An excellent day’s racing was enjoyed by all attendees at Larkhill on Sunday, when the Hursley Hambledon held their point-to-point. Although there was a keen wind it remained dry and clear, and a very healthy number of 74 runners took part in the six races. On going described by riders as between good and good-to-soft, the course rode very well, with the two Opens, won by Southfield Theatre (Ladies) and Earth Leader (Men’s) being the main highlights of the meeting. Philip Rowley enjoyed a welcome winner at Larkhill from his Shropshire base, Luke Harvey introduced his new purchase Raised With Praise when winning the Maiden (see video below), and owner Clive Bennett celebrated a real landmark as an owner.
The Ladies' Open proved to be a competitive event, with Ravished, the easy winner from Cottenham travelling from his Cheshire base; the Cheltenham 2019 Intermediate Hunter Chase winner Latenightpass; and Southfield Theatre, the winner of this race in 2018, being the three principals in a nine-strong field. Southfield Theatre (Lily Bradstock) set off in front and despite the attentions of Ravished (Immy Robinson) on the run-in, was able to hold off the favourite by half a length. Ridden by his trainer Sara Bradstock in his work, she described him as "a raving lunatic at home" but he did nothing wrong at the racecourse. He may take in a hunter chase during the season but will continue to race in Ladies' races in the near future.
The Men's Open was another very competitive heat, with the favourite Earth Leader (pictured) extending his winning streak to his last six outings. The six-year-old gelding was one of the most improving horses from last season, which culminated in two hunter chase successes. This was his first outing in Open company and he was too good for his market principals Let's Get At It (Will Biddick) and Theatre Territory (Sam Waley-Cohen). It was left to Big Casino (Zac Baker) to chase home the favourite, who was partnered by Angus Cheleda for the first time. Angus, 20, was, in fact, riding in his first point-to-point having previously been a Conditional rider based with Colin Tizzard, for whom he rode four winners over a three-year period. Now with Paul Nicholls as an amateur, he is having another opportunity to restart his career and the connection with Rose Loxton's powerful stable will certainly give him every chance. From Yetminster, near Sherborne, Angus has grown up with ponies and hunting but did not participate in pony racing. He looks a rider to keep an eye on during the current season.
The two-and-a-half-mile Maiden produced an unexpected winner in the form of Pass Rusher, trained by Fran Nimmo and ridden by James King. His form from last season was uninspiring but he has strengthened considerably over the summer and was an easy winner ahead of the favourite Butter Hill (Zac Baker). Bought by Fran as a three-year-old, and owned by her and husband Charlie Poste, the future plans are rather uncertain according to his trainer. James King, who comes in to ride for Fran and Charlie a couple of days a week, also rides out for licensed trainer Olly Murphy and point-to-point trainer Alan Hill.
There was a red-letter moment for owner Clive Bennett when his mare Miss Seagreen outstayed Magna Sam to capture the Restricted. This was his 100th winner as an owner and this fifth-generation mare epitomised the involvement Clive has had with a sport he loves, which started with Public Relations, his first winner, at Maisemore Park in 1987. When asked how many horses he has at present, his instant response was "Too many!", but he later qualified it as ten horses. Ridden by Sam Jukes, who trains Clive's horses, he tracked Magna Sam for most of the race but produced the mare to win by two lengths.
Philip Rowley admitted that he had not enjoyed much success in the past at Larkhill but rectified this when Salvatore (Alex Edwards) got the better of a duel with course specialist Coco Live (Martin McIntyre). There was a maximum field of 20 for the Conditions race, and this proved to be a strong contest in quality as well as quantity. Salvatore, who had improved throughout last season, finished third in the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham in May, and was cheered home by his part-owners Di Cope and Sue Sharratt, who had travelled from Staffordshire to watch him. The six-hour round trip from Philip's Shropshire base would not have seemed so far on the way home.
Luke Harvey, a real point-to-point enthusiast as well as being an ITV presenter, introduced his new acquisition Raised With Praise in the concluding Open Maiden. With the Tom Lacey-owned favourite Harold's Arrow disappointing, the race developed into a battle between On Parole (Alice Stevens) and Raised With Praise (Darren Edwards) before Darren got a strong run from his willing partner and prevailed on the run-in. Bought by Luke at Doncaster in May, he is known as 'Eric' at home as Luke explained that he gives his horses a stable name based on previous trainers of the horse, and this Getaway gelding is named after the Irish trainer Eric McNamara.