There was some really close finishes at the opening Wessex Point to Point meeting held at Larkhill last Sunday where the racing was of a high standard and racegoers had the bonus of an extra race when the Maiden race had to be divided because the number of entries exceeded the safety factor. The highlights of the meeting were training doubles for Rose Loxton from Ditcheat and Richard Bandey from Tadley, a first training winner for Laura Bradley who is based at Bramdean and a riding double for jockey Martin 'Fly' McIntyre.
The meeting began with the combined Hursley Hambledon and New Forest Hunts race where Swallowshide ridden by Bradley Paris-Crofts for Brockenhurst trainer James Young looked to have the race in the bag having jumped the last better than his rival One More Tune and quickly established a clear lead on the run-in. However his stride shortened nearing the post and Rilly Goschen galvanised her ride One More Tune to get up to win the race by an official head. Rilly was scoring her 150th career winner overall including 19 victories under Rules in a long career which started at Cotley in May 1991 aboard E Zoe Mou for John Dufosee.
Celebrating in the winners enclosure afterwards trainer Laura Bradley originally from Portsmouth was saddling her first point-to-point runner having taken on the training of owner Julie Butler's horses. Laura principally provides hirelings for hunting and hacking in the Alresford area.
Julie also from Alresford who is a well -known Farming and Equine specialist Chartered Accountant has long been a supporter of the Hursley Hambledon and she looks to have acquired a useful prospect in One More Tune. Bought at a recent Ascot sale whilst Julie was on her iPad he had good form for his previous stable so it was not a total surprise to see him win the race.
Rose Loxton sent out the winners of the two Open races with Caid du Berlais winning the Ladies race and Monsieur Gibraltar winning the Mens race. With principal rival Richmond unseating Lucy Turner at the third last Caid du Berlais strolled home to an easy victory to give his young pilot Harriet Tucker her fourth career win and the first for Rose. The winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2014 the horse had rather lost his way under rules and connections thought that a spell of point-to-pointing might rekindle his enthusiasm. Harriet who works for Paul Nicholls rides the gelding in her lunch break and described him as 'very keen all the way round' and 'definitely the best horse she has sat on in a race'. A Hunter Chase campaign may be considered for him.
Monsieur Gibraltar ridden by usual rider Lorcan Williams stayed on well to beat another former Paul Nicholls inmate Keltus by two lengths in the Mens Open. Described by Rose as being 'very laid back' he is ridden in all his work by Lorcan with whom he has an excellent partnership. He is next likely to be seen in the opening Hunter Chase of the season at Taunton with the Aintree Foxhunters as a long term goal.
Ballycash was an easy winner for Caerphilly owner/trainer Emlyn Parry in the Restricted race partnered by Jordan Williams. Paying his first ever visit to Larkhill racecourse the 66 year old retired teacher explained that he does all of the work himself on the six year old Kalanisi gelding bought out of a selling hurdle in June at Ffos Las when previously having been owned by Dai Walters. Emlyn did say that he had been to Larkhill once before as a teacher when he had brought a party of students to the military camp!
Martin McIntyre and trainer Richard Bandey then combined to win the next two races the first being Fortune Bound for Isle of Wight owner Anna Reed in the Club Members Conditions race. Described by his trainer as being 'mentally better' than last season he had a tussle with Princely Player ridden by Jake Bament on the run-in before winning by a neck. Having only won a Restricted race last season this was a step up for the winner and he ought to be able to follow up in an Intermediate race with the goal of the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham being on the radar.
Trainer and rider followed up in the first division of the Open Maiden when Irish Legionnaire also won by a neck over main rival Swincombe Toby ridden by Lorcan Williams. Placed on several occasions last season owner Mark Burton felt that his gelding deserved this success although his ideal trip is still one he is trying to work out. Another who has benefited from a good summer Mark explained that the gelding has bulked up and is now much stronger.
The final race of the day, the second division of the Maiden, was won by the unraced Coningsby owned and bred by Lady Cobham and trained by Sophie Lacey. After Gracious Prince had led the field for two miles the winner and the runner –up Three in One ridden by Gordon Treacy for trainer Jade Barber battled out the finish with a length separating them at the line. The winner who is a half -brother to Flights is the third generation that Lady Cobham has owned with his dam Motcombe winning two chases for Robert Alner and his grandam Cooks Lawn being placed in five hurdle races.