The Royal Artillery celebrated 70 years of racing at Larkhill at their meeting on Saturday and produced a replica of the initial race card from the meeting on Wednesday 23rd April 1947 although the price of the first card was not repeated as this was one shilling! Sally Rawlins will have fond memories of the most recent renewal as she saddled both the winner and runner up in the Hunt Race whereas there were smooth wins in the two Open races for Aikideau and Ceasar Milan ridden by Bryony Frost and Lorcan Williams respectively. The weather remained fine and dry throughout the meeting although the unpredictability of the local weather was emphasised when a sharp hailstorm hit the course for the final race.
Local trainer Sally Rawlins from Figheldean took the honours in the opening race, the Hunt Members, when Sidbury Hill owned, trained and bred by Sally and her husband Stan ran out a good winner for Sam Davies-Thomas from Adrenalin Flight ridden by debutant Matthew Fielding. Sidbury Hill running in his first point-to-point boasted some good bumper and hurdle form when trained for Sally and Stan by Seamus Mullins jumped well to beat his stablemate owned by Seamus Mullins. When Sally heard that Seamus was going to run Adrenalin Flight in point-to-points this season she asked him if she could have him to work with Sidbury Hill and Seamus was happy to oblige. The disappointment of the race was the odds on favourite Impact Area who had won the race for the last two seasons but he was pulled up two fences from home.
Pat Awdry has a nice prospect for the season on the evidence of his Chester Copperpot demolishing his rivals in the Open Maiden race. Trained by Stuart Penny and ridden by Katy Lyons the seven year old Flemensfirth gelding took up the lead at the thirteenth fence and drew clear from the second last for an easy win. Bought on the recommendations of Tom Malone at Ascot last April the gelding had finished runner up in Ireland in one of the Anglo-Irish races when ridden by Hannah Watson. When Pat informed his wife Jill that he had bought the gelding she exclaimed 'not a chestnut!!' Hopefully after this win her views have changed.
Aikideau maintained his 100% record this season when comfortably accounting for his six rivals in the Ladies Open to record his third course win this season. Confidently ridden by his usual jockey Bryony Frost he made all the running to hold off the efforts of Tom Barton ridden by Natalie Parker by six lengths. Described by his jubilant quartet of owners as a little super star he is thoroughly enjoying his racing and his work at home where he is always ridden by Jackie Smith who has been with Jack Barber since he started training in 2013 and up to this season has been his Head Lass.
The Flying Doc given an excellent ride by Will Biddick led at the last fence in the Club Members Conditions race and drew away from The Gunner Brady ridden by Zak Baker to win by two and a half lengths. Owned by the Cowboys (Francis Read and Roy Stewart) and the Cowgirls (Wendy Jarrett) the mare is trained by Ed Walker for whom this was his second winner of the season. Placed in a Mares Hunter Chase last season Ed indicated that this might be the long term plan for the consistent mare who continues to progress and looks one to follow for the season.
Ceasar Milan made virtually all in the hands of Lorcan Williams to win the Mens Open race by five lengths from Brackloon High. After two promising efforts, the last against Ask the Weatherman, there was no mistake this time and the first time applied cheek pieces certainly did the trick. The plan for the gelding continues to be the Grand Military Gold Cup in March where his owner Andy Stewart is a keen supporter of the race. Andy was at Cheltenham but his trainer Rose Loxton texted him the news about the gelding's success.
Rye Cross won the final race of the day, the Intermediate, with another front running display under rider Ali Stirling and comfortably beat Key People ridden by Will Biddick by eight lengths. Trained by Emma Alvis at Laverton in Gloucestershire for owners Clive and William Bennett he was returning to form after having a year off with a tendon problem and clearly benefited from his seasonal reappearance at Chaddesley Corbett. William ,who was paying his first ever visit to Larkhill, was thrilled with the success of the gelding and advised that his father Clive was on the way to Ireland to see one of his youngsters and will have been sorry to miss this win.