by Fred Sampson
(of Equestrian Cornwall -

The journey from Ottery was uneventful really, only a little conversation like:

Fred: Can I borrow a few quid for tomorrow?
Ruth: Yes!
Fred: Can I have it now?
Ruth: Certainly!
Fred:  Thank you Ruth!

Life is just one big bowl of cherries!  Later that evening as we dined, me on mackerel patė with red onion marmalade followed by stilton stuffed mushroom in filo pastry and Ruth had her normal amount of Australian Shiraz (large glass) with smoked duck followed by wild boar sausages followed up by delicious sweets, wonderful coffee and then to find the two ladies on our table were also P 2 P/Horse enthusiast – well what more could one ask for! A truly lovely evening and off to our Bed and Breakfast to an address we found in our copy of Stay on a Farm.

This was also a big hit with us.  Church Farm at Steeple Ashton is the home of the Cottle’s and they provided us with excellent accommodation, lovely food for our breakfast, friendly people and we will definitely go back when we need to stay in that area.  Mrs Cottle had put an extra log on the lounge fire so that we could come back from our evening meal and relax but unfortunately after such good food at The Lamb on The Strand Inn we were ready for bed.

This was our first visit to Larkhill so the ‘walk the course’ took a little longer than usual as after all, we have it on good authority, that it is the biggest and widest course in the British Isles – yes Exeter is quite a walk round but this is bigger.  Lovely weather and the sound of the larks made the distance much shorter.

I was on the lookout here, it being a military meeting, for the owner of BARRYSCOURT LAD who ran at Wadebridge and has been knocking at the post at this course and Sandown and who will be running in the Military Gold Cup this Friday.  We have exchanged emails, the details of which you no doubt have read on my pages, but never met.  Imagine my surprise when I found her – this charming young lady, whose title is Major J F Holmes RAVC MRCVS, was one of the duty vets for this day.  Lovely smile and full of enthusiasm about winning on Friday.  Good luck Jo!

The going was ‘Good’ – ‘Good to Soft in Places’ when four went to post for the Hunt Members race.  With my borrowed money I was keen to invest but the price of the favourite, P York’s AMBER LIFE, dampened my spirits.  Not to worry, he unseated his rider last time so I will rely on the family horse-CHASING DAISY to recoup some of yesterday’s mistakes.  For the first circuit the lead changed between AMBER LIFE and CHASING DAISY with the other two runners, Dr G Kerr’s LIVE WIRE and Claire Llewellin on her TOUCHING DOWN.  With four fences remaining the field was beginning to string out with AMBER LIGHT leading CHASING DAISY being several lengths clear of the other two.  Rounding the turn and running for home CHAISING DAISY was not giving up but barring mishaps, AMBER LIFE had it sewn up – now the last –Whoooppsee!!- Out of the saddle goes Mr P York and yes- CHASING DAISY goes on to win by some 30 lengths from LIVE WIRE and the lovely and excited Miss Claire Llewellin bringing in TOUCHING DOWN into third place.  I immediately paid Ruth back what I had borrowed and put the kettle on!

The Confined Hunt Race was to be contested by seven runners and I see the jockey change for horse number 6, Mr and Mrs P Morgan’s ICKFORD OKEY is to be in favour of Ben King who replaces Emily Jones.  Now I know Emily was disappointed not to win on this horse when it last ran as things happened when she looked in a very favourable position but she is off  ‘poorly’ at the moment with a collar bone not quite in the right place, so get well soon Emily and see if Ben will give the ride up easily.  Young Mr King is just 18 years old and including this ride his stats are 6 wins from 25 rides.  A young man to watch!  ICKFORD OKEY was an early leader but with 18 fences to jump, anything could happen.  As the field came into view at the far end of the course on the last circuit, it was Mr Underwood’s LEGAL STORM who had gone up to join ICKFORD OKEY, these two being five or six lengths to the good of H Manners’s PONTABULA (A Charles-Jones), Ruth’s choice.  PREMIER BAY (C Williams) continued to make ground from being held up back in the field.  Five from home ICKFORD OKEY made a bad mistake and the commentator announced that it had probably knocked the stuffing out of him and it was remarkable how Ben King remained intact. No one told this horse about ‘stuffing’.  From flag fall to finish, Ben King had kept ICKFORD OKEY up to his work and made every bit of the running and he crossed the line a well deserved five lengths winner over PONTABULA in a time of 6m 23 secs, with a fast finishing STRONG TEA (J Maxse) in third place. 

