by Simon McInnes
Photos by Graham Fisher

With the twin evils of dubious weather and fast ground lurking in the foreground, a surprising number of hardy racegoers made the trip to Larkhill, negotiating extensive diversions around the closed A303. This was despite racing being put back an hour, and ironically the last two events were run in bright sunshine, which led to two fences being omitted in the closing race!  Sadly, the horses were not so resilient and in seven races, only twenty-one actually made it to post. Some arrived and decided not to run, and the decision to divide the maiden at entry did not stand the test of time. So all in all a disappointing day, with only the consolation of bumping into someone who gave me a bit of inside info on a mini-gamble that came off in the last race.

Saracen Horse Feeds Hunt Members
Three lined up and the departure of unregistered hunter Nariar at the fifth (he was already anchored by twelve pounds overweight), left it as a two runner affair. As the thoroughly ungenuine Legal Storm was one of them, the outcome was a formality. His rival, Hatch Gate, did not repeat the tantrum shown at the start last time and gradually asserted from five out.  When Richard Green accepted the situation on Legal Storm after the second last, both horses cruised home without being unduly harassed.

Ron & Ruth Rietdijk Confined
With fourteen other hunts qualified to supply runners, the second biggest field of the day was amassed - four. But it turned out to be an interesting tactical affair, and a close finish. Going away from the crowd, Nomadic Star looked to be struggling slightly on the fastish going, but around the far end of the track got back in contention and led six out. The margin was about four lengths when Nomadic Star was very slow approaching the fourth last and popped awkwardly over it. This gave Eastern Point a good chance to close, and once on the heels of the leader, she always looked a big threat. Both horses were all out at the finish, and Philip York on Eastern Point was predictably stronger than Zoe Lilly, who was conceding a great deal of race riding experience. The real difference was the stutter four out, as the winner did not look like she would have closed the gap without this helping hand from Nomadic Star - perhaps his concentration wandered. In his first point, Highcroft Boy was not greatly impressive as he dropped off of the leading pair six out and did not shape as if stamina was a strong point. On his return from a spell out injured Lord Esker had unseated early, and still looked as if this would bring him on. He tailed off just after halfway, having pulled hard early on, and hardly seemed poised to strike.

Title chasing Phillip York lands a double in the first two races at Larkhill
- easily on Hatch Gate in the Hunt race...

and rather more narrowly on Eastern Point in the Confined by a head from Nomadic Star

Larkhill National Mixed Open
At the entry stage, a cracking four miler was in the offing. On the day, two lined up for what will surely be the weakest open south of the Humber, until Peper Harrow. There will be no complaints from Annabelle Turner, who got her first career win at only the second attempt, on New Ross. He jumped soundly and was left alone six out, when Northern Bluff, who had gone left at every fence, finally hit one hard enough to get rid of David Turner. The fearless jock remounted, but two fences later, a minor mistake dashed him to the ground again, and Northern Bluff made a conspicuous point of staying just out of reach for catching. The hint was taken and completion was not attempted. A deserved retirement must be on Northern Bluff’s cards.

Not many can claim a winner in a"National" from only their second ride, but Annabelle Turner does just that as New Ross finishes alone in the four mile Mixed Open for the "Larkhill National"

Granite Lighting Design Open Maiden (Div I)
Three non-staying mares battled for the dubious privilege of being forced into pulling up at a slightly higher grade. The once raced Nearly Dark at least had the possibility of having improved for her debut, but she probably did not do so in coming home last of the trio. There was another thrilling finish, as Lydia’s Echo was pipped in the last few yards by Sula Queen. Having pulled her way to the front at the sixth, she looked set for a once in a lifetime experience - i.e. winning. However, after two out Sula Queen began to close. It seemed at first that Alan Michael was being complacent on board the leader, but when he asked for an effort there was nothing at all to give, and he had also failed to con David Turner into believing that his cause was lost, and it was Sula Queen who is now no longer qualified for a race she can be competitive in - being qualified in the West Country, I presume even her members is a decent race!

Lydia's Echo and Alex Michael appear nicely clear at the last but can't resist the fast finishing winner Sula Queen and David Turner in the Open Maiden Div 1

Granite Lighting Design Open Maiden (Div II)
Not unlike the previous division, except that there were only two runners. BB Boy made all at a slow but gradually increasing pace, and jumped surprisingly well considering his less than inspiring completion rate. On her second ever race, Chasing Buttercups gave chase, always looking in vain, until a slow jumped two out killed off her chances. So BB Boy could actually progress from this if his jumping holds together as it did today, and Chasing Buttercups may soon move into the giddy heights of finishing in front of another horse.

No such problems in the second division of the Maiden as this time Alex brings home the easy winner BB Boy

Paul & Debbie Abberley Countryside Alliance Club Members for Military Riders
The third match on the card, and it pitted a young and fairly enthusiastic hurdling convert against an old a totally disinterested one. Although they set off together the spritelier Teller Of Tales kicked on six out and soon had his rival’s goose cooked. Two slight errors failed to stop him and the win was sealed.  Unfortunately, the chasing Northern Fleet took a very heavy fall at the last, when very slow jumps at the two previous fences suggested that pulling up would have been a wiser course of action. However, Jody Sole appeared to claim that the sun, not fatigue, caused the fall, and the fences in the home straight were bypassed in the next.

Teller Of Tales (a son of Arazi) and Vicki Flood have no problems in winning the Countryside Alliance race for military riders

Richard Cook Ltd Restricted
After New Ross and Hatch Gate, we had the third winning grey on the card, to send the sentimental home happy in spirit, if not bountiful in wallet. After winning at the opening meeting of the season in a two and a half miler, Gray Knight had been a disappointing sixth next time. The fast ground was expected to suit him, and once James Tudor made a move for home approaching the new fourth last (the traditional last was missed out), none of his rivals appeared to have the toe to cope, although Gray Knight did have to be kept up to the task as Hello Roscrea plugged on in the last couple of furlongs. The battle for third saw Chief Suspect, whose one win came in a race that time has shed little bright light upon, get the better of Carrington House. The latter has won here this season, but looked today as if he did not get the three miles - when Gray Knight kicked on, he appeared the best bet for second. The last runner pulled up, but ran interestingly all the same. Lord Of Heaven was making his debut, and looked plenty fit enough. He dropped away from the pack on the left hand side, but for the next mile or so did not get any further behind.  Although almost certain to be last, he did not seem too tired when pulled up two out. There is probably much better to come at some stage.

The biggest field of the day enter the straight in the Restricted - left to right - Gray Knight (1), Chief Suspect (3), Hello Roscrea (2), Carrington House - obscured (4) and Lord of Heaven

James Tudor guides Gray Knight to victory past the fences in the straight and into the setting sun in the Restricted