An overcast but milder afternoon was a welcome change for racegoers after the cold spell recently experienced and an excellent afternoon of racing was enjoyed at the Blackmore and Sparkford meeting held at Charlton Horethorne. The highlights of the day were a riding double for Martin McIntyre including an impressive pointing debut for the classy Carraig Mor and for two riders, who will be looking forward to the Cheltenham Festival with rides in the Foxhunters, Gus Levinson and Harriet Tucker who both secured victories.
The Hunt race looked to be between Robin de Boss and Little Billy Boy as they turned into the home straight for the last time but Little Billy Boy ridden by George Hiscock fell at the third last leaving Robin de Boss to win very easily from the only other finisher Hi Bronco. Trained by Jo Hepburn who is the Chief Executive at Wincanton Racecourse and ridden by her son Jamie he was recording his second success for the stable since being bought at Doncaster Sales in May 2017. Trained on his own mostly Jo explained that she does team up with neighbours Guy and Sophie Henderson to do some work and then goes ' lickety split at the Fox-Pitts gallops' . The horse certainly enjoyed being ridden prominently and more successes seem likely for the partnership.
A large field of 16 horses faced the starter for the Open Maiden race and after Draft Pick ridden by Will Biddick had made a lot of the running he was passed by Toby Maguire ridden by Gus Levinson who went on to record a two length victory. Bought out of Shark Hanlon's stable last November he had run well on his English debut at Larkhill and had clearly come on from that run. Described by his owner and Gus's father Charles Levinson as a weak horse when he bought him and still believes that there is much more to come as he strengths. Gus is looking forward to his ride on Premier Portrait in the Foxhunters next Friday but his father did say with a smile that at least with this victory his son was no longer 'a one trick pony'.
Swincombe Toby was the first leg of Martin McIntyre's double in the Restricted race when he secured his first victory for trainer Sally Alner. With usual jockey Lorcan Williams banned and Will Biddick claimed by Ed Walker Sally turned to Martin and he enjoyed a splendid ride aboard the six year old Tobougg gelding and described his jumping as 'fantastic'. Bred out of a mare and grandam trained by Sally and Robert Alner he had three lengths to spare over his nearest rival Ballybruff and looks a real prospect for owners Malcolm and Kathleen Yeo particularly on better ground.
Monsieur Gibraltar proved just too good for his five rivals in the Skinner's Ladies race and drew clear on the run in to record a five length victory over Inch Rock. Ridden again by Harriet Tucker who had previously scored on the gelding at Larkhill she held him up and produced him with an impressive turn of foot after jumping the last. Owners John Gane and Paul Nicholls were present to see the victory but Ian Fogg was not able to attend. His next likely outing will be in a Hunter Chase at Ascot in a couple of weeks' time and it is probable that Harriet will keep the ride. In the meantime she has the ride on Pacha du Polder to look forward at Cheltenham next Friday in the Foxhunters.
It is rare that the name Barber does not feature in the winners enclosure at the meeting and this time it was Richard's other grandson Christopher who took the spoils with his Carraig Mor in the Mens Open race. Martin McIntyre set off in front on the Old Vic gelding and maintained a good gallop all the way to the line to record a ten length victory over Minim Mouse. Previously owned by the Masterson Family and trained by Alan King and subsequently Harry Fry he had very classy form under Rules including running behind Saphir du Rheu at Aintree but had only run once since April 2015 and is clearly fragile. Gifted to Christopher by his previous owners this was a tremendous piece of training and if he can be kept sound he may be aimed at a Hunter Chase.
Another returning to the racecourse after nearly a two year absence was the veteran Victors Serenade who was an easy winner of the Wessex Area Novice Riders race under Chloe Emsley. Still owned by Michael and Angela Bone and now trained by Rachael Honeyball the thirteen year old still retains his ability and relished the going which was softened by a shower just before the start of the race. Chloe who was recording her fifth career victory of which four have been this season rides the gelding at home and described him as 'an amazing legend who gave me an incredible ride'.
Two competitive pony races followed with Roisin Leech riding All of My Dreams just getting up to beat Charlie Sprake riding Mr Marshall in the 148 cms race and Freddie Gingell (grandson of Colin Tizzard) aboard The Jobs Not Straight beating Veno Star ridden by Kelsie Bielby.