It was a great days racing with 108 horses contesting the 9 races with a large crowd for January and the meeting will remain in the memory for quite some time as the quality of the racing was very high. Several racegoers with longer memories remarked that the meeting brought back the days of the United Services meeting which used to start racing at Larkhill. Rose Loxton will remember the meeting with particular fondness as she saddled her first ever treble as a trainer and her young jockey Angus Cheleda recorded his first ever point to point riding double. Elsewhere there was a first point to point win for one of the most famous set of National Hunt racing colours and a final victory for a promising young rider this season who is now going to concentrate on his A Levels. A one Minute's silence was held in memory of valet David Sunderland who died last month who was a stalwart at Larkhill over many years and will be much missed.
Rose Loxton won both of the two feature races commencing with the Skinner's Ladies Open race when Virak ridden by Natalie Parker got the better of a stirring battle with Southfield Theatre ridden by Lily Bradstock with only a length between them at the winning post. Southfield Theatre had tried the same front running tactics employed when he won at the last meeting but this time he found a rival just too good for him. Virak's joint owner Clive Hitchings did not travel from his home to see the victory but his other owner Paul Nicholls indicated that the winner was now likely to be campaigned in Hunter Chases where Natalie Parker will be keen to continue her excellent partnership with the eleven year old gelding.
There was no repeat of the Foxhunters from Cheltenham as Hazel Hill declined a rematch with Shantou Flyer so the Rose Loxton trained gelding was made a short price favourite to win the Connolly's Red Mills Mens Open race. With owner David Maxwell riding a winner at Plumpton it was left to Angus Cheleda to partner Shantou Flyer and his 5 pound novice allowance may have proved critical as he had only a length and a half in hand at the winning line. Having fought off the attentions of the Philip Rowley trained Salvatore he had to hold off the fast finishing Green Winter ridden by Zac Baker. As David Maxwell is looking to secure another Amateur Rider's Title under Rules it is likely that Shantou Flyer's attentions will be turned to Hunter Chasing next.
Rose began the day by saddling Chameron to win the first Division of the Conditions race and he was one of the most impressive performances of the day. Bought expensively from France after winning two Hurdle races he failed to win a race when trained by Paul Nicholls and went to the sales last August where he was bought back by his former trainer who has retained a share in him with jockey Harry Cobden. The other owner John Bolton who is a cattle dealer from Glastonbury was recording his first ever point to point winner and on the basis of this outing has much to look forward this season. Explaining his victory Rose said he had lost his confidence at Ditcheat and the drop in class helped to give him a chance to find his form. Beating his twelve rivals by ten lengths he looks one to follow this season as he is only seven years old.
Rose was hopeful of saddling the winner of the other Division of the Conditions race with another ex-inmate from Ditcheat namely Captain Buck's ridden by Natalie Parker. However in a duel with Wick Green on the run in he was denied by a head in one of the closest finishes of the day. Trained and ridden by Peter Mason for the Shy John Partnership he has strengthened since last season and is another promising youngster. Broken by Peter as a two year old for owner Charles Horton he was acquired as a pointer when Shy John retired for the partnership. This was his seasonal debut and a great improvement on the previous two seasons when he has failed to complete on his debut. He is another whose attentions are likely to be turned to Hunter Chasing later in the season.
The two divisions of the three mile Maiden races featured a number of promising horses who will have gone into notebooks for the remainder of the season. Fran Nimmo introduced Fedelta a six year old Flemensfirth gelding in Division One and he stayed on well under James King to win the race by four lengths. Owned by well -known National Hunt owner Trevor Hemmings his racing Manager Mick Meager revealed that this would have been his boss's first ever point to point winner. The gelding had suffered a fractured shoulder whilst he was being trained in Ireland so his performance was even more impressive in beating the Philip Rowley trained My Bobby Dazzler ridden by Alex Edwards.
Alex did not have long to wait before recording his victory of the day when partnering the mare Fleur Du Pommier to win the Second Division of the Maiden. Previously owned by the late Godfrey Maundrell she was sent to the sales during the summer and on the suggestion of joint owner Stan Rawlins she was bought by Harriet Waight who trains in sight of Larkhill. It was Harriet's idea to secure the services of Alex Edwards to ride the mare as she felt that she needed a rider who could give her confidence and help with her jumping. This certainly paid off as the mare held off the challenge of Red Buccaneer ridden by James King by a length.
The Restricted race was the most eventful race of the day with only four of the twelve horses finishing the course. Whilst Teeton Surprise may have been a fortunate winner for Nick Phillips the Black Sam Bellamy jumped round to beat Drakes Well ridden by Zac Baker. Previously trained for the late Joan Tice by Stuart Morris he is now owned by a partnership headed by Joan's daughter Judy and trained by Dibby Brown. Nick explained that he had been Field Mastering off the winner on Boxing Day and had been round Cirencester Park and that hunting had been very good for him.
The Novice Riders race was won by the veteran My Murphy ridden by his 17 year old pilot Albi Tufnell and trained by Sally Randell. Timing his challenge to perfection he caught long- time leader Darius Des Bois and he was an easy winner by 15 lengths. It was subsequently revealed that this will be Albi's last ride of the season as he now turns his attentions to his A Levels at Radley. However he will be returning next season and on the basis of this ride and his two successes with Call Me Vic this season he looks a young rider to follow despite being out of Novice status.
Christopher Barber introduced a promising sort when Thechaseison made all under Martin McIntyre to win the final race the Maiden Conditions race. Bought by Ed Bailey privately after three runs in Ireland he has strengthened since arriving in England. Described by his owner Christopher's mother Charlotte as 'an absolute gentleman' he held off the challenges of The Whiskey Man and Baignard and looks another to follow during the season.