The weather played a major part in the running of the Larkhill Racing Club point-to-point with mist and fog clearing just before racing commenced but returning to envelop the course for the Men's Open race and the Restricted race. That deprived racegoers of the spectacle of Ask the Weatherman spread-eagling a classy field for the Mens Open race and the drama which took place in the Restricted race. Jack Barber was the trainer to follow with three winners for his stable with Sally Alner successful with two of her charges. The riding honours were shared between Will Biddick and Lorcan Williams who both rode two winners, the last named securing his first ever double.
Ask the Weatherman set off in front in the Southern Counties Auctioneers Mens Open Race with champion rider Will Biddick determined to make it a proper test for his rivals. The winner of seven of his eight point-to-point races before this season he has been held in high regard by his owners Paul Barber and David Martin and trainer Jack Barber. He was briefly challenged for the lead by Anquetta ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen after the twelfth fence but galloped on remorselessly with his rivals trailing in his wake. At the line after the runners had come back into view there was eight lengths to spare from Ceasar Milan ridden by Lorcan Williams. Explaining his absence from the course last season after winning in January 2016 Paul Barber said that he pulled a muscle in his shoulder and it had taken him over six weeks to get over this. By then most of his targets had passed so a decision was taken not to run him again. He may have another run in a Hunter Chase before he takes his chance in the Cheltenham Foxhunters in March for which he will be, on this performance, one of the leading English hopes to lift the prize.
The Ablington Farm Ladies Open Race turned into a real battle between Aikideau, Dabinett Moon and Master Baker. Aikideau ridden by Bryony Frost seeking to follow up his victory at the previous meeting mastered the mare Dabinett Moon at the last fence and then had to be kept up to his work as Master Baker ridden by Jo Buck mounted his challenge. Shouted home by his four enthusiastic owners Aikideau held on by a fast diminishing half a length at the line with his rider saying afterwards that she was confident that she would win. As the leading horse in the Wessex area last season he has certainly started well in his defence of his title.
The Woolley and Wallis Restricted race was run in the worst visibility with eighteen runners setting off in thick fog. At the eighth fence Creative Inerta fell and brought down five of his rivals. V Neck ridden by Will Biddick who was at the rear of the field and managed to avoid the melee appeared in front when the field came back into view and held off the attentions of Queen's Law ridden by Rob Jarrett to win by a length. Trained by Jack Barber for his aunt Charlotte Barber he should have been ridden by Christopher Barber but he was still recovering from breaking his collarbone at Chaddesley Corbett after Christmas. Christopher explained that the horse had been one of the last winners for his grandfather Richard at Bratton Down in May 2013 before having three races for Paul Nicholls and then suffering a leg injury. He then had been employed as a lead horse for the late Graham Roach's youngsters before being given to Christopher to ride this season. Christopher did say that 'it was very kind of Paul Nicholls to give me such a nice horse to ride and I am looking forward to riding him once my collarbone has fully mended'
The opening race, the Larkhill Racing Club Members Conditions Race, was another dramatic contest with four of the twelve strong field having departed by the eighth fence including the two representatives from Jack Barber's stable. It was a former inmate of the Barber yard, Subtle Sovereign ridden by Martin McIntyre, who ran out a game winner from Squirrel Esquire and Tom Barton. Clearly relishing the change of scenery and enjoying his hunting with both the Taunton Vale and the West Somerset he has been rejuvenated by Teresa Clark and was securing his sixth career victory at Larkhill. Bought privately by the ten strong Notre Cheval Partnership headed by Phil Browne in July last year he has always shown ability but had looked jaded towards the end of last season. Teresa was elated with the success and put the change of routine and regular hunting as the main reasons for bringing him back to his best form.
Sally Alner's double started when the former French trained Apple's Queen made a promising English debut when winning the Open Maiden race under a polished ride from Lorcan Williams. Bought at Ascot in April on the recommendations of Felix De Giles he had been placed in a chase in France and had also run in a cross country race there. Now owned by a partnership of Nicky Turner, Percy and Anne Tory and first time owner Kevin Lloyd from Wimborne he is the replacement for Garstin. Sally who is recovering from a broken leg suffered the day after Boxing Day was ably represented by Ali Trim who has stepped up to take charge of the horses whilst Sally recuperates.
Sally's day was brightened further with the success in the Novice Riders race of what was described as 'her baby' Thereyarsee caught the long time leaders Horizontal Speed ridden by Gareth Henderson and Posh Totty ridden by Ed Doggrell on the run in by a well - timed challenge under Lorcan Williams riding only his third career victory and his first double. Lorcan, 17, who hails from Amroth near Tenby rode his first winner at Ystradowen in Wales last April on Nicholasville and is now attached to the Paul Nicholls yard. Recommended to Sally Alner by Stan Sheppard and Andrew Doyle he has recently passed his driving test and has been able to take himself down to Dorset to school Sally's horses. Lorcan said 'I thought the leaders had gone off too fast and always was confident that I would catch them', The winning distance was only half a length at the line with another three lengths back to the third.