A bright cold but sunny day welcomed a very healthy crowd who enjoyed some good racing at Larkhill on Sunday when the Hursley Hambledon held their meeting. Reflecting on the day retiring secretary Victoria Cobden reported that they had had a successful meeting and that there had been a large number of etickets sold before the day. On the racecourse there were victories for two riders celebrating their second point to point career victories, another rider who finally put his Larkhill jinx behind him and a very popular winner for the evergreen Tom Barton and his enthusiastic lady owners.
Tom Barton was recording his tenth point to point victory when winning the Ladies Open Race ridden by Natalie Parker. Always prominent he was left in front following the departure of TB Broke Her at the fourth last fence and he had too much in hand to beat Grageelagh Girl by four lengths. Clearly benefitting from his seasonal debut at his favourite course Badbury Rings earlier in the month his trainer Sally Alner who rides him in all of his work at home reported that ‘he has never been better’. She did add that going right-handed was not his preferred option but this did not stop him.
Cheltenham De Vaige was a very comfortable winner of the Men’s Open race over the shorter trip of 2 and a half miles. Ridden for the first time by Bradley Roberts he tracked the leader Capitaine ridden by Will Biddick for most of the race until taking it up after jumping the last ditch and drew clear on the run in. Owned by Matt and Sally Burford and trained by Hannah Lewis he is an enigmatic character who is walked to the start in each of his races as he is liable to bolt if allowed to canter down. Matt and Sally hope that he will be able to run at the Cheltenham Hunter Chase evening in May as he prefers faster ground. Bradley,21, was recording his second career point to point having won his first at Barbury Castle in 2017. Originally, he was based with Tim Vaughan but then moved to David Loughnane where he rode 5 winners as an amateur on the flat. A year ago, he moved to Graeme Macpherson and following his merger with Fergal O’Brien Bradley is now working for Fergal where Cheltenham De Vaige had been based whilst running in the summer.
James King opted to ride at Hexham but he missed a winner at Larkhill when the Max Comley trained Knockaderry Flyer made all to win the Veteran Horse Conditions race. Max had rung Darren Andrews on Wednesday to ask if he could be on standby if James was not available and Darren was pleased to be given the chance. Speaking afterwards Darren said that this was his first ever winner at Larkhill and he had been convinced that this was a course that he was destined never to ride a winner. Max who currently has 20 horses at his yard in Naunton Gloucestershire advised that none of The Jump On Board Partnership were present to witness their winner as they had been partying late into Saturday night and were unable to get to the course.
The Tattersalls Four-Year-Old Maiden race was a match and for most of the race the two runners raced round together. The newcomer Olly Norse ridden by Tommie O’Brien and trained by James Ridley took it up in the final stages and had a two and a half lengths advantage at the line. A son of Dancingtilmidnight who won two point to points for Richard Barber and two hurdles for Harry Fry he was withdrawn from his intended Doncaster store sale by his breeder Di White-Hamilton and then offered for sale on Racehorse Trader. Bought by his current owner Charles Randall he was hunted by him as a 3 year old and looks a promising sort although the form of this race is difficult to evaluate.
The furthest traveller to Larkhill was Jo McCain and her son Toby McCain-Mitchell who brought Slievegar down from Cheshire to run in the Restricted race. After the departure of the favourite Lagonda at the third fence and the unfortunate carrying out by the loose horse of Arcal Fifty the long-time leader Schiap Hill was overtaken by Slievegar after jumping the last ditch and with a spectacular leap at the second last Toby and his mount soon put the race in safe keeping. This was Toby’s second career winner having opened his account on the same horse at Hornby Castle last season. Jo, sister to National Hunt trainer Donald, paying her first ever visit to Larkhill did add that ‘she had promised her dog that if the horse won, he would have some sausages on his way home’ so there was another happy animal in the horsebox.
The concluding race saw the closest finish of the day with The Big Sting ridden by Will Biddick holding off the challenge of Footloose ridden by Arron Butterfield on the run in. Owned by Phil Fry and trained by Chris Barber the six-year-old Scorpion gelding has taken his time to record his first success but as he is at least 17.2 hands it is not surprising that it has been necessary to be patient with him. Bought by Phil’s daughter Lorraine as a store at the age of 3 he had been trained by Harry Fry until this season but was transferred to Chris’s stable in the summer to see if a spell of point to pointing and fences would help with his career progression.