After a hiatus of over four months point to point racing resumes at Larkhill with the running of the Larkhill meeting on Sunday. When racing was last held back in December the experiment of allowing owners to attend took place and the good news is that owners in a party of six and sponsors will be allowed to attend this meeting in the Amber Zone. The strict rules of wearing face masks and social distancing will continue to operate as well as the priority for all attendees to pre-register for tickets by no later than noon on Friday 23rd April. Although some rain has fallen on the course within the last two weeks the going is reported to be firm with a good covering of grass. Several of the fences have been moved since the December meeting as well as the bends and with the weather set fair for the week it should be a most pleasant day on Salisbury Plain.
The feature race of the day the Stuart Jarrett Mixed Open race has attracted a quality entry of 12 horses headed by the veteran Green Winter trained by James Ridley. A regular at Larkhill he was last seen finishing runner up to Chameron in last season’s Coronation Gold Cup and a repeat of that form could be good enough. His rivals potentially are the prolific Robin Des People trained by David Brace who has returned to pointing and already secured a victory at Maisemore and a second at Mollington. Luke Price has entered both Ramble On who was second in the 4 mile race at Flete Park last Saturday and the thirteen year old Spencer Moon who was only seen once last season but before that was a regular visitor to the winner’ s enclosure. Another experienced thirteen year old is Ballyboker Breeze who has been in good form this season with a win in his Hunt at Maisemore and a second last Saturday at Chaddesley Corbett.
Local interest is headed by the mare Country Legend trained by Frances Bishop who has a good record at Larkhill and should come on for her last run at Cothelstone. Chill Factor trained by Will Biddick is a consistent sort but did run in the Flete Park 4mile race last Saturday. Dry Ol’Party will relish the faster surface but might find a few of these too good for her. Green Winter is chosen to give Zac Baker another Larkhill winner.
Southern Counties Auctioneers sponsor the Conditions race for which riders must not have ridden more than 15 winners in their career before the start of the season. The 12 entries include two who hold entries in the Mixed Open including Robin Des People and if this is the race chosen he would be one on the short list. More Buck’s trained by Mickey Bowen was pulled up in the Aintree Foxhunters but before that had won for Josh Barber at Maisemore. Tempelpirate has been a great servant for Tim Underwood and finished second in his Members at Kimble on his return to racing. He would be a popular winner. Thereyarsee is another course specialist but has not shown much form recently but hopefully will give his promising young rider Charlie Sprake a good ride. Luke Price has entered Blairs Cove an encouraging third at Charing and he would come into calculations but if Robin Des People runs he will take some beating.
The biggest entry of the day is the We Do Vans sponsored Intermediate race for which 14 horses have been entered. NormoftheNorth won his Hunt race at Kimble beating Tempelpirate and this improving seven year old trained by Alan Hill looks one to follow. However Luke Price has entered French Piece who has already won an Intermediate at Sandon and is unbeaten in his three Point to Point races for owner Jason Warner. He may well continue his perfect record. Arcal Fifty trained locally by Bea Coward was second at Cherrybrook but he is still searching for his Restricted victory. Laura Pomfret is not a regular visitor to Larkhill and her entry of Lords Park Star placed third at Higham should be noted.
The meeting opens with a Flat Race run over two miles. None of the 9 entries have appeared on a racecourse before so viewing in the paddock and their pedigree will be of paramount importance. Byron Moorcroft has entered the Sans Frontieres five year old mare Rosies Redemption and she is likely to have been well prepared. Kieran Price has the four year old Soldier of Fortune gelding Best Pal whereas the Max Comley trained Madame Verity is a half- sister to the winning Hurdler Cul De Poule. Of local interest are the Rachel Bartlett trained Dorset Dazzler bred out of Bobby’s Choice who racegoers will remember winning two point to points in the past and the Harriet Brown trained Towtheline a Black Sam Bellamy mare who is related to Levasseur placed in two Maidens for Philip Rowley.
The young Maiden race over two and a half miles is also short of form and both Rosies Redemption and Best Pal who are entered in the Flat race hold entries in this race. Craven Bay was third at Charing and this Alan Hill gelding might bring his experience to the fore under Tommie O’Brien. Snow Stoppin Him is an interesting entry for former jockey Mark Quinlan being a half -brother to the promising hurdler Getaweapon now trained by Kim Bailey but previously a point to point winner for Christopher Barber at Littlewindsor. Water Copse had a run in a Bumper at Wincanton for Seamus Mullins for owner James Young in February.
