A good sized crowd attended the Larkhill Racing Club meeting where the going became more testing after some rain during the afternoon and as a result several of the fancied horses did not run up to their expectations. There were several good finishes notably the Ladies Open where the judge could not split the first two past the post, a close finish in the Mens Open where the rider of the winner was riding his first ever winner, a trio of 16 year old riders filling the places in the Novice Riders Race and a well -judged ride in the finale on a horse who had been rescued as a yearling.
The meeting began with a comfortable victory by Maitree Express ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen beating his market rival Beau du Brizais ridden by Will Biddick in the Conditions race. Both had raced at Barbury Castle in December and whilst Beau du Brizais had won a similar race to this one Maitree Express had come up against two good rivals in the Open Race. Owner and breeder Robert Waley-Cohen stated that his gelding prefers better ground and that the going at Barbury was softer than he would have liked. Always tracking his main rival Sam made his move after the second last and had eight lengths in hand at the line. His dam Shatabdi is a half -sister to Rajdhani Express who won the Topham Chase at Aintree in 2015 for the Waley-Cohens.
Southfield Theatre made his usual bold show when leading all the way in the Ladies Open under Lily Bradstock. After main market rival Sametegal had unseated Olive Nicholls at the seventh fence the gallant 14 year old gelding looked like he was going to hold off his remaining five rivals but the softer ground did not help him and as the winning post neared he was joined by Master Dancer ridden by Lauren Reed to force a dead heat. Describing Southfield Theatre as someone ‘who loves life’ Sara Bradstock had nothing but praise for him and his attitude to racing. The connections of Master Dancer Garth Whisker and Derek Prettejohn both from Clayhidon in Devon were thrilled with the success of their gelding who is in training with Stuart Sampson. Previously with Tim Vaughan he had won on the flat and twice over Hurdles before joining Stuart’s yard two seasons ago. Stuart described him as a horse who ‘loves to battle’ and enjoys passing rivals. Lauren who works for Stuart was riding her third career winner remarked that her only previous ride at Larkhill had been when she was unseated off Chill Factor so she was delighted to have recorded an initial success at the Wiltshire course.
The Maiden race had a field of thirteen horses but the Bradley Gibbs owned, trained and ridden gelding Hugueneau proved much too good for his rivals and was in total command from some way out. After his closest pursuer Dorset Diamond unseated Charlie Sprake at the second last the winner sauntered home unchallenged. Bought by Bradley privately in Ireland having run four times in that country he is likely to be heading to the sales at Doncaster at the end of this month although ideally Bradley would like to keep him at his base near Hatfield if he can find an owner for him.
The Mens Open race appeared to be between the winners of their last Open races namely Gran Paradiso and Igor. Neither seemed to enjoy the softer going and it was the Bradley Gibbs ridden Tel’Art and Wagner ridden by Beau Morgan who made most of the running. When the last named dropped away the Phil Rowley trained Salvatore looked a danger to Tel’ Art but it was the quietly ridden Moratorium who challenged at the last and stayed on to win by half a length. Ridden by his trainer Myles Osborne this was the 20 year old’s first ever winner having had several rides under rules and sixteen previous point to point rides. Myles who works for licensed trainer Ben Pauling was taking over the ride from friend Nathan Green who had ridden the gelding to success at Dunsmore and Wadebridge. Bought out of Gordon Elliott’s stable for 10K at Goffs sale in September he had shown some good form in Ireland notably when third behind Envoi Allen at Down Royal and now looks a good prospect for his connections.
The progressive Footloose took another step forward when comfortably beating Olly Norse in the Restricted race. Owned, trained and ridden by 18 year old Arron Butterfield he is still a quirky horse who wears a hood in his races but the attentions of groom Gwyn Marsh in the paddock seem to keep the lid on him in the preliminaries. He had shown form for both Jamie Snowden and Harriet Brown but the change of scene to Toomer Farm near Henstridge seems to have transformed him. Arron riding his second career victory now works part time for Colin Tizzard and then does the work with his two horses at Toomer.
The Novice Riders race attracted much interest with the riding debut of Freddie Gingell grandson of Colin Tizzard following his sixteenth birthday and the two other sixteen year old riders Olive Nicholls and Freddie Gordon in the field aboard Monsieur Gibraltar and Captain Buck’s respectively. . Freddie Gingell aboard Molineaux set a good pace in the lead and enjoyed some tremendous jumps from his partner who was still in front jumping the second last. However Olive had been following Freddie all the way and produced her mount at the last and drew away on the flat to record her second career victory from four rides. Now owned by her father Paul and John Bolton and trained by Will Biddick the gelding was recording his seventh career victory at Larkhill. Both Olive and Freddie Gingell have known each other for many years having been at Pony Club since the age of 5 and have been pony racing against each since the age of 8. They now look to be going to have many point to point duels over the forthcoming season for racegoers to watch out for.
The concluding race the Maiden over 2 miles and 4 furlongs looked to be going to the favourite Satellite Receiver trained by Chris Barber and ridden by Will Biddick. A half- brother to the Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere he set off in front and looked to have beaten off the attentions of his rivals jumping the third last but passing the dolled off next fence his stride started to shorten and he came back to his field allowing Nuova Vita ridden by Chloe Emsley to take advantage and draw away on the flat. Owned by Elaine Berrington originally from Gloucester but now living in Wales and trained by Ed Walker the six year old had shown some promise last season and was still in touch when unseating at the last meeting at Larkhill. When asked how she came by the gelding Elaine explained that ‘ I rescued him as he had been dumped as a yearling and was in a very poor condition’ He is now a big strong gelding and his name which translates as New Life seems entirely appropriate in view of his early years.