CHELTENHAM Gold Cup-winning jockey Jim Wilson is to be remembered with a race run in his honour at the Heythrop Hunt meeting at Cocklebarrow, near Aldsworth, in Gloucestershire on Sunday (12noon).
Jim, who died in August aged 72, was the senior steward at Cocklebarrow since its inception in 2014, having enjoyed many a day out with the Heythrop in his youth.
A leading amateur rider, he landed chasing's blue riband on Little Owl in 1981, while he also won three Coral Golden Hurdle Finals - now known as the Pertemps Final - at the Festival on Willie Wumpkins.
Having been a great mentor to many jockeys, the naming of the Jim Wilson Memorial Novice Riders Race, sponsored by the Kings Head Inn, Bledington, is especially apt.
The contest has attracted 20 entries, including Champagne Noir with Tom Ellis keen to give Ellie Holder the leg up on the nine-year-old, who was bought out of Charlie Longsdon's yard at the Doncaster Sales. The champion trainer said: "Ellie had her first winner for us at Horseheath on New Year's Eve. Potentially he looks a real fun horse for her, and it will be nice to get a run into him."
Financial Outcome, trained by Oliver Brissenden and the mount of Carys Morris, is on a hat-trick after ending last season with wins at Bonvilston and Llwyn Ddu, while David Brace's Pennyforapound finished well to be fifth to Cousin Pascal under Osian Radford at Chaddesley Corbett.
Sumkindofking, now with Christopher Walker, is top-rated, but also holds two other entries on the seven-race card, including in the Cothill School Lord Ashton of Hyde's Cup Mens Open. The 12-year-old dead-heated for second with Polydora behind Fifty Shades in the 3m 6½f contest - one of the sport's four "classics" - last year and the first three could renew rivalry.
Dan Ellis produced Fifty Shades to score by a length and a half that day for trainer Nick Williams, who said: "We have not run him yet this season. Dan broke his collarbone and we have been waiting for him to recover. He is fine now and it's all systems go."
Alan Hill is looking to Polydora to turn the tables with a run under his belt. "We ran him on New Year's Day at Larkhill and he finished a very good fourth, with the plan that this is his early season Gold Cup," said the Aston Rowant handler. "If he reproduced his run of last year, he would have a serious chance."
Dangers among the 14-strong entry include Cheltenam de Vega, who finished ahead of Fifty Shades when they were third and fourth behind Dandy Dan at Cheltenham. Chaddesley Corbett winner Classic Concorde, from David Brace's yard, also comes into the reckoning along with Max Comley's Just Your Type and Ella McGarty-Jones's Another Venture.
Sumkindofking's third entry is in the Christian Fleming Architects Ladies Open where the stand-out contender is Shantou Flyer. Sam Loxton's 13-year-old is chasing a hat-trick after pipping Aintree Foxhunters' hero Latenightpass by a neck at Chaddesley Corbett.
Sara and Lily Bradstock, winners of this 3m 4f contest with Southfield Theatre in 2019 and 2022, are set to rely on Myth Buster following his second to Premier Magic at Chaddesley Corbett. "It was a very good run," said Sara. "They were only a few seconds behind the time for the ladies' open and he was carrying nearly 20lbs more."
Myth Buster(right) goes down narrowly to Premier Magic at Chaddesley last month PHOTO: Graham Fisher.
Hill is hoping a sounder surface will see Back Bar return to form. "We took him up to Alnwick and it was very holding ground," he said. "Izzie (Marshall) reported that he never travelled on it. He does like a bit better ground."
Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire could saddle his first point-to-point runner with Barney Dawn, who is also entered at Larkhill on Saturday. Maguire, who won the Aintree spectacular on Ballabriggs in 2011 and now runs a breaking and pre-training yard at Birdlip, near Cheltenham, said: "We have got a couple of older horses that have retired for the lads in the yard to have a go on, so it is a bit of fun. He will need the run because he has not run for a long time after having a bit of a leg."
With clerk of the course Nick Phillips describing the going as Good, Good to Soft in places, the seven-race card has attracted 98 entries.
Ellis is hoping to saddle easy Horseheath winner All Is True in the Dubarry Restricted. "I think he looks a nice prospect on the back of that win," said the Marton handler. "He is up in grade but jumps very nicely. The better ground could bring out improvement."
Hill believes the drying conditions could benefit Da Boy Charlie, who finished fourth to Rabble Rouser at Larkhill. "We have worked out he needs top of the ground," the trainer said. "He has a lot of American breeding in him, whether it is because of that."
Tara Storm scored in good style at Chaddesley Corbett for Eve Hobbs, while Cossack Dancer is another to consider after finishing third to Lift Me Up under Freddie Mitchell at the Worcestershire course.
A bold showing from Tara Storm would be a pointer to his closest pursuer, the Ellis-trained Captain Biggles, in the Savills Seven-Year-Old And Over Open Maiden. "He will run very well if he runs as he did at Chaddesley Corbett," commented Ellis. "He is a nice horse. I would not swap him for anything else in the race."
Sara Bradstock is sweet on Idols's Eye, saying: "He has shown some form on the track when he finished third behind a horse of the Queen's (Rapid Flight) at Southwell. He goes very nicely and if the ground is not soft by the end of the day, he will take a lot of beating."
In Our Dreams, who registered several good runs under rules, is another interesting debutant for Francesca Poste.
A Jet Of Our Own boasts the best form in the Carter Jonas Four, Five And Six-Year-Olds Open Maiden over 2m 4f. Nicky Sheppard's gelding found only I'm Ravenous a length and three-quarters too good at Chaddesley Corbett. Poste's Mochachocachino showed promise before unseating at Dunsmore, while David Brace's Rokocoko Blue is another live contender.
Ravens Tower is set to bid to repeat last year's win in the Knight Frank Heythrop Hunt Members Race. Ben Pauling's 13-year-old beat Lord Scoundrel by three-and-a-half lengths 12 months ago and will seek to confirm the placings. Ecco, who had some good form under rules for Paul Nicholls and is now with Alexandra Dunn, may bid to upset the party, although the eight-year-old could tackle the men's open.
The meeting is preceded by two pony races, sponsored by Manor Cottages, starting at 10.30am.
Other attractions include a massive shopping village and a heated picnic tent. There will be dog racing, a hound parade, the Tough Farmers Challenge and a free kids' zone.