The Larkhill season opened with a high quality meeting for the Hursley Hambledon point to point where racing took place on perfect going which encouraged horses travelling from a distance and some excellent performances. Pride of place goes to Joe O’Shea who brought three horses from his Cheshire base and was rewarded with two impressive victories. There was a highly competitive young Maiden race where the first two home looked ones to follow if their future careers are under National Hunt rules and a Veteran race where the judge was unable to split the two principals and declared a dead heat.
Joe O’Shea is never shy to speak highly of his horses and their chances and prior to the competitive looking Mens Open race he was very bullish about the chances of Envious Editor who had already won easily at Knightwick on his seasonal debut. He was spot on with his thoughts about his charge as his eight rivals were brushed aside when his rider Henry Crow set off for home after the second last and had ten lengths in hand over his closest rival Doldido. Both Joe and his enthusiastic owner Peter Clifton have thoughts of Hunter Chases on the agenda for their progressive eight-year-old gelding with the Walrus at Haydock Park and the Aintree Foxhunters the likely targets for him in 2023. Joe advised that he had left his stable at 6.30am and had taken four hours to get to Larkhill but after this performance the journey home will have seemed a lot shorter.
Another trainer who travelled a distance from his Oxfordshire base was Alan Hill who was rewarded when I K Brunel ridden by Izzy Marshall won the Ladies Open race. Joe O’Shea saddled the favourite in this race but Williewonga blundered very badly at the third last and lost all chance of winning the race. A new recruit to pointing the eight year old successful gelding had been in training with Olly Murphy but had reached his level and was struggling with his handicap mark. After the recommendation of both James King and Fergus Gregory Alan put together a syndicate comprising Martin and Lynn Redman, Maurice Thomas and himself. Delighted with his Larkhill success and very complimentary about Izzy’s riding ability Alan had no immediate plans for his charge but did add that ‘he would be going home to drink copious amounts of alcohol’ to celebrate the victory.
The meeting began with fifteen of the seventeen entries facing the starter in the four- and five-year-old Maiden race. The Tom Ellis trained Big City Roller ridden by Gina Andrews was expected to win but his chance evaporated by the time the field approached the second last when the unraced Mount Etna ridden by Martin McIntyre took up the lead . He was challenged all the way from the last by another newcomer Matchadam ridden by Tommie O’Brien and despite running green Matchadam prevailed by a short head. Owned by Stephen Macauley who missed the victory as he was at home in Downpatrick, he is trained by Eamonn O’Donnabhain who is head lad to Tom Lacey’s successful Herefordshire stable. Bought by Eamonn at the Tattersalls May 2021 sale for 24K Euros he is the only horse he trains in his lunchtime. It was a landmark victory for Tommie who was riding his 100th point to point career winner having started his riding at the comparatively later age of 23.
The Restricted race saw the smart looking Bold Conduct ridden by Natalie Parker defeat the recent Badbury Rings winner Another Furlough ridden by Josh Newman. An impressive point to point winner as a four-year-old in Ireland he was subsequently bought for 150K but failed to make much impression for trainer Colin Tizzard. Acquired by trainer Sally Alner as ‘a happy hacker’ the result left her speechless as her jubilant partnership celebrated their success. Running in the colours of Jill Miller the Fourofakind Partnership consist of her, Kevin Simpson, Sally and Tina Wilson he was always travelling well and when Natalie asked him to quicken, he was too good for the favourite. Explaining the transformation from his poor National Hunt form Sally did say that she had sorted out his back problems but was still amazed about his performance.
The Veteran race had the smallest field of five horses and with the favourite Jett pulling up after the fourth fence the two other market principals Commanche Red ridden by Molly Landau and Shantou Flyer ridden by Olive Nicholls had the race between them. Matching strides for most of the three miles journey there was nothing between them at the line and after a referral to the video camera the judge called the result as a dead heat to the delight of both sets of connections. Commanche Red had been ridden by Freddie Gordon last season but this was the first time he had been ridden by Molly who works for Chris Gordon. Shantou Flyer had been Hunter chasing for David Maxwell but now in the ownership of Paul Nicholls for Olive to ride he is trained by Sam Loxton. Paul was present to watch his daughter and said that ‘Sam has done a really good job with the gelding as he only came into work at the beginning of October’
Joe O’Shea added his second victory on the card when Rabble Rouser ridden by Henry Crow comfortably won the finale the Open Maiden. Owned by Peter Clifton he is by the stallion Aizavoski who also happens to be the sire of Envious Editor and was bought by his owner at Doncaster from Tom George’s stable for £3000. Describing the gelding as ‘just my cup of tea’ he sent him to Joe whose stable he described as ‘man school’ and hopes that he has unearthed another potential star. Henry riding his first winners at Larkhill is currently studying Economics and Finance at Bristol University but lives half an hour from Joe’s stable and rides out regularly.