An exciting afternoon's racing took place at Larkhill last Sunday when the Hursley Hambledon held their point-to-point. The weather was kind to racegoers who were able to enjoy the racing in dry and pleasant conditions with the rain that fell the day before easing the ground to what riders described as good going. The Mens Open race had a dramatic conclusion, Aikideau was a smooth winner of the Ladies Open race and the riding honours went to Martin 'Fly' McIntyre who secured a double.
The Moore Blatch Mens Open race was a high quality affair with several National Hunt winners amongst the ten strong field. The race turned into a virtual match over the last three fences with Lilbitluso ridden by replacement jockey Will Biddick substituting for the injured John Matthias duelling with Real Milan ridden by Jack Jones.
They were still locked together at the last fence with Real Milan possibly looking if he was getting the better of the argument when Lilbitluso fell at the fence leaving Real Milan to come home for an easy victory. Real Milan has been a revelation for the Jones family who train near Ross-on-Wye for whom this is their only horse.
Bought out of Donald McCain's yard he ran some good races last season before winning three races at the end of last season for his novice rider. Trained by Nick Jones he reported afterwards that he thought that he might be a better horse this season and is a laid back character who 'could be ridden through the middle of Gloucester without turning a hair'. He ran well in the Coronation Gold Cup last season and this could be a target for the gelding. His young rider, 21who is now a pupil assistant for Kim Bailey was securing his fourth career victory.
Aikideau got Champion trainer Jack Barber's season off to the best possible start by comfortably winning the Ladies race under Bryony Frost. The leading horse in the Wessex area for last season picked up where he finished off and despite being faced by another strong field headed by favourite Grand Gold the gelding relished the good ground and won by six lengths. Bryony said that she thought the leaders had gone off too fast but when asked to win his race from the second last the result was not really in any doubt. The plan is to continue to target Ladies races in the area and on this form he will be hard to beat. Victoria Pendleton introduced her new horse Vesperal Dream in this race but he did pull hard and then crashed through the wing of the eighth fence. Fortunately both rider and horse were unharmed.
The meeting began by Shantou Breeze winning the Hunt Members race for Michael Madgwick and ridden by his 21 year old grandson Lance. Tracking the leader Tommo until the 13th fence the mare took it up and held off the renewed challenge of Tommo ridden by Oz Wedmore to win by six lengths. Trained by Michael at his base in Denmead, Hampshire where he holds a dual licence this is his only point-to-point horse who is proving to be a good schoolmaster for Lance who is now his assistant trainer. This was Lance's second career win.
Martin McIntyre's first winner came courtesy of Coolharbour Joe who held off the Jack Barber trained Amzac Magic by two lengths in the Restricted race. Will Biddick gave up his other rides following his earlier fall and Amzac Magic was partnered by Jack's cousin Christopher Barber. The winner trained by Peter Hammersley at Appleby Magna in Leicestershire is his first venture into point-to-point racing as he is much better known in Arab racing circles where he currently has 18 Arab horses to race. Explaining that he had not been to Larkhill since they last held an Arab meeting Peter said that ' he was thrilled to bits and the round trip of over 300 miles was well worth it' He added that his normal rider Max Kendrick was unavailable and Fly had been recommended to him in view of his past Enda Bolger connections.
Fly completed his double in the last race of the day the Open Maiden when partnering the Ben Clarke trained Titans Approach to a comfortable win. Owned by three local Crewkerne businessmen Alex Baldock, Adrian Patterson and Richard Cooper who are known as the Chair Partnership the gelding had been bought by Ben at the Doncaster August Sales for £7,000. Previously trained by Graeme McPherson he had been placed in a bumper, over hurdles and fences and used his experience to beat Orchardstown Cross owned and trained by Tom Malone for whom this was a most promising run. Ben who is based at Woolminstone near Crewkerne has nine horses in his stable and hopes that Fly will be available to ride most of these this season.
The Members Conditions race attracted the biggest field of 15 facing the starter with Anquetta ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen just holding off the attentions of Porlock Bay ridden by Gina Andrews by a neck. The winner who has won six chases in his long career was bought by Robert Waley-Cohen in 2013 and triumphed for him at Market Rasen in a valuable race in 2014. Now at the vintage stage of his career and described by his rider as a ' wily old fox' he showed that he could just last home over three miles and remains competitive in these sort of races. His owner explained that he was just not right last season but hopes that those problems are now behind him.