by Brian & Gill Armstrong

Fifty nine horses contested the six races at the Royal Artillery meeting held in gloriously sunny conditions at Larkhill on Saturday. Highlights were doubles for Polly Gundry and for trainer Richard Barber, whose Manly Money was a first-ever winner for owner Susie Chown.

The opening Hunt Members’ race went to Flora MacDonald under Ollie Ellwood, who made all and held the challenge of last year’s winner Alltime Dancer by 1½ lengths, with Ablington Down in third. Flora MacDonald, who has recovered from breaking her pelvis at Milborne St Andrew last season, is owned and trained by Stan and Sally Rawlins at their Figheldean home just a couple of miles from the Larkhill course. 

The Richard Barber-trained five-year-old Manly Money made an impressive debut with a comfortable success in the Open Maiden race under Christian Williams. Manly Money was bought at the May 2002 Doncaster Sales and was a first-ever runner for Henley-on-Thames owner Susie Chown, whose husband David enjoyed success with the Barber-trained Drum Battle at Barbury Castle last Sunday. 

Barber quickly completed his double when Rimpton Boy forged clear after three out to take the Ladies’ Open under Polly Gundry. The winner, a good second at the Army the previous Saturday, was home bred by Rimpton owners Elaine and John Hutchinson, who raced such good horses as Foyle Fisherman and Punters Overhead, and is likely to be aimed at Ladies’ races throughout the rest of the season.

The Men’s Open was won by the David Pipe-trained Family Business who forged well clear under Ashley Farrant for a very comfortable 12 length success from Oscar Wilde, with Miners Dance back in third. Family Business, a strong stayer who might have preferred softer ground, initiated a notable double for owner P J Finn, as Barryscourt Lad carried his colours to win the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster just 25 minutes later.

Polly Gundry completed her double when the Ollie Bush-trained Spread The Word quickened clear of her field from two out to take Division One of the Intermediate. Spread The Word was bought as a four year old from Gerald Cottrill by Kentisbeare owners Pam Pengelly and daughter Helen Stoneman. 2002 Wessex Area Champion rider Alex Charles-Jones opened his 2003 account when Strong Tea made virtually all the running to take Division Two. Strong Tea, placed in his previous six races, is trained at Bishopstrow by Sarah Waugh for sisters-in-law Jackie Tucker of Trowbridge and Marilyn Mein from Southampton.

The next Wessex Area meeting is the United Services at Larkhill on Saturday, 8 February. First race 12.00 noon.