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South and West Wilts Review

Press Release 27th February 2024 Wincanton

By Robert Bracher

Larkhill hosted the only surviving meeting in the country following the continuing waterlogging seen in virtually all of England and Wales. Even Larkhill which can absorb the rain is showing the effects of the long-wet spell with those with longer memories struggling to remember how wet and trodden the paddock currently is compared to previous seasons. The majority of the South and West Wilts meeting was held in dry conditions, but the rain appeared after the Mixed Open with conditions worsening when the two Bumper races were run. The highlights of the meeting were Grace a Vous Enki continuing his love affair with Larkhill as part of a riding double for James King, an emotional winner in the Restricted, two very promising Maiden winners and two home bred winning the two divisions of the Bumper.

The Goffs sponsored four and five year old Maiden race transferred from the abandoned Kingston Blount meeting featured representatives from four leading yards and after Maxiboy Dagrostis ridden by his trainer Bradley Gibbs had led for much of the race the complexion changed after the second last.  Kykorock ridden by Zak Baker and Mister Carson the mount of Jack Andrews duelled approaching the last   but Zak describing his charge as ‘ like a missile’ soon drew clear on the run in to record an impressive victory. Picked up  by trainer Fran Nimmo for 14K Euro at the Tattersalls Ireland May 2023 store sale he has become very straight forward and had been showing up well at home and connections were hopeful of a good performance. He is next likely to be seen at a forthcoming sale.

The Pat Awdry Memorial Conditions race was at the mercy of I’m Spellbound ridden by Jack Andrews who had drawn clear of his eight rivals and only had the last fence to negotiate. However this proved to be the combinations undoing and their fall allowed Boss Man Fred ridden by James King to secure a fortuitous victory. Previously trained by Dan Skelton with whom he had won four Hurdle races he suffered a tendon injury in April 2022 and a long period on the sidelines was likely. Louis Gill who runs a video production company was carrying out filming at Dan’s yard and the gelding was recommended to him by Dan as a prospective pointer if he was prepared to give him time. Louis who heads the Cotswold Stars Partnership moved him to Max Comley during last summer and was delighted with the victory.

The sixteen runner Maiden sponsored by Woolley and Wallis proved to be a battle between Carryonaway ridden by Izzie Marshall and Catchim the mount of Tommie O’Brien but with the added assistance of a loose horse on the run in Carryonaway showed a good turn of foot on the run in to record a two lengths victory. Bought by Joe Hill and placed at Tabley last season, he was intended to then be sold but failed the vet and subsequently was bought by Joe’s father Alan.  Now owned by long term owner Heather Munn and Alan, he was another intended runner at Kingston Blount close to where Heather lives but paying her first visit to Larkhill the grey gelding made this a trip she will not forget. Izzie did remarkably well to survive a blunder at the last open ditch and with this victory is now only one winner behind Gina Andrews in the Ladies Riders Championship.

Grace A Vous Enki easily won the Lycetts sponsored Mixed Open race and in doing this recorded his fourth victory this season at Larkhill including the dead heat in the Coronation Gold Cup. Despite jumping left-handed as he has done on all his previous visits he was never troubled over the final fences with Hung Jury ridden by Toby McCain-Mitchell finishing a remote second. He has been a revelation since dropping back into points but his trainer Nicky Sheppard confirmed that there is no intention of a return to racing under Rules and that the goal this season is the Lady Dudley Cup which Clive and Joan Hitchings would dearly love to win. On the basis of the form he has shown to date he looks a serious contender for that race.

The Wessex Internet sponsored Restricted race provided the best finish of the day with Douglas Longbottom just prevailing over Chabichou Dupoitou ridden by James King by ½ length. Ridden by Martin ‘Fly’ McIntyre for Catherine Mitchell Fly explained that ‘I did not want to hit the front too early’  and he  timed his challenge to perfection. Bought out of Harry Ryall’s stable after last season, he had been runner up in both of his Restricted races this season and was not winning out of turn. Catherine explained that he had been bought for her husband John to ride which he does at Bea Coward’s stable once a week. It was an emotional victory for connections as not only had Catherine ridden a winner on Wellington Brown at this meeting in 1994 but also  that the stable had won this race in 2023 with Happy Day Emery who sadly they had lost at home before he made his seasonal  debut.

There was somewhat of a surprise winner in the Martin Haskett Agricultural Contactors Ladies Conditions race for riders who had ridden less than 20 career winners. After long term leader Mix of Clover unseated his rider Isabel Lovat at the third last the race developed into a match between L’Air Du Vent ridden by Megan Bevan and Nickolson the mount of Amber Jackson-Fennell with the former staying on stronger to record a first training success for Jemma Sargent who is one of the Barn Managers for Joe Tizzard’s National Hunt yard. This was unexpected as the gelding is not known to appreciate softer going as all of his best form is on a faster surface. Jemma said ‘ I look after him in one of Joe’s satellite yards and do all of the work with him in my break’ She added that she has not resumed her riding career following a fall but was very pleased for her friend Megan Bevan who works for another National Hunt trainer Harry Fry.

The rain had started to fall in time for the two divisions of the Bumpers sponsored by the JRL Group with the first division going to the once raced Swingingonthesteel trained and ridden by Heidi Stevens for owner/breeder Paul Nicholas from Exmoor. He stayed on well to beat Is Our Otis the mount of Tommie O’Brien by half a length. A delighted Paul advised that ‘ I bred the gelding and the dam who is a half-sister to Tempestatefloresco who won points for me before winning 5 races under Rules including the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter’ Heidi who works for trainer Victor Dartnall three days a week has seven pointers in her care for this season at Brayford on Exmoor.



The second division was won in more decisive fashion with Pyleigh Master showing a good turn of foot to draw clear from Dave’s Sister ridden by Toby McCain-Mitchell. The winner, a smart looking son of Blue Bresil, was bred by Robert and Tigger Pudd from their mare Pyleigh Lady who won two Hurdles for them. Ridden by Ella Herbison the gelding is a half brother to the prolific Go Steady the winner of eight races for Dan Skelton. He will be one to watch out for when he takes on fences in due course.





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