APRIL 2004
by Brian & Gill Armstrong

A large crowd enjoyed a glorious sunny afternoon when the South & West Wilts Hunt held their annual point to point meeting on Saturday at Larkhill Racecourse. Highlights were first-ever wins for 30-year-old Sarah Corcoran, whose 5-month-old son Aidan was present as a spectator, and for 17-year-old A’ Level student Vicky Heal.

The opening Hunt race went to Just Lark and Ryan Bliss, who led three out and forged well clear of pacesetting favourite Darcey Mae. Just Lark is trained at Heytesbury near Warminster by Victoria Rickcord, who was given the horse three years ago as a hunter. Victoria, who was thrilled to win her Hunt race, evented Just Lark for a year before beginning his point-to-point career in 2003.

The 10-runner Open Maiden race was won by Wynford Eagle and Bristol University student Alex Merriam, who finished clear of Lord Of Heaven and only other finisher Roseacre. Wynford Eagle is trained at Bradford Peverell, near Dorchester, by Peter and Fiona Shaw for an emotional Winterborne Whitechurch owner Nicky Turner. Wynford Eagle was bought by Nicky from breeder Tigger Pudd at Doncaster May 2003 Sales on the recommendation of the Shaws, who trained half-sister Rossaleen, winner of a Folkestone Hunter Chase. Nicky was keen to credit rider Alex, a family friend deputising for Polly Gundry.

The Ladies’ Open went to Virtuoso, a first win from just five point-to-point rides for 30-year-old rider Sarah Corcoran. Virtuoso was bought privately from Brendan Powell by Sarah and husband Liam, who trains the horse at their Kingsbridge livery yard. Sarah rode as an amateur for Jonjo O’Neill and Mark Pitman on the Flat but had not considered riding in point-to-points until taking her first ride just two months ago.

The Men’s Open was won comfortably in a fast time by odds-on favourite Springford, who led after the 13th under Dominic Alers-Hankey. Springford is trained by Caroline Keevil – away at a wedding on Saturday and represented by husband Pat - from her livery yard at Charterhouse in the Mendips.  Owner, Bristol company director Michael O’Connor, estimates that he now has 400 trophies, many won by his large string of greyhounds.

The PPORA Club Members Novice Riders’ race went to Mr Ben Gunn who took the lead when leader Alex Thuscombe departed at the second last. This was a first-ever win for Vicky Heal, 17, a student at The Blue School, Wells. Mr Ben Gunn was bought privately from Jimmy Frost by Vicky and her parents, Winston and Rosemary, and is trained by Vicky at home at West Pennard, near Glastonbury.

The closing Restricted race was won by Trumper, only third at the last before staying on strongly under Rilly Goschen. Trumper was bought privately out of Josh Gifford’s yard by Midhurst trainer Andrew Lawes, who owns the horse in partnership with mother Daphne. The winner, who has not been out of the first two in five 2004 races, will probably now be put away until next season.