A very competitive day's racing was the feature of Sunday's meeting of the Larkhill Racing Club where 89 horses took part in the seven races held. On going described by the riders as good the times were on the quick side with both Open Races breaking the six minute mark. The highlights of the meeting was an impressive return to pointing by Monsieur Gibraltar ridden by Harriet Tucker on her first ride after surgery, Stellar Notion's victory in a high standard Mens Open and a double for owner Clive Bennett and his trainer/jockey Sam Jukes.
The Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Open race was a high quality race and after Sonneofpresenting had run out in the lead at the seventh fence the race developed into a battle between Southfield Theatre ridden by Lily Bradstock and Monsieur Gibraltar. The latter who was the leading horse at Larkhill last season showed an impressive turn of foot to draw clear on the run in and won by eight lengths. Trained by Rose Loxton who is still recovering from a nasty accident which has left her on crutches he only came back into work on 1st October after an unsuccessful spell with Paul Nicholls in the summer. Owned partly by point to point enthusiast John Gane he is likely to remain in points and will give Harriet Tucker more confidence as she returns to race riding.
Stellar Notion was making his point to point debut in the Mens Open race for new trainer Tom Frost and he duelled all the way with rival Abricot de L'Oasis ridden by Freddie Henderson. Staying on well for rider Jack Andrews he had a length and a half to spare at the winning post with favourite Shotavodka ridden by Tommie O'Brien another four lengths back. Previously owned by Roger Brookhouse and trained by Tom George he was bought at the sales last August for new owner Stephen Dunn from Solihull. Tom who celebrated his 25th birthday last Friday is the son of trainer Kevin Frost and this was his first ever runner as a trainer. Based at a yard near Solihull Tom explained that although his background is flat racing he prefers the jumping game and his principal owner has provided some useful ammunition to start his career. So far as the plans for Stellar Notion are concerned he might have another point to point race or be considered for a Hunter Chase at Kelso where he has already won a chase.
Marcle Ridge made virtually all of the running to win the Conditions Race for owner Clive Bennett and his trainer/jockey Sam Jukes. Despite being challenged by both Portrait King and Knockaderry Flyer he stayed on very gamely on the run to record a victory by a length. Bred by Clive out of a mare called Labarynth who won for him when ridden by Polly Gundry he is named after a ridge which Clive said 'I can see out of my kitchen window'. A promising seven year gelding by Presenting Clive added that after that win he might be under pressure from his trainer to run in a Hunter Chase next
Clive's first ever home bred double was completed when his Miss Seagreen got up to deny Ballyjim in the First Division of the Maiden race. Again ridden by Sam Jukes he bided his time on the Black Sam Bellamy mare only taking up the lead in the final strides. The promising Hon the DJ trained by Fran Nimmo and ridden by Tommie O'Brien was only a length and a half back in third and this is one to look out for on his next race.
The Second Division of the Maiden was a very dramatic event with 15 horses starting the race but only four finishing. The race appeared to be between Earth Leader ridden by Bryan Carver and Mankala ridden by Nick Phillips and when Earth Leader blundered and unseated his rider at the third last fence it seemed the race was at Mankala's mercy. However he unseated his rider at the next fence leaving Silver Louna ridden by Will Biddick in the lead but as her stride shortened after the last Ryan Withey urged his mount Hello Jazz to the front to provide an unlikely outcome to the race. Owned by George Davis and trained by his wife Angela from South Cadbury this was a welcome victory for them as they had not had a winner for nearly three years. George explained that the mare had been bought following a chance meeting in a shop with her breeder Ian Dudgeon and although she can be difficult at the start they always thought there was a race in her. Bred out a mare called Just Jasmine who was a prolific winner for trainer Kevin Bishop and excelled in two mile chases when mostly ridden by Rodi Greene.
A very open looking Restricted Race contested by 16 horses was won by Coco Live owned by Harriet Waight and Stan Rawlins and ridden by Jack Savage. Bought by Stan just before the end of last season from Kayley Woollacott having run unsuccessfully for local trainer Seamus Mullins he is trained within sight of the course at Larkhill by Harriet. Describing her charge as not easy he was loaded onto the lorry at the last minute and arrived at the course with the minimum of time left and then he was mounted outside the paddock by his rider. Stan who described himself as 'stunned by the success' explained about the booking of his jockey as a rather late choice on the recommendation of Zac Baker. Jack, 24, was previously a conditional rider for Jonjo O'Neill and latterly Nigel Twiston-Davies but due to lack of real progress as a conditional has reverted back to amateur status. This was his second ever point to point victory but has twelve wins under rules during his professional career.
The final race the Novice Riders race was win in a tight finish by Storm Lantern ridden by his owner Jennifer Harbison from Adrenalin Flight ridden by Matthew Fielding. The winner who was previously with Robert Waley- Cohen when recording two previous victories at the course clearly enjoys his visits to Larkhill as his best performance last season was finishing a neck second to Monsieur Gibraltar in a Ladies last January. Jennifer whose victory was her third career success is an equine vet in Buckingham and is anticipating being busy with the start of the foaling season. Trained by Joan Johnston who advised that this was her first ever winner at Larkhill.