The concluding race for six year olds and over has attracted 10 entries with the intriguing entry of Evron for trainer Neil McLean and owners John and Floss Symes being one to look out for. Previously owned by Isaac Souede and Simon Munir he was placed in a four year old Chase at Auteuil before running for Warren Greatrex in three hurdle races where he did not show much form. Of his rivals Loodeen has been knocking on the door for several seasons and ran respectably at Cothelstone when the runner up to The Mighty Ash. Fun De Nuit was fourth in an Irish Maiden in May 2019 and is now owned by Carmen Goldsworthy who has had good horses in the past with Gareth Moore. Madame Hannah who has been placed in Bumpers made her debut over fences at Cothelstone and should improve from that run.
The curtain came down on a much depleted Larkhill season due to the pandemic when the specially organized April meeting was held on Sunday. Only 2 of the usual seven meetings were held in this much reduced season. The lack of much rain in April and the inability to water the course meant that the going was firm and although a healthy entry of 63 horses had been received the meeting only had 20 horses participating with the young horse Maiden being a void race as none of the entries declared to run. The highlights were a double for father and son trainers Keiran and Luke Price, a change of fortune for owner rider Gordon Hopkinson and another winner for the highly promising rider Daniel Ellis.
The opening race a Flat race over 2 miles for 4 to 6 year olds attracted a field of five runners none of whom had ever raced in public. James King aboard the 4 year old Soldier of Fortune gelding Best Pal set off in front and dictated the pace throughout and was a convincing 8 lengths winner at the line. Trained in Wales by Keiran Price for self -employed Llanelli builder Jason Rees this was Keiran’s first Bumper victory and Jason’s first winner at Larkhill on his first visit. Bought privately in Ireland he had been in training since November with Keiran and had been pleasing him at home. Jason has had point to point horses with a number of Welsh trainers in the past and he mentioned Corbett Court who had been in training with Paul Hamer and had won a race at Monmouth in 2019.
The runner up to Best Pal was the 5 year old mare Towtheline trained and owned by Harriet Brown at Mappowder near Dorchester. She was outpaced during the race but stayed on past her three other rivals to snatch second place near the finish. Bought by Harriet cheaply at Doncaster as a three year old this Black Sam Bellamy mare should benefit from her racecourse experience as she progresses.
The Intermediate race attracted the biggest field of the day with eight horses facing the starter. Long Mile Road ridden by James King led for much of the race but headed by Captiva Island ridden by Tommie O’Brien at the second last. Despite not jumping the last fluently he had too much in hand to hold off the finishing effort of Arcal Fifty ridden by Martin McIntyre. Owned in partnership by Ian Cobbold and Alan Hill he has taken time to recover his full fitness after having had a piece of birch stuck in his foot on his last visit to Larkhill in December 2019. This was part of an across the card training treble for Alan Hill who saddled two winners at High Easter. Ian Cobbold was present to watch his gelding triumph and recalled the successes of the prolific Dante’s Storm who won a total of 10 points and 3 Hunter Chases the later ones being after he had been transferred to Alan’s stable. Joe Hill representing his father indicated that a Hunter Chase at Fakenham may be the next target for the winner.
Arcal Fifty trained not far away from Larkhill by Bea Coward was recording his fourth runner up spot for his enthusiastic owners The Barrow Street Racing Club headed by Will Shields. Ironically it has been Tommie O’Brien the winning rider who has been on board Arcal Fifty on many of his outings since joining Bea’s stable in 2018.
After Spencer Moon walked over in the Mixed Open for trainer Luke Price and rider Will Biddick Gordon Hopkinson recorded his eighth career victory when riding his own Beau Sancy trained by Fran Nimmo in the Conditions race where the riders had not to have ridden 15 winners at the start of the season. Tracking the long-time leader Theatre Evening he look up the running at the third last and drew away to beat the favourite Tempelpirate by 10 lengths. Gordon, 32, a Corporate Tax Lawyer from Battersea described both his profession and his race riding as ‘adrenalin fuelled’ with the feeling of race success more fun. Sourced from Olly Murphy’s stable by Fran and her husband Charlie Poste for Gordon to ride to replace Black Jewel upon whom Gordon had recorded three of his successes. He had previously recorded a victory at Larkhill but lost the weight cloth on the run in and was subsequently disqualified. Gordon who has just become a father to a daughter Ivy was keen to thank his wife Martha for putting up with his race riding.
The easiest winner of the day was the success of My Little Cecil in the Maiden race ridden by 16 year old Daniel Ellis. Having only his sixth point to point ride this was his third career victory. The gelding made his debut at Higham earlier this month when ridden by Daniel and was pulled up. Taking up the lead at the 13th fence he drew right away from his two opponents in an impressive fashion. Bought privately from Ireland by Tim Sleath from Thornbury the Winged Love gelding may continue to improve. His young rider who will be 17 in June works full time for Christian Williams and paid credit to both Christian and his brother Nick for their help and support in his development as a rider. Another product of pony racing he has already had two winners in the Wessex area following his previous win at Cothelstone and looks a rider to follow for the future.