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Avon Vale at Larkhill by Bob Bracher
Sunday 19th December 2021

The last scheduled point to point meeting before Christmas in the country takes place at Larkhill next Sunday when the Avon Vale hold their meeting. There will be seven races with the flat race having already been divided and a total of 109 entries have been received. There will be the opportunity for some last-minute shopping from the trade stands that will be in attendance along with the usual food and drink outlets plus the chance to have a bet with the bookmakers. Racing gets underway at 11.00am and following the recent rain the current going is reported as good and is unlikely to change before Sunday. Masks will need to be worn in the enclosed areas and sensible social distancing should be maintained particularly in the more crowded areas such as the bookmakers.

The feature race, the Mixed Open, looks to be a cracker if the leading entries all participate. Salvatore from Philip Rowley's stable always runs well at Larkhill and now being ridden by Ben Bromley should come on from his run behind Cousin Pascal at Revesby Park. Another prolific Larkhill winner Chameron now owned by Nick Sutton and to be ridden by Ben Sutton is likely to find the Wiltshire course more to his liking than Dunsmore and this former Coronation Gold Cup winner is definitely one for the short list. Paul Nicholls as an owner has two entries namely the highly rated Sametegal, last seen in the Aintree Foxhunters and now trained by Sam Loxton and the former David Maxwell owned Monsieur Gibraltar another regular at Larkhill when trained by Rose Loxton and now with Will Biddick. Francesca Nimmo reported at Barbury that she is likely to run another former Nicholls horse namely Captain Buck's as 'he seems to like Larkhill and going right-handed suits him much better than Badbury Rings where he seemed to sulk'. Hopefully he will give Freddie Gordon a good ride. Igor was placed in the Lady Dudley Cup last season but has not run yet this season. Southfield Theatre is bound to set a strong front running pace but he may find one or two of his rivals stronger in the finish. Moratorium comes into the race in excellent form but this is a much stronger race. Cheltenham de Vaige won at the previous Larkhill meeting and Envoye Special boasts good Hunter Chase form from last season. Salvatore is the selection.

The Conditions race is the main supporting race and has attracted the highest number of entries namely 25 horses. This would be an easier target for both Moratorium and Envoye Special but they may both find the prolific Normofthenorth too good. The winner of four of his five outings last season this progressive seven-year-old from Alan Hill's stable looks the one to beat. Slievegar won at the last Larkhill meeting and if making the long trip again from Cheshire he could have each way prospects. Sixteen Letters ran under Rules for Kayley Woollacott last season but does bring consistent form from 2020. Dragon d'Estruval boasts winning form in France and in England when trained by Nicky Henderson and was last seen running for Willie Mullins for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. Now part owned by Anthony Bromley and to be ridden by Ben Bromley he looks an interesting recruit to point to pointing. Knockaderry Flyer made all at the last meeting under Darren Andrews and will go close again.

The Restricted race over the shorter trip of two and a half miles could see another win for the Christopher Barber trained and Phil Fry owned The Big Sting. Successful at the last meeting over the full three miles the drop back to the shorter trip may suit this strapping son of Scorpion. His main rivals could consist of Lagonda from whom Tommie O'Brien was unseated at the third fence at the last meeting and then proceeded to cause havoc whilst running loose including carrying out the unlucky Arcal Fifty after the twelfth fence who reopposes again. The Mighty Ash won his Maiden at Cothelstone last season and Un Huit Huit was third at Badbury again over the full three miles and both come into the reckoning.

There are two Maiden races the first again over the shorter trip for four- and five-year-olds. Santos Blue won a three runner Flat race at Revesby Park but he is in the care of Alan Hill and will have been well schooled ahead of his fencing debut. Hollywood's Hill made his debut at Dunsmore and is entitled to improve on that run. However, the race might be won by one of the unraced horses with Next One Please from Christopher Barber's stable and Don't Ask Fitz catching the eye. Christopher's horses in this type of race should always be considered but his four-year rival by Ask out of a mare called Decheekymonkey is of interest as one of his owners is the ITV Racing presenter and former jockey Mick Fitzgerald. A full brother to the winning hurdler Ask Ben he is due to be ridden by Alice Stevens.

The performance of The Big Sting in the Restricted race may give strong pointers to the success of the horse he beat at the last meeting namely Footloose. Now owned and trained by Arron Butterfield he could give his rider his first winner as a jockey. He was previously stabled with Harriet Brown who now holds a full license so her sister Charlotte will be making her debut as a trainer when she saddles Richard King's mare Aunt Lily who does have form from a Larkhill Bumper but did not enjoy a good last season. Jimmy Tew has had many chances and was just beaten in a similar race at Badbury in November. Le Grand Fromage was placed in his only run for Alan Hill last season and this ex-Tom Lacey trained gelding is another to consider. Flying Colum was second at Knightwick over a shorter trip and this longer race may suit. Oscara was second at Cherrybrook but failed to finish in three other races.

The opening race the two-mile Flat race has been divided and with little or no form to go on a close inspection in the paddock is recommended. In Division One the Will Biddick trained Norse Tara and the Kelly Morgan trained Presenting Miranda are two to consider with the once raced Whitsand Bay on the short list. In Division Two Philip Rowley has entered Turbo Dave, Will Biddick has Rocktreerunner and Les Jefford, following his success at Barbury Castle has Mr Mars Man.

Larkhill Racecourse is to be found 5m NW of Amesbury, Nr A303, A345 and A360 – Postcode SP4 8QR. First race 11amEarly Bird entry £10- www.pointingwessex.co.uk Entry Costs on race day £12.50 per person by cash or card, race cards £3, children go free.

 

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