LAST year’s leading rider James King and multiple title holder Will Biddick are having a titanic battle for superiority for this year’s Riders Championship.
Every weekend brings a change in fortunes with King seemingly having his rival on the ropes when he rode five winners on this course back in mid-April, but Biddick’s star is now in the ascendancy following three winners at Chilfrome on Saturday and a hat-trick at Vauterhill on Monday.
These successes resulted in Biddick becoming the first UK based rider to record 500 successes between the flags, while King had a solitary success at the Banwen Miners fixture so now trails his rival by one in this year’s title race.
The odds would normally favour the West Country based rider as there is a plethora of meetings in that area at this time of the year, but the programme is now more evenly balanced so there are likely to be more twists and turns before the end of the season.
Both riders will be keeping their cards close to their chests regarding future plans, but needless to say a winner at this stage of the season is worth its weight in gold and King may regain the initiative during Saturday’s Wheatland fixture at Chaddesley Corbett, while Biddick will be hoping to visit the winner’s enclosure at Holnicote.
King is more centrally based than Biddick and has more options as a result of that and Kings association with Luke Price’s yard in Wales could prove crucial at just the right time.
It will be a great advertisement for the sport to see these two great jockeys battling it out in the final weeks of the season.
Fran Poste’s Ettington stables have been the mainstay of Kings Title challenge and his name has been pencilled in to partner Hung Jury in the Wheatland Restricted.
They were putting in their best work in at the finish when beating Fubar at Andoversford, but prior to that had finished a remote second to Flying Colum at Maisemore and others have more appeal.
Forest Chimes and Miss May Hill had contrasting fortunes at last month’s meeting, with the former successful in the Maiden, while the latter had to settle for second place in the Restricted.
However, closer examination the results show Forest Chimes winning time was much slower and that was Miss May Hill first attempt at three miles.
Bradley Gibbs is enjoying a great season but is currently in third place in the title race, but the actions of the Hertfordshire based rider can still impact on the overall result as any winner he rides prevents these two rivals consolidating their current positions.
Gibbs has winning chances at Chaddesley including with Lanzealot who won his Maiden in impressive fashion at Didmarton, while stablemate Whotheman has a similar profile but a minor placing looks the most probable outcome.
However, several of Gibbs’s prospective mounts are also entered at Bonvilston 24 hours later and the Welsh venue is likely to provide richer pickings than Chaddesley.
King rode the Callum Griffiths trained Hidden Charmer to success at the last meeting and the partnership could return to the scene of their triumph in the Mixed Open.
This is a big task although the horse did finish third in a Hunter Chase at Cheltenham last Friday, so connections may opt for an easier engagement in the Conditions later in the afternoon.
There has to be a question mark over Phil Rowley’s Salvatore after his performance at Cheltenham, while Miss Seagreen started favourite for the Lady Dudley Cup but was soundly beaten by Igor.
Premier Magic had won the big race the previous year and the only blot on his copy book during the current campaign was when he was pulled up in the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
That consistency does have consequences as he is lumbered with a seven lb penalty, and a considerable weight concession to the likes of Miss Seagreen.
Toshima overcame a long absence by winning at Shelfield Park and it will be interesting to see if that effort can be repeated. Champagne Lilly was a top-class Pointer a few years ago, but failed to sparkle under Rules for Nigel Twiston-Davies, but a win at Eyton a few weeks ago shows she is in good heart.
Mr Love finished behind Miss Sea Green at the Croome and is now worse off at the weights, so you need to be an optimist to see their roles being reversed.
The Veteran Horse Conditions has attracted seven entries but half the runners have to carry penalties, with Captains Buck’s hampered by an extra 10 lbs, Early Retirement five lbs, Golden Toubouggan and Summer Sounds both three lbs.
Gabrial the Great however gets off lightly and receives weight from his rivals. He has always shown his best form over shorter distances but missed a winning opportunity when hampered at the first at Bitterley. This race provides him with an excellent chance of recording a well-deserved success.
The Conditions has six entries, and a case can be built for each of them and makes finding the winner difficult.
Chu Chu Percy struggled to catch Knockaderry Flyer at Paxford, but will be fitter as a result of that outing, while Gottagottagetaway made hard work of beating Vic the Vandal at Woodford, although that is not reflected in the winning margin.
Grove Cottage was also successful at Paxford and his connections are adept at finding winning opportunities and he is one for the shortlist.
Poncherelloa has won twice this season but has not beaten anything of note and this is his stiffest task to date, and against vastly experienced rivals.
Very First Time set a strong pace over course and distance last month and at one time it looked as Hidden Charmer was struggling to catch him, but James King’s mount proved too strong in the closing stages, but the former now has a significant pull in the weights and result in a different outcome.
The meeting starts with the TBA Early NH Racing Imitative Maiden over 2-1/2 miles and the market always provides the best guide in these circumstances because a majority of the horses are making their racecourse debuts.
Bradley Gibbs has entered Askaden and Impression Chic so expect their odds to shorten if their schooling has been productive, while the Ellis/Andrews combination saddle Sweet Talking.
Hollow Ron must be feared it making the trip up from the West Country, while Fran Poste has entered La Gomera from her Ettington nursery.
Hindlip trainer Tom Weston relies on Court Well and his runners always run consistently in these types of events so you are sure to get a good run for your money.
The Maiden is likely to attract the biggest field but some of the runners need to improve their jumping techniques if they are to take a hand in the finish.
Phil Rowley’s Galassian has fallen on both outings this season. He had just taken the lead when departing at Shelfield Park and was challenging Rock House before suffering the same fate at the penultimate at Chaddesley. He must go close with a clear round.
Mooloolah was in contention when falling at Bitterley but has been given time to get over those exertions and that may pay dividends.
Barley Hill has been placed on three occasions but finds winning difficult, a remark that also applies to Annabel Murphys runner Friary Land and the remaining runners will struggle to make an impact.
The action takes place at Chaddesley Corbett Racecourse on Saturday, May 7 with the first race scheduled to start at 2pm.
Tickets for the event can be purchased at: https://www.chaddesleyraces.co.uk/tickets/