The Larkhill National Mixed Open Race over 4 miles followed and now I am sure I have the winner all picked out.  I wander around the paddock with the look of knowledge that those who ‘know a thing or two’ wear and wait for the clever bookies to try and beat me this time.  Dig out the wallet, watch the prices closely, prepare to rush for the best price – this is the strongest link!  As soon as the prices went up so did I and placed my total investment on a sure winner!  Have you heard it all before but to my surprise my charge went around this course like a true professional, four miles and twenty two fences and not one mistake until the last fence and then……… but early on J Studd’s MINERS DANCE (C Studd) led the way going twenty lengths in front and possibly more at some stage.  This is a little frightening as my investment is ‘being held up at the rear’ – whew! Am I glad its four miles!  The favourite, J Boulter & Miss F Wilkins’s STARPATH (M Miller) was in midfield and going well and so were quite a few others with a circuit to go.  MINERS DANCE still leading by a clear advantage – 12 lengths.  Going down the hill for the final time I heard that my charge had gone up to dispute third and to be truthful, it looked like second in my shaking binoculars, now this is good news.  J & E Hannum’s COOLREE LORD (J Hannum) was third at the next fence but MINERS DANCE is now showing signs of slowing, maybe a breather is in order.  At the first of the remaining five fences to be jumped on the way home, it was MINERS DANCE by about 3 lengths followed by my choice followed by the favourite, STARPATH, who was going well. COOLREE LORD was slipping back through the field now.  Three fences from home I was beginning to scream, my choice Mr D Pipe’s DARAYDAN ridden by A Farrant was on his way and pulling away from the favourite STARPATH.  MINERS DANCE was overtaken by Mrs F Bishop’s LEON GARCIA (T Bishop) for a while but my DARAYDAN was not going to be beaten and with only one fence to jump I was confident the money was mine.  At the last – whooooppssee! whew! Any less jockey than Mr Farrant would have been on the floor but this man made a remarkable recovery and went on to win the National by 25 lengths with the extremely tough MINERS DANCE in second place, LEON GARCIA, third and STARPATH, back in fourth.  It was lovely feeling as I made my way to the bookies but not before ensuring that a certain Mr Farrant – WEIGHED-IN!

Celebrations in the paddock when K Roger’s RAIN DELAY (R Rogers) won The Confined Maiden Race were a joy to behold.  It is lovely when the horse and jockey obtain their first win.  This one did it by a distance from P Maggs ROCKHOLM LAD (A Charles-Jones) ahead of the third horse R Cook’s BAVARD PUSH (D Alers-Hankey) by just a short head.

The Intermediate Race was a non-event.  Only two entrants, J Sheppard, W Rayner & Polly Curling’s POSH AS YOU LIKE (C Heard) and M Rowe’s TRAVELLING JACK (N Harris).  The start was a complete fumble.  Neither jockey wished to take the lead and it was nothing more than a hack round for both of them with eventually the two horses racing as in five-furlong sprints.  Not the business of Pointers and I would expect both horses to be out again soon.  Disappointing!

Ten went to post out of 33 entries for The Restricted Race and I had been assured that this would be a competitive event.  I backed Miss Tabitha Cave to win on T Whitley’s SWINCOMBE because although his wins have been in Members, the competition in those Members has been more than a little above normal.  Run 5 won 3, not bad!  On it goes!  Two were out of the race early – one slipped and the other brought down.  The field became strung out with large distances between the leader who was the favourite at the start, J Frampton and A Coombes’s WHATASHOCK (E Tory) and SWINCOMBE followed further back by A Mason’s LOVE AT DAWN (B King) and Mrs Tutte’s JOLIE ROSLIN (Mrs M Roberts).  The field was decimated!  On rounding the turn and lined up to take the last was WHATASHOCK a distance ahead of SWINCOMBE and JOLIE ROSLIN a further distance back in third.  Well my money is gone again as there is only one obstacle to clear with no pressure whatsoever and Miss Tory has the race at her mercy and WHATASHOCK will make this three wins in a row this year – last fence – whoops! Met it all wrong, hit the top and he’s gone over – look! Guess what! Here come SWINCOME a distance in front of any challenger and putting Fred in the money again.  Not yet, wait until Tabitha gets over the last – yep, no problem.  Not a bad day after all.  Someone remarked that SWINCOMBE won by ‘default’, what ever that is.  I disagree! The Restricted Race was over three miles with 18 fences; if you only jump 17 fences then you don’t win!  Hard I know but it is the case.  I was told to shut up which I willingly did and went to pick up my money.

Next week it’s the turn of the Seavington Hunt at Little Windsor and Black Forest Lodge for the South Devon Foxhounds P to P – be there!  Oh! Didn’t Fanfaron do well at Taunton?  Fred