by Brian & Gill Armstrong

The Avon Vale Hunt held its annual point-to-point at Barbury Castle near Marlborough, Wiltshire on Sunday. Highlights included a double for rider Godfrey Maundrell and an impressive win by Paul Nicholls’ Mister Benjamin in the Ladies’ Open.

The opening Hunt Members race went to Bally Wirral who caught long time leader Le Cure after the last in the hands of Marlborough owner/trainer Godfrey Maundrell. Bally Wirral, winner of the corresponding race in 2000, has recovered well from the muscle injury which prevented him from appearing in the early part of the season.

Joye Des Iles came from well off the pace to take the 2½ mile Confined Maiden. This was a fifth career win for rider Charlie Studd, 24, who rides out for Toby Balding, Jim Old and Colin Weedon. Joye Des Iles was bought privately in France last Autumn by Charlie’s father John on the recommendation of Jacques and Andree Cypres.

Godfrey Maundrell completed his double when Tell Tale caught favourite Lestat before the last to take the Land Rover Men’s Open, with Nearly Gold in third. Tell Tale, who is trained at Cullompton by Ollie Bush for Kentisbeare owners Pam Pengelly and daughter Helen Stoneman, is a credit to his connections as he cracked a shoulder in a fall at Chipley Park last season, an injury which required five months’ stable rest to heal.

The Ladies’ Open resulted in a very comfortable success for Mister Benjamin and Chloe Roddick, who had already asserted when Steady Eddy and Anna de Lisle Wells parted company at the second last. Chloe, 20, who stables eventers at her Shoscombe, near Radstock, home, rides out for Ditcheat owner Paul Nicholls who reported that Mister Benjamin may be aimed at the Ladies Hunter Chase at Stratford on 31st May.

Eighteen-year-old rider Sam Thomas overcame a slipping saddle to take the Novice Riders race on Ashgreen. The winner is trained at Kings Caple by Stan Turner who owns Ashgreen in partnership with breeders Charlie and Thelma Green. The horse has now won two of his three 2003 races and is one to note if returning to the Wessex Area.

The closing Club Members Mares Maiden race went to Last Of The Gales who joined Galaxy Girl two out and forged clear for an eight length success. This completed a memorable week for 27-year-old rider Alex Michael, a Lieutenant in the Kings Royal Hussars, following his win on Kings Mistral in the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown two days previously. Last Of The Gales is owned by West Harptree journalist Jan Menzies and is trained by Caroline Keevil from her livery yard at Charterhouse near the old Castle of Comfort course in the Mendips.