A glorious sunny Easter Saturday attracted a huge crowd to Larkhill to enjoy the final point to point meeting of the season, the South and West Wilts and all of the attractions that the Hunt had arranged. A lot of hard work had been put in on the ground before the meeting in the absence of any significant rain and this did provide some ease to the surface although the horses that relished a sound surface did prove to be the ones to follow on the day. Two riders will remember their day under different circumstances when they rode their first winners, one regular participant made his final appearance a winning one and there were a number of familiar horses taking up the challenge of the charity flat race which preceded the point to point races
The feature races , the two Open races, were both matches but the Ladies Race did have three horses declared to run with the prolific Coco Live a very short price to record his fifth victory of the season. Due to be ridden for the first time by Harriet Tucker the gelding was asked to trot up by the vet in the paddock and was determined not fit enough to participate in the race. This left Tiger Sam and Blue Benny ridden by Heidi Stevens and Hollie Greene respectively to battle it out and they produced the closest finish of the day when Tiger Sam won by half a length. Owned and trained by Laura Hurley at Oakford near Tiverton at stables formerly occupied by trainer Stuart Howe the gelding had some success when trained in Ireland by Noel Meade winning two chases. Heidi, 23, who works for Laura was recording her first career victory from only six rides having previously enjoyed some success in eventing up to B level.
The Mens Open turned into a procession with Dandan ridden by Tristan Durrell for owner Hugh Wilson and trainer Francesca Moller beating the mare Country Legend ridden by Tom Bishop by a distance. Enterprisingly ridden by Tristan he stole a march on his rival by going clear after the twelfth fence and maintained a relentless gallop all the way to the line. Clearly enjoying the faster surface this was his second success at Larkhill this season after his win at the Avon Vale meeting in March.
Adrenalin Flight was another to secure a second course victory this season when winning the Novice Riders race when ridden by Matt Fielding. Trained locally to the course by Sally Rawlins at Figheldean for National Hunt trainer Seamus Mullins he had eight lengths to spare over main rival Benemeade ridden by Nathan Rahman. Clearly defying his thirteen years he has flourished under Sally's care and enjoys the opportunity to have a more relaxed life including being turned out on a regular basis.
Nathan had previously secured his second career victory in the previous race when he partnered the mare Tangoed to a very easy victory in the Restricted race. The mare who had won her point to point debut for Francesca Nimmo before being sold to trainer Harry Whittington. However her runs under Rules were uninspiring and she was sold last year for £1000 to Robert Varnham. Nathan, who is a serving Corporal with the Royal Welsh Guards, is one of the few serving military riders who does participate in point to points.
The Open Maiden race was won by another mare, Starweld who beat her only rival Colin's Hero by eight lengths. Owned, trained and bred by Patricia Shaw from her base at Looe in Cornwall she had travelled the mare to Larkhill seeking a faster surface and provided rider Paul John with his second victory of the season. Recalling his previous experience at Larkhill Paul said 'I rode a horse called Diamond Monroe to win in my first season as a 16 year old beating Polly Gundry in 2008 for the late Richard Woollacott' There have been ups and downs in Paul's career including a spell as a Conditional but he is enjoying his return to point to point racing.
The second rider who rode his first career winner was Tom Doggrell, 18 aboard Trueflyingcolours in the Hunt race but he had no rivals and walked over to record his triumph. Tom who now works for Phillip Hobbs advised that he will be the main amateur rider at the leading Somerset stable for next season. Trueflyingcolours was winning the Hunt race for the second successive year for trainer Stuart Penny and Teona Hammond.
Bedrock Fred registered his fifth career victory at Larkhill when winning the Confined race under rider Sam Burton for owner El Tanner. Bred by El and trained by her partner David Weston throughout his career which began nearly ten years ago the gelding has won a total of seven point to points and always appreciated a faster surface. Now at the age of 13 the decision was made after the race to announce his retirement and he will continue to be a part of El and David's stable and will lead the youngsters. One of his successes was for Danny Burton, the brother of Sam, in 2015 and he would have been in the saddle but for sustaining three cracked vertebrae in a fall he suffered a week ago. Danny suggested to his brother, who has just finished a spell at Tom Lacey's stable, that he should ring up for the ride and then gave Sam clear instructions on how to ride the gelding which he carried out to the letter.
4 years ago Bedrock Fred was beaten in the Open race at this meeting by Hincheslea Moor and James Young's gelding, another regular winner at Larkhill over the years, produced another strong performance to win the Charity Flat race which preceded the point to point races. Ridden by Helen Booth, 32, who has been an integral part of James's Brockenhurst stable over the years enjoyed her first ride at Larkhill following a success in a scurry ride at the Isle of Wight. Now based in Shaftesbury and working for a veterinary practice she won the race very easily from two other former pointers Thunder On and Impact Area.