by Brian & Gill Armstrong

Fifty-one contested the six races at the United Services Point-to-Point at blustery Larkhill on Saturday. Highlights were a double for owner Ray Geddes and trainer Richard Barber, including Tales Of Bounty’s success in the feature Coronation Gold Cup, a challenge cup first presented by HM The Queen at Larkhill back in 1953.

Ray Geddes’ Norski Lad relished the easier conditions to repeat last year’s success in the opening United Services Members’ race under Jamie Snowden. The Richard Barber-trained winner jumped into the lead at the second last and held off the fast-finishing Teller Of Tales by three lengths. Norski Lad will now be aimed at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hunter Chase at Sandown on 12th March, while Teller of Tales, who was making his first appearance since 2001, looks one to note for the future.

The 15-runner Restricted race went to odds-on favourite Free Gift and Daryl Jacob who led five out and looked in command when long-time leader Ballyalbert and rider Anna de Lisle Wells fell at the last. Free Gift is trained at Droop by Sally Alner and is owned in partnership by Tom Chadney, Doug Guyer, Penny Tozer and Valerie Howard. 

Tales of Bounty, a close second at the Royal Artillery meeting, made amends by taking the feature Coronation Gold Cup under an enterprising ride from Nick Williams. Tales Of Bounty was left well clear when Aberfoyle Park took a crashing fall three out - leaving Daryl Jacob with a suspected broken collar bone - and just held County Derry’s strong challenge by a short head. This was a first Coronation Cup win for owner Ray Geddes who recalled riding his good horse Master Vesuvius to win at Larkhill in the 1970s. Tales of Bounty now needs to win one more Open race to qualify for the Christies Foxhunters Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in March.

The Intemediate went to Keltic Lord and Alex Charles-Jones who prevailed in a close finish with Pendragon and Nick Mitchell. Keltic Lord is trained at Bishopstrow by Sarah Waugh for The Last To Leave Partnership consisting of Sarah’s partner Martin Lilley, Ilminster decorator Richard Crabb, South Petherton publisher Dave Staddon, and Cotswold publican Paul Porter, who was enjoying his first-ever point-to-point winner.

There was another close finish in Division One of the Open Maiden race when Kay Price’s Who’s Eddie and Mickey Harris held off Noble Action by ½ length with Kyalami the same distance back in third. Who’s Eddie, who might have preferred softer ground, was a first Larkhill training success for Broadway trainer Harry Wheeler, although he recalled riding a winner at the course back in the 1970s. Division Two went to Preacher Boy, who led five out and ran on strongly under Polly Gundry. Preacher Boy was bought by Sherborne owner John Keighley as a three-year-old at the 2002 Fairyhouse Derby Sales in Ireland.

The next Wessex Area meeting is the South Dorset at Milborne St Andrew this Sunday, 15 February. First race: 12.00 noon.