A decent crowd at Larkhill enjoyed a competitive day’s racing where the weather took a turn for the worse as the meeting progressed and the visibility made it difficult to see how the races unfolded. There were a number of firsts among the six winners and the highlights were the victories of Viroflay in the Ladies race and Regatta De Blanc in a very competitive Restricted race. Away from the racing it was confirmed that the lease for the next 25 years had been finally signed thus securing the future of the course for the immediate future, which is a real shot in the arm for the future of point to pointing.
The young horse Maiden looked a competitive race with ten of the eleven entries facing the starter. The fall of Casting Aspersions at the second last fence when travelling well looked to have presented the race to Glenmount ridden by James King but staying on best was My Lucky Star ridden by Rob David and trained by Harry Ryall. The 4-year-old filly was having her first race for her connections The My Lucky Star Partnership consisting of Harry, Matt Morton and George Rogers. Bought by Harry at Doncaster in May for £8000, she was described as ‘being very weak but had strengthened over the summer’ and they had been hopeful that she would put in a good performance. Rob,28, was recording his second victory for Harry this season who he now works for and his fifth overall win in England. In addition, he had a spell in Australia where he rode four winners but remains eligible for rides in the Grassroot series. The filly is quite likely to be entered in a forthcoming sale and Rob was keen to stress that she ‘will stay further and is one for the future.’
Viroflay was a comfortable winner of the Ladies race and recorded his third course victory for his owners Paul Nicholls and John Bolton. Making most of the running for his usual pilot Olive Nicholls he put in a number of bold leaps and had his main rival I K Brunel in trouble as they approached the second last. This was Olive’s first training success with her first runner from her yard alongside her mother Georgina at Kingston Lisle Oxfordshire where she has a number of youngsters which she hopes to run in point-to-point Bumpers in the spring. Viroflay is likely to return to Larkhill again with the defence of his 2023 Coronation Gold Cup triumph on his agenda and a possible tilt at Hunter Chases in the spring.
The Mens Open produced the longest price winner of the day when Teescomponentsfly ridden by Jack Stenhouse prevailed by a neck over Mitchouka ridden by Charlie Case. Trained by Mike Vanstone at Rackenford Devon for the Borders Club who consist of Mike and John and Karen Stenhouse who are the parents of Jack. Jack hails from Galashiels on the Scottish borders and having ridden a few times in the North he decided to move south in July to join the licensed yard of Linda Blackford and her partner Mike. The horse was bought for him to ride point to points and he has now given his 18-year-old rider his first career victory. Explaining his first run at Badbury Jack said that ‘the gelding found it much too soft’ and ‘this better ground suited him well.’
The Restricted race was a much-anticipated race with a number of promising sorts amongst the eight strong field. The unbeaten Coolagh Park ridden by Izzie Marshall set off in front and was followed for much of the race by Douglas Longbottom ridden by Martin ‘Fly’ McIntyre and Regatta De Blanc partnered by Will Biddick. At the second last Will sent his mare to the front and he soon went clear to record an impressive victory for the unbeaten mare. Owned by the Pendil Partnership headed by Rupert Swallow, the mare was welcomed into the winners enclosure by a large number of the partnership to loud cheers. Rupert has a goal of attracting 3000 members to the partnership for 21- to 40-year-olds at £75 per share and broadening the interest in horse racing both under rules and point-to-point racing. Will, who is now based at his new establishment at Queen Camel Yeovil on his father -in- law Rupert Nuttall’s farm was saddling his first winner from the yard and is likely to be the first of many. The mare will remain pointing this season and possibly next with one of the Hunter Chases at Cheltenham in May a likely long-term target.
Olive Nicholls secured a double on the day when steering the veteran Shantou Flyer to victory in the Veterans Race. Approaching the age of 14, the gelding owned by Paul Nicholls and trained by Sam Loxton shows no sign of slowing down and despite his welter burden of 12stone 10 pounds his class showed when defeating Myth Buster ridden by Lily Bradstock. Described by his trainer as the ‘yard 3-year-old’, he will continue to run in points and may also run in Hunter Chases again this season.
Martin’ Fly’ McIntyre set off in front aboard St Patrick’s Bridge in the concluding Maiden race and after fending off the attentions of Imaginaire ridden by Ed Vaughan he drew clear on the flat. Owned by the Fergal O’Brien Partnership 4 and arranged by Sally Randell, he had placed form over Hurdles and now in the care of Myles Osborne an ambitious programme had been planned for him before his pointing debut. Myles explained that ‘the Intermediate final at Cheltenham in May is the goal’ and expressed his gratitude for the chance to train the gelding for the partnership. Intended to be ridden by Tom Broughton, a broken collar bone last Monday had changed the riding arrangements but Fly proved to be an admirable substitute for the gelding.