by Brian & Gill Armstrong

The first Point-to-Point meeting in the Wessex area, the Army, took place at Larkhill on Saturday, with 79 horses contesting the seven races. Highlights were a first-ever win for Simon Wheeler and a very impressive win for Robert Waley-Cohenís Mister Bean in Division One of the Open Maiden. 

The two-runner Army Saddle Club Members race went to Puzzleman, who already had the race in safekeeping when long odds-on favourite Norski Lad pulled up three out. This was a first-ever winner for owner/trainer/rider Simon Wheeler, a Ditcheat farrier who served for eight years in the Kings Troop. Simon was keen to credit Sarah West, who recommended that Simon buy Puzzleman at Ascot Sales last year.  

The Ladiesí Open went to the patiently ridden Red Brook Lad who led two out and held the challenge of Rimpton Boy by four lengths. Red Brook Lad was ridden by Rachel Green, 19, who works at Robert Alnerís Droop stables, and is owned and trained at Askerswell, near Bridport, by Charlie Fox, who will now aim the horse at hunter chases.

The Land Rover Menís Open was won by favourite Springford, who overtook Mont Aca two out and was left well clear when his rival fell at the last. Springford is owned by Bristol company director Michael OíConnor and is trained by Caroline Keevil from her livery yard at Charterhouse near the old Castle of Comfort course in the Mendips. Winning rider Richard Young left for Wincanton immediately after the race to ride Lorgnette, runner-up in the last race.

Division 1 of the Open Maiden went to Mister Bean who led two out for a deeply impressive 20 length success. Mister Bean was bought in France two years ago by Warwickshire owner/trainer Robert Waley-Cohen and was partnered by his 20-year-old son Sam, a second-year Politics student at Edinburgh University.

Division Two went to Nick Williams aboard Sea Haitch Em who led throughout and held the strong challenge of Celestial Gold under Ashley Farrant by 2Ĺ lengths. Sea Haitch Em is trained in the Rhondda Valley by Lisa Llewellyn who owns the horse in partnership with Vivian Hughes. Lisa and Vivian bought the winner at the August 2002 Doncaster Sales to replace Primaticcio, whom they sold to Dai Williams after his win at the 2002 Cheltenham Hunter Chase evening.

Ray Geddes and Richard Barber gained some consolation for the defeat of Norski Lad when Ease The Pressure was a comfortable winner of Division 1 of the Restricted under Christian Williams. Ease The Pressure was bought at Doncaster Sales in November after winning an Irish maiden race.

Brian Kilpatrickís Legatus won the final race of the 2002 Point-to-Point season at Umberleigh and started 2003 in similar vein by taking Division 2 of the Restricted to provide Ashley Farrant with his first winner since breaking his collarbone last April.

The next Area meeting is the Royal Artillery at Larkhill this Saturday, 25 January. First race 12.05 pm.