The most testing ground seen at Larkhill for many a year was a major feature of the meeting and a cloudburst just before racing turned the area around the paddock into a muddy morass for racegoers. Fortunately, the weather improved and racing went ahead, with the highlights being a notable victory for Impact Area in the Mens Open race, a double for the Jack Barber/Will Biddick combination and a first winner for owner Charles Horton, with Martin McIntyre riding the winner on his return back to point to pointing.
The opening race, the Club Conditions race, provided a comprehensive victory for Ask The Weatherman, ridden by Will Biddick and trained by Jack Barber. Setting off in front, Will set a searching pace for his 16 rivals and, the further they went, the combination drew right away to win by a conservative looking 20 lengths. Described by his trainer as a horse who 'stays for England', he clearly acts on the softened ground and looks likely to continue to progress further. His part-owner, Paul Barber, did not rule out a Hunter Chase campaign for him later in the season.
Alskamatic, the star of Richard Bandey's stable, adopted similar tactics under Claire Hart when making virtually all to win the AGA Ladies Open race. Richard commented that the gelding had not been going well at home, but saves his best efforts for the racecourse. He was chased home by Rotablade, successful at the previous Larkhill meeting under his owner, Izzi Djivanovic, with the winning margin being four lengths. Plans for the winner are fluid at present, with the possibility of a Hunter Chase being considered.
The first division of the Maiden race provided a first winner as an owner for Charles Horton, a retired bank manager from Cloford, near Frome. His six year old Wotzizname had the race in his control when his nearest chasing pursuer, Thereyarsee, ridden by Stan Sheppard, fell at the last fence, leaving him to win by a distance. Charles recalled that the colours carried by Wotzizname were those his late father, John, had when False Note, ridden by the now flat racing trainer Bryan Smart, won the 1976 Cheltenham Foxhunters. The horse was ridden by Martin' Fly' McIntyre, who was having his first point to point ride since returning to the amateur ranks after a spell as a conditional jockey. He was champion novice rider in 2013 and more successes look likely based on this performance. 'Fly' said that 'the application of a first time tongue tie had helped the horse', who had finished second in his three previous races.
The second division of the Maiden brought up the double for Will Biddick and Jack Barber when Overland Flyer, owned by Colm Donlon, won by eight lengths. Bought as a three year old by the owner at Goffs in June 2014, he had been training with Dan Skelton but was too weak to race. Since running once last season he has strengthened up over the summer and looks one to progress based on this performance.
The Mens Open proved a triumph for the locally trained Impact Area ridden by Louis Muspratt. His owner, Harriet Besant, married local farmer James Waight in May last year and now lives less than two miles from the racecourse. The only horse Harriet trains schooled over the cross country fences at Larkhill as part of his preparation. The winner was upsides Templebraden, ridden by Peter Bryan, when that rival fell at the last fence and had to be kept up to his work when seeing off a renewed challenge from Buck's Bond (Will Biddick). The grey may next be seen in his Hunt race at Larkhill, but his sights will probably be raised to Hunter Chases as the season progresses.
The concluding race, the Restricted, was won in good style by Peeping Thom ridden by Page Fuller. Part owned and trained by Craig Pilgrim from Shrivenham, near Swindon, the gelding saw off challenges from Bonzo's Copse and Captain Probus to record his second win from only three races. Page, recording her first winner since August, excitedly said 'he jumped very well and surprised me how well he was going when we reached the top of the hill; despite making a mistake at the second last he ran on so well for me'.
Larkhill Racing Club Members Conditions (17 ran)
1 Ask The Weatherman 4/7 (W Biddick); 2 Green Winter 10/1 (P Bryan); 3 Squirrel Esquire 10/1 (J Martin). 6mins 38s. 20l, 10l. (Jack Barber)
AGA Ladies Open (12 ran)
1 Alskamatic 11/10 (Miss C Hart); 2 Rotablade (Miss I Djivanovic); 3 Vasco Du Mee 12/1 (Miss J Banks). 6mins 39s. 4l, 10l. (Richard Bandey)
Open Maiden (Div 1) 567&8yo (12 ran)
1 Wotzizname 7/1 (M McIntyre); 2 Dunn's River 5/2 (W Biddick); 3 Minella Selfie 10/1 (Ben Clarke). 6mins 49s. Distance, 10l. (Sarah Gould)
Open Maiden (Div 2) 567&8yo (10 ran)
1 Overland Flyer 5/2 (W Biddick); 2 Tom Barton 5/2 (Stan Sheppard); 3 Pauls Conn 12/1 (N Lawton). 6mins 52s. 8l, sht hd. (Jack Barber)
Mens Open (11 ran)
1 Impact Area 3/1 (Louis Muspratt); 2 Buck's Bond 6/1 (W Biddick); 3 Third Chance 4/1 (M McIntyre). 6mins 44s. Sht hd, 7l. (Harriet Waight)
Restricted (13 ran)
1 Peeping Thom 8/1 (Miss P Fuller); 2 Bonzo's Copse 11/10 (Stan Sheppard); 3 Captain Probus 4/1 (W Biddick). 6mins 45s. 5l, 5l. (Craig Pilgrim)