The curtain came down on a much depleted Larkhill season due to the pandemic when the specially organized April meeting was held on Sunday. Only 2 of the usual seven meetings were held in this much reduced season. The lack of much rain in April and the inability to water the course meant that the going was firm and although a healthy entry of 63 horses had been received the meeting only had 20 horses participating with the young horse Maiden being a void race as none of the entries declared to run. The highlights were a double for father and son trainers Keiran and Luke Price, a change of fortune for owner rider Gordon Hopkinson and another winner for the highly promising rider Daniel Ellis.
The opening race a Flat race over 2 miles for 4 to 6 year olds attracted a field of five runners none of whom had ever raced in public. James King aboard the 4 year old Soldier of Fortune gelding Best Pal set off in front and dictated the pace throughout and was a convincing 8 lengths winner at the line. Trained in Wales by Keiran Price for self -employed Llanelli builder Jason Rees this was Keiran's first Bumper victory and Jason's first winner at Larkhill on his first visit. Bought privately in Ireland he had been in training since November with Keiran and had been pleasing him at home. Jason has had point to point horses with a number of Welsh trainers in the past and he mentioned Corbett Court who had been in training with Paul Hamer and had won a race at Monmouth in 2019.
The runner up to Best Pal was the 5 year old mare Towtheline trained and owned by Harriet Brown at Mappowder near Dorchester. She was outpaced during the race but stayed on past her three other rivals to snatch second place near the finish. Bought by Harriet cheaply at Doncaster as a three year old this Black Sam Bellamy mare should benefit from her racecourse experience as she progresses.
The Intermediate race attracted the biggest field of the day with eight horses facing the starter. Long Mile Road ridden by James King led for much of the race but headed by Captiva Island ridden by Tommie O'Brien at the second last. Despite not jumping the last fluently he had too much in hand to hold off the finishing effort of Arcal Fifty ridden by Martin McIntyre. Owned in partnership by Ian Cobbold and Alan Hill he has taken time to recover his full fitness after having had a piece of birch stuck in his foot on his last visit to Larkhill in December 2019. This was part of an across the card training treble for Alan Hill who saddled two winners at High Easter. Ian Cobbold was present to watch his gelding triumph and recalled the successes of the prolific Dante's Storm who won a total of 10 points and 3 Hunter Chases the later ones being after he had been transferred to Alan's stable. Joe Hill representing his father indicated that a Hunter Chase at Fakenham may be the next target for the winner.
Arcal Fifty trained not far away from Larkhill by Bea Coward was recording his fourth runner up spot for his enthusiastic owners The Barrow Street Racing Club headed by Will Shields. Ironically it has been Tommie O'Brien the winning rider who has been on board Arcal Fifty on many of his outings since joining Bea's stable in 2018.
After Spencer Moon walked over in the Mixed Open for trainer Luke Price and rider Will Biddick, Gordon Hopkinson recorded his eighth career victory when riding his own Beau Sancy trained by Fran Nimmo in the Conditions race where the riders had not to have ridden 15 winners at the start of the season. Tracking the long-time leader Theatre Evening he look up the running at the third last and drew away to beat the favourite Tempelpirate by 10 lengths. Gordon, 32, a Corporate Tax Lawyer from Battersea described both his profession and his race riding as "adrenalin fuelled' with the feeling of race success more fun. Sourced from Olly Murphy's stable by Fran and her husband Charlie Poste for Gordon to ride to replace Black Jewel upon whom Gordon had recorded three of his successes. He had previously recorded a victory at Larkhill but lost the weight cloth on the run in and was subsequently disqualified. Gordon who has just become a father to a daughter Ivy was keen to thank his wife Martha for putting up with his race riding.
The easiest winner of the day was the success of My Little Cecil in the Maiden race ridden by 16 year old Daniel Ellis. Having only his sixth point to point ride this was his third career victory. The gelding made his debut at Higham earlier this month when ridden by Daniel and was pulled up. Taking up the lead at the 13th fence he drew right away from his two opponents in an impressive fashion. Bought privately from Ireland by Tim Sleath from Thornbury the Winged Love gelding may continue to improve. His young rider who will be 17 in June works full time for Christian Williams and paid credit to both Christian and his brother Nick for their help and support in his development as a rider. Another product of pony racing he has already had two winners in the Wessex area following his previous win at Cothelstone and looks a rider to follow for the future.