by Brian & Gill Armstrong

The Avon Vale Hunt held its annual point-to-point at Larkhill on Saturday. Highlights included Free Gift’s fourth Larkhill win of the season in the Men’s Open while there was a exciting finish to the Ladies Open.

The opening Hunt Members race went to Rhythm King who led after the 13th for an easy win in the hands of owner Godfrey Maundrell. Rhythm King was bought out of Jim Old’s yard in September 2003 and was a fifth win from just four horses for first-season trainer Paul Thompson, 30, who is based at Godfrey’s Marlborough stables.

The 2½ mile Confined Maiden was won by Darcey Mae who forged a distance clear despite the unwelcome attention of two loose horses. This was a first point-to-point win of the season for Shaftesbury rider Lucy Bridges, 24, whose mother Helen bought the horse privately from David Stephens last summer.  Darcey Mae will continue to run in point-to-points but may be campaigned under Rules at a later date.

The Men’s Open resulted in a very comfortable success for the Sally Alner-trained Free Gift who made most of the running under Daryl Jacob. This was Free Gift’s fourth Larkhill win of the season for joint owners Tom Chadney, Doug Guyer, Penny Tozer and Valerie Howard. Free Gift may be aimed at the Folkestone Hunter Chase evening meeting on 19th May before campaigning under Rules next season.

There was an exciting finish to the Ladies Open when What A Mover and Polly Gundry overtook Sir D’Orton (Charlotte Tizzard) and Rimpton Boy (Rachael Green) after the last for a 3 length success. What A Mover is trained at Cullompton by Ollie Bush for Tiverton auctioneer Terry Hamlin, East Coker farmer John Snook and Odcombe auctioneer Martin Dare. This was What A Mover’s  fifth consecutive win and her ability to both stay and quicken will make her hard to beat in the future.

Cirencester Agricultural College student Guy Disney, 22, rode his second-ever winner when Boyne Banks made all the running in the Restricted race for Novice Riders. Boyne Banks is one of two point-to-pointers trained at Naunton by animal physiotherapist Sarah Stafford who leases the horse from James Cheetham. Boyne Banks jumped superbly for Guy to register a well-deserved success as the combination had been runner-up in three previous 2004 outings.

Saucy Arethusa survived a last fence blunder to take the closing Panacur/TBA PPORA Club Members Mares Maiden race under Neil Harris. Saucy Arethusa is trained by Jeremy Scott at his stables on the edge of Wimbleball Lake near Dulverton and was bred by Stogumber owner Jeremy Philips from bloodlines established sixty years ago by his family.