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Avon Vale at Larkhill
Saturday 30th March 2019
by Bob Bracher

Larkhill was bathed in spring sunshine and with the skylarks singing the Avon Vale point to point took place on Saturday in the presence of a decent crowd who enjoyed an afternoon's racing albeit that horse numbers were affected by the low entry and the faster going. The family dog show and trade stands were well attended and on the course the highlights were a first winner for the promising Fergus Gillard aboard Top Chief, a second career win for Freddie Procter on Theatre Evening and a return to form of Doctor's Differ ridden by George Hiscock.

The feature race, the Mixed Open, only attracted two runners but until three fences from home it was not certain which of the two runners was going to prevail. Freddie Procter riding Charlotte Brown's Theatre Evening urged his mount into the lead before the second last and drew away from his rival Beggar's Velvet ridden by Amy Cox to win by five lengths. Trained by Charlotte's sister Harriet at Mappowder near Dorchester Theatre Evening has been enjoying his racing this season and Charlotte put this down to being regularly hunted with the South Dorset by her. Charlotte who rode Theatre Evening to be third in the Hunt race last week at Milborne St Andrew was still elated after her ride but did admit that if she had been rather more race fit the result could so easily have been different. Harriet who was recording her first winner of the season was pleased to be able to give Freddie a winner as he has been helping them a great deal this season with the horses in the yard.

The Confined race also went to a horse with a Hunter's Certificate from the South Dorset in the form of Doctor's Differ ridden by George Hiscock and owned by George's father Dick. Last seen in January when pulling up he was found to be a sick horse and in order to give him time to recover he was rugged up and put out on the hill above the family farm during the worst days of winter and this seems to have cured him of his ills. Enjoying the faster surface he managed to hold off the persistent challenge of the El Tanner owned Bedrock Fred ridden by Danny Burton by a length and a half.

El had connections with the walkover in the following race namely Thechampagnesonice which she bred. Now owned by Stuart Radbourne and trained by Mark Alston at Charlton St Peter near Devizes this was Mark's first winner although he had hoped that this would have come from a proper race. The son of rules trainer Eric Alston, Mark has a long background in racing and hopes that the mare might find another race and indicated that an entry at Barbury Castle will be next on the agenda.

Dandan ridden by Tristan Durrell and trained by Francesca Moller near Banbury upset the odds when beating the favourite High Hatton ridden by Jack Tudor in the 10 year old Conditions race by fifteen lengths. Tristan who works for Dan Skelton was recording his sixth career victory including a winner under rules with this being his first at Larkhill. Francesca who only has two horses in training described Larkhill as ' a very lucky course for her and her owners' and added that her gelding relishes the faster surface which was a deciding factor in beating his much higher rated rival.

There was another match in the Open Maiden race with Alan and Jane Walter's mare Mahler Style ridden by Natalie Parker staying on well to beat Chapel Rock ridden by Nathan Vergne by six lengths. Bought privately from Tim Dennis Alan commented that he had been waiting for the faster ground for the mare as she had run most her races in both Ireland and England had been on much softer ground which he did not think suited her. Alan did add that as part of the purchase he would now have to pay more to Tim Dennis now that a Maiden victory had been achieved.

After the departure of Gingili at the ninth fence Top Chief drew right away from his remaining rival Kinari to record the easiest win of the day in the Novice Riders race. Owned by Terry Hamlin and John Gardener and trained by Stuart Sampson he is the model of consistency and is hardly ever out of the first two. He has an enviable record of giving novice riders their first winner commencing with Jake Bament, then Christopher Barber, Rex Dingle, Bryan Carver and he added another name to that role of honour when Fergus Gillard secured his first victory. Fergus, 16, son of trainer Mark Gillard from Sherborne, rode 35 pony race victories before turning his attention to National Hunt racing and point to pointing. Now with David Pipe and under the tutelage of Ray Alford he enjoyed a trouble free ride on the gelding and looks a young rider to follow.


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