible for track management and Raceday preparation. Gates open from 10 a.m. but this will be the first real test for the organisers and with a large crowd expected and access via small country lanes they ask for patience as they will be working very hard to get all visitors onto site as quickly as possible but please allow sufficient time in case of queuing traffic.
With 98 entries the course already has the seal of approval from owners and trainers and with 28 entries for the 2-1/2-mile Maiden there must be potential for division on the day. Master Sunrise won the Members when it was run behind closed doors in 2021 but he had one solitary opponent to beat that day and has more on his plate this time around. Clerk of the Course Nick Pearce could be in for a busy day with his stable holding three entries in this race and each one of them is capable of winning. Mr Love is the form horse following three wins already this season, while Azzuri and Workbench have alternative engagements in the Novice Riders. This race looks an easier opportunity for the Annabel Murphy trained Friary Land who is also engaged in the short Maiden later in the afternoon but on the strength of his performance at Ampton may struggle to make an impact.
The Men’s Open has attracted a small but select field and on paper there is not much between Green Winter and Miss Seagreen but with the former benefitting from the 7 lb mares allowance that may just tip the scales in her favour and provide yet another winner for Tommie O’Brien in his quest to land the Area Title for the first time. He has built up an early lead and James King needs to start reducing the deficit otherwise O’Brien will be difficult to peg back.
King has two options with Blairs Cove or Hidden Charmer but both look as though they will struggle against the two market leaders. The Maiden at Didmarton holds the key to identifying the winner of the 2-1/2 mile Maiden with No Dice, who finished second on that occasion, holding Bellamys Boy who looked dangerous until weakening from two out. The opposition is likely to include newcomers from the powerful Ellis, Poste and Rowley stables and their record in these types of events speak for themselves. I’m Ravenous and Intrepide Sud are the Ellis hopes, while Rowley relies on Galassian or Moon Hunter while Top Wood Bareliere represents Fran Poste.
The Conditions (Level 3) looks the most open race on the card and on ratings looks a straight fight between Anmoore and the Cocklebarrow winner Ravens Tower although Ahead of the Game ran well behind Largy Mountain at Didmarton and would have a winning chance if reproducing that running. Ahead of the Game’s jockey James King has an alternative conveyance in Fran Poste’s Drumlee Getway who won his Restricted at the Heythrop, while Robin Why Not ran well for a long way at the same meeting behind Stacks Mountain, and that horse looked likely to follow up until parting company with his jockey at Didmarton.
Ryans Fancy should give Immy Robinson a good spin in the Ladies but he has a number of ‘Pulled Up’ on his C.V. and so would not be one to back with any confidence. Tb Broke Her and Katie Sinclair have an opportunity to get back into winning ways but there were excuses on their last outing when the saddle slipped. Summer Sounds has form over the course and will be hard to catch if given a soft lead at the start. The Herbert family’s new acquisition Evron seems to have the right profile to land the Restricted as he ran well for a long way at Kington Blount recently and should prove too strong for Outlaw Dream who had his limitations exposed at Hampton.