With many of the top horses entered in next week's Cheltenham Foxhunters today's mixed open at Didmarton is less competitive than usual and looks a suitable opportunity for the Louise Alner-trained Braeroy (1.40). This progressive eight-year-old was only fourth to Whizzar at Buckfastleigh last month but that race was run in a slightly faster time than the following ladies' open won by the smart Rockwithacaveman.
Silver Monarch (1.05) ran his best race to date under Rilly Goschen when second to useful former handicap chaser Zabenz in the ladies' open at Badbury Rings on his reappearance. He looks sure to come on for the run and only has to repeat that effort to take the Club Members.
Three times point-to-point champion Richard Burton is closing the gap on Dave Mansell in this year's table and rides Rocklandslad (2.15), placed once from six starts in Irish maidens, for Alison Dare at Didmarton today.
Burton is obviously hoping Cappa Bleu, his mount in next Friday's Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase and the 5-1 favourite despite never having run under rules, will survive tomorrow's four-day declaration stage.
There are 43 entries and 19 need to come out to ensure a place for the highly promising seven-year-old, probably the best prospect to emerge from between the flags since 1999 Foxhunter winner Castle Mane, as the safety limit is 24. Unless there are 19 non-declarations, Phil Smith, the official handicapper, will decide which horses have to be eliminated. Cappa Bleu, owned by the Rucker family who won the Hennessy with State Of Play and trained by Sheila Crowe, is unbeaten in his last four point-to-points, two in Ireland last year.
Burton said: "Because of the weather we were unable to run him in a hunter-chase. I've always though he was a bit special, but how good he is we just don't know. At home he's a good jumper, touch wood, and he'll eventually go novice chasing." Burton has yet to win the Cheltenham Foxhunter and also rides Coe for Sue Smith in the four-mile National Hunt Chase on Wednesday and Sherwoods Folly for Henry Daly in the Kim Muir Chase the following day.
*The Oxford University Hunt Club meeting at Kingston Blount, which was scheduled for today but had to be cancelled as there was not enough time to prepare the course following last month's bad weather, has been rearranged for Derby Day – Saturday 6 June.
*The South Devon Club fixture at Ideford Arch, which has been postponed three times, will take place on Sunday, 10 May.
D Mansell 18
R Burton 14
T Greenall 11
P Gundry 11
C Allen 8
R Green 5
C Tizzard 5
FIXTURES: TODAY: Brecon & Talybont at Llanfrynach. (First race: 1.00). 3m SE of Brecon off B4558; 2m off A60. Cumberland Farmers at Dalston. (1.0). 4m SW of Carlisle on B5299; Exit 42 M6. Duke of Beaufort at Didmarton. (12.30). Nr A433; 6m SW of Tetbury; 8m NE of Exit 18, M4. TOMORROW: Blackmore & Sparkford Vale at Charlton Horethorne. (12.30). Off B3145; 3m NE of Sherborne. Cottesmore at Garthorpe. (12.00). 6m E of Melton Mowbray on B676; 7m W of A1. Dart Vale & Haldon Harriers at Buckfastleigh. (1.00). 1m W of town alongside A38; use junction for Lower Dean; returning east bound traffic must travel through outskirts and use A384 junction east of town. Derwent at Charm Park. (12.30). Nr Wykeham; off A170; 6m SW of Scarborough. Flint & Denbigh at Bangor-on-Dee. (12.00). On NH racecourse, about 1m from village; near A525; 5m SE of Wrexham. Suffolk at Ampton. (1.30). 4m N of Bury St Edmunds; nr A134.