An excellent day's racing was enjoyed by all attendees at Larkhill on Sunday when the Hursley Hambledon held their point to point. Although there was a keen wind it remained dry and clear and a very healthy number of 74 runners took part in the six races. On going described by riders as between good and good to soft the course rode very well with the two Open races won by Southfield Theatre and Earth Storm being the main highlights of the meeting. Philip Rowley enjoyed a welcome winner at Larkhill from his Bridgnorth Shropshire base, Luke Harvey introduced his new purchase Raised with Praise who won the Maiden race and owner Clive Bennett celebrated a real landmark as an owner.
The Ladies race proved to be a competitive event with Ravished, the easy winner from Cottenham travelling from his Cheshire base, the Cheltenham 2019 Intermediate Hunter Chase winner Latenightpass and Southfield Theatre the winner of this race in 2018 being the three principals in a nine strong field. Lily Bradstock riding Southfield Theatre set off in front and despite the attentions of Ravished ridden by Immy Robinson on the run in Lily was able to hold off the favourite by half a length. Ridden by his trainer Sara Bradstock in his work she described him as 'a raving lunatic at home' but he did nothing wrong at the racecourse. He may take in a Hunter Chase during the season but will continue to race in Ladies races in the near future.
The Mens Open race was another very competitive heat with the favourite Earth Leader continuing his winning streak which now extends to his last six outings. The six year old gelding was one of the most improving horses from last season which culminated in two Hunter Chases. This was his first outing in Open company and he was too good for his market principals Let's Get At It ridden by Will Biddick and Theatre Territory ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen. It was left to Big Casino ridden by Zac Baker to chase home the favourite who was partnered by Angus Cheleda for the first time. Angus, 20, was in fact riding in his first ever point to point having previously been a Conditional rider based with Colin Tizzard for whom he rode four winners over a three year period. Now with Paul Nicholls as an amateur he is having another chance to restart his career and the connection with Rose Loxton's powerful stable will certainly give him every chance. From Yetminster, near Sherborne Angus has grown up with ponies and hunting but did not participate in pony racing. He looks a rider to look out for during the current season.
The Maiden race over the shorter trip of two and a half miles produced an unexpected winner in the form of Pass Rusher trained by Fran Nimmo and ridden by James King. His form from last season was uninspiring but he has strengthened considerably over the summer and was an easy winner from the favourite Butter Hill Boris ridden by Zac Baker. Bought by Fran as a 3 year old and owned by her and her husband Charlie Poste the future plans are rather uncertain according to his trainer. James King who comes in to ride for Fran and Charlie a couple of days a week also rides out for licensed trainer Olly Murphy and point to point trainer Alan Hill.
There was a red letter moment for owner Clive Bennett when his mare Miss Seagreen outstayed Magna Sam to capture the Restricted race. This was his 100th winner as an owner and this fifth generation mare epitomised the involvement Clive has had with a sport he loves which started with his first winner Public Relations at Maisemore Park in 1987. When asked how many horses does he have at present his instant response was 'Too many!' but later qualified it to ten horses. Ridden by Sam Jukes who trains Clive's horses, he tracked Magna Sam for most of the race but produced the mare to win by two lengths.
Philip Rowley admitted that he had not enjoyed much success in the past at Larkhill but rectified this when Salvatore ridden by Alex Edwards got the better of a duel with course specialist Coco Live ridden by Martin McIntyre. There was a maximum field for the Conditions race of twenty horses and this proved to be a strong race in quality as well as quantity. Salvatore who had improved throughout last season finished being third in the Intermediate final at Cheltenham in May, was cheered home by his part owners Di Cope and Sue Sharratt who had travelled from Staffordshire to watch him and the six hour round trip from Philip's Shropshire base would not have seemed so far on the way home.
Luke Harvey, a real point to point enthusiast as well as being an ITV presenter, introduced his new acquisition Raised with Praise in the final race, the Open Maiden. With the Tom Lacey owned favourite Harold's Arrow disappointing the race developed into a battle between On Parole ridden by Alice Stevens and Raised with Praise the mount of Darren Edwards. Darren got a strong run from his willing partner and prevailed on the run in. Bought by Luke at Doncaster in May he is known as 'Eric' at home as Luke explained that he gives the stable name to his horses based on previous trainers of the horse and this Getaway gelding is named after the Irish trainer Eric McNamara.