Henley trainer Jack Barber and three-time national champion jockey Will Biddick combined to land a treble at Larkhill on Saturday. Aerial (Men's Open), Subtle Sovereign (Conditions race) and Bandeirantes (first Maiden) provided the pair's three successes.
The former put in a superb round of jumping to secure the win needed for Cheltenham Foxhunter qualification. "We're still not certain whether to go for the Cheltenham or Aintree Foxhunter, although he still needs to be placed in a Hunter Chase to qualify for the latter," said joint-owner Tony Hayward. "It's possible he'll go straight to Cheltenham, but if the ground's soft there, we'll have a rethink. He jumps for England and has hardly ever made a mistake in his life, although he did once fall at a bullfinch fence in France when distracted by another horse. I'd actually love to see him tackling the Aintree fences."
Course specialist Subtle Sovereign raced prominently throughout before registering his fourth Larkhill success. "What a horse," beamed Jack, clearly recalling that Subtle Sovereign was his first winner as a trainer and last as a jockey. "He'll win Open races but we'll avoid them as long as possible to avoid picking up weight penalties."
Bandeirantes made an impressive racecourse debut by collaring favourite Cooladerry King at the last. "He's our first homebred and our first outright winner as owners, although we and Brett Parsons were joint owners of Willow Ryde when he won this corresponding race in 2006," confided Glastonbury owners Hugh and Liz Webster.
Cooladerry King's Shropshire trainer Sheila Crow and jockey Paddy Gerety went one better when Mr Mercurial had sufficient reserves to take the Intermediate after leading into the straight. "He'll go Hunter Chasing and I can see him in the Cheltenham Foxhunter one day, although maybe not this year," said Sheila. "Paddy says he blew up but still had the class to get home. These are my first runners of the season and we've come here as, regrettably, our North West season doesn't start until March."
That's Rhythm belied his 15 years with a brilliant performance in a top quality ladies' open. Prominently ridden by Page Fuller, That's Rhythm stormed clear of his field in the straight. The winner, who has won five races between the flags and seven hunter chases, will be campaigned in point-to-points according to trainer Charlotte Fuller, mother of the winning rider.
Briefcase put in a magnificent round of jumping to take the second maiden for the Edwards family. Ridden by Darren Edwards and owned and trained at Wheddon Cross by Darren's father, Gordon, Briefcase had finished runner-up in five of his 20 hurdle races, so was certainly not winning out of turn.
"Outsider of three" punters were rewarded when Harriet Besent's Impact Zone took the Hunt race under former conditional Louis Muspratt. Harriet made the running aboard her 2013 and 2014 corresponding race winner Deimne before Seamus Mullins' odds-on favourite Combustible Lady led at the 13th, but neither had any answer when Louis pressed the button at the third last fence.
Entries: 110; runners: 74 (67%)
Hunt Members (3 ran)
1. Impact Arena (U) (L Muspratt, 10-1); 2. Combustible Lady (IRE) (D Sansom, 1-2F); 3. Deimne (IRE) (Miss H Besent, 7-4). 6min 12s. 20l, 10l. (Harriet Besent)
Open Maiden (Div 1) 5yo&up (12 ran)
1. Bandeirantes (W Biddick, 3-1); 2. Cooladerry King (IRE) (P Gerety, evensF); 3. Minellacelebration (IRE) (J Nixon, 4-1). 6min 17s. 2½l, 5l. (Jack Barber)
Open Maiden (Div 2) 5yo&up (14 ran)
1. Briefcase (IRE) (D Edwards, 7-1); 2. Royalzaro (FR) (W Biddick, 3-1); 3. Tom Barton (R Henderson, 5-1). 6min 18s. 3l, 4l. (Jack Barber)
Ladies Open (13 ran)
1. That's Rhythm (FR) (Miss P Fuller, 9-4); 2. Seigneur Des Bois (FR) (Miss A Stirling, 25-1); 3. Safferano (IRE) (Miss G Andrews, 50-1). 6min 06s. 4l, 3l. (Charlotte Fuller)
RAH Club Members Conditions 5yo&up (14 ran)
1. Subtle Sovereign (IRE) (W Biddick, 1-2F); 2. Hinchelsea Moor (D Sansom, 33-1); 3. Garstin (IRE) (R Henderson, 7-1). 6min 16s. 6l, 2l. (Jack Barber)
Mens Open (5 ran)
1. Aerial (FR) (W Biddick, 1-4F); 2. Otto The Great (FR) (F Henderson, 10-1); 3. Arthurian Legend (Z Baker, 9-2). 6min 10. 15l, 10l. (Jack Barber)
Intermediate (13 ran)
1. Mr Mercurial (IRE) (P Gerety, 5-1); 2. Legal Legend (T McClorey, 3-1); 3. Third Chance (IRE) (W Biddick, 7-1). 6min 07s. 2l, 8l. (Sheila Crow)