The third meeting scheduled for Larkhill this season – the Royal Artillery – will be held this coming Saturday. Although the entries for the seven races (77) do not reach the heady heights of the first two meetings, there will still be some very competitive racing at the busiest point-to-point racecourse in the country.
All the fences have been moved since the Larkhill Racing Club meeting, so there will be fresh ground to race on and the latest going report is for good ground despite the rain forecast for this week. The highlight is a very competitive Mixed Open and the meeting ends with the first running of a Flat Race at Larkhill, over two miles for four- and five-year-olds.
The Mixed Open may see the return of Monsieur Gibraltar to point-to-point racing. The leading horse at Larkhill last season, he was sold to David Maxwell during 2019 and campaigned solely in hunter chases thereafter. He holds an entry at Ludlow on Thursday in the hunter chase, but is one of three that David Maxwell can choose from in Shropshire, so if he opts for one of his other entries, then this may be his seasonal debut. He has a great record at Larkhill and is the obvious choice. Rose Loxton has also entered Caid Du Berlais but he is more likely to go to Buckfastleigh the following day. Of the other likely rivals for Monsieur Gibraltar, Green Winter is the most dangerous. Already a Larkhill specialist, he ran an eye-catching seasonal debut when a fast-finishing second to Shantou Flyer, and ought to improve for that run. Brackloon High is another with Larkhill victories to his name, including two Coronation Gold Cups, but he is now at the veteran stage and might find this too hot. Clive Bennett has two entries – Chasforgold and Marcle Ridge – with the latter the preferred of the pair.
The meeting opens at 11.30am with the Royal Artillery Hunt race. Last year's winner Adrenalin Flight is one of five entries and is likely to be partnered by Charlie Pike, who works for owner Seamus Mullins. He might have to give best to Coco Live, who missed an engagement at the Larkhill Racing Club meeting due to a small cut incurred on the day. He fought out a duel with the progressive Salvatore in December and ought to be too good for his rivals on that form. Rakasba would be a poignant winner, as his owner Jane Bailey, the widow of the late Peter Bailey, passed away recently having been a supporter of the Royal Artillery and point-to-pointing over many years.
The Open Maiden for five-year-olds-and-upwards might provide Wykham with an opening to break his duck. A very promising fourth at the last meeting, this Robert Waley Cohen-homebred is out of Liberthine, who won the Topham at Aintree in 2006. He may be opposed by several rivals whose last appearances were in point-to-points in Ireland, including Song of the Hunter, who has been placed twice and is now in the care of Tom Malone and the likely mount of Will Biddick. Others to consider are Naughty Gnome, now with Bea Coward; Famous Clermont, now in the care of Christopher Barber; and Byzantium Lad, who was a promising fourth at Cottenham last month – he may be the one to give Wykham the most to do.
The Novice Riders' race may be the preferred option for Adrenalin Flight, and this looks potentially easier than the Hunt race. Thereyarsee was third in a similar race at the last meeting, which was improved form on previous outings, with Spanish Arch a fast-finishing fourth in the same race. Storm Lantern often runs well at Larkhill and comes into consideration, as does the veteran Huff And Puff, who was previously trained by Venetia Williams and last seen when runner-up at Sandown in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup. A chance is taken on the last-named to bring his best Rules form to this race.
The Conditions race may see the seasonal debut of Chase Me, trained by James Ridley and successful in three races last season before finishing fifth in the John Corbet Hunter Chase at Stratford in May. Dean Summersby is a rare visitor to Larkhill but he has entered Clondaw Bunny, who should improve on his seasonal debut at Wadebridge and is likely to be partnered by Darren Edwards. Coco Live holds an entry in this race and would have a strong chance if he does not run in the opener. Imogens Thunder should come on for his first race of the season, and the same can be said for Swincombe Toby, who missed all of last season. Chase Me is the selection.
The Restricted holds an entry for Fleur du Pommier, the winner of a Maiden at the last meeting when partnered by Alex Edwards. She may find another mare, Tim Underwood's Miss Massey, who was unluckily hampered and unseated Phil York at the last meeting, difficult to beat. Arcal Fifty runs well at Larkhill and should find at least a Restricted this season. Hard Ground fell at Ampton last weekend and the hint may be worth taking if he makes a quick reappearance. Normofthenorth won his only race at Kimble last season and this Alan Hill-trained gelding is another to consider. Schiap Hill won his Maiden at Mollington last season and is clearly on the upgrade.
The meeting concludes with an entry of 16 horses in the Flat Race for four- and five-year-olds. Only Priory Wood has racecourse experience, having finished fourth at Ffos Las in a similar race in December. However, it is likely that the winner will come from one of the newcomers, with One Punch trained by Fran Nimmo, Grand Knight (Gearoid Costelloe), Fiscal Firepower (Tom Weston) and No Peace From Him (David Phelan) being four to consider. A couple of offspring from Wessex point-to-pointers are represented by Dorset Diamond, the son of Bobbys Choice (who won two points), and Aunt Lily, the daughter of Twoee (who won a Maiden at Littlewindsor in 2009). Inspection in the paddock as well as the betting ring would be recommended in this race.
Larkhill Racecourse is to be found 5m NW of Amesbury, nr. A303, A345 and A360 – postcode SP4 8QT. First race: 11.30am. £10 per person, children free, racecards £3.