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Hursley Hambledon

Larkhill, 2/12/18

After a geographically clumped trio of fixtures led to pitiful fields a week earlier (rethink due for the area system in pointing?), Larkill’s solid but not exceptional entry drew a high percentage of attendees compared to entries and some decent racing. It was far less windy than forecast, and up on Salisbury Plain such a relief can lead to people smiling benignly on almost anything.

Going: Good

Race 1: Spraytek Maiden, 4-6 year olds, 2m 4f

1: Drakes Well     2: Bridge Of Cally     3: Artson

Winner owned: Stephen Corbett, trained: Fred Hutsby, ridden: Sam Lee

This race was due for an 11.30 start and the last time that UK-Jumping was at Larkhill for a morning kick-off, hilarity ensued as attempts to divide the opening maiden descended into shambles. This race did not need such a difficult exercise but it was the commentator who demonstrated the folly of early Sunday beginnings, having a complete nightmare in this race whilst dealing with all of the others in perfectly functional manner. It may have been a horse conspiracy, a the first problem was not noticing Dawn Sunrise falling at the first, and whilst belatedly trying to clarify the identity of the departee, getting distracted as one horse ran out at the second and took another with it. Being in the same boat of looking up the faller, it was not noted beyond doubt who was carried off course and who did the carrying, but the accusative finger goes to debutant Walkonthinice with fellow newcomer Courtandbould being the innocent bystander. Both had a lot of light blue in their colours, so the roles could have been vice versa. Bridge Of Cally was left in front, only to be quickly headed by the hard pulling Beauchamp Ruby. She proved that morning racing is frowned on by the horse population, as she ran out at the third fence, or may have been intimidated/carried out by a loose horse. As lots of horses were clearly having most fun with this chaos, Thelastwon uninvolved himself as soon as possible after it. A few moments of common sense prevailed, but emerging from the dip, at the eleventh, Crosspoint became the latest exiteer, unnoticed in commentary, which was a bit unfortunate as he was alongside the leading Drakes Well at the time and drew attention to himself with quite a wild jump. It had been a decent racing debut until then. The winner was left unchallenged from there as Bridge Of Cally was merely plodding on very slowly but still clear of Artson who was one of a small clique who got their best possible placing by staying well away from the reckless activities of others – i.e. at the back.

Race 2: Allison Family Ladies Open

1: Southfield Theatre     2: TB Broke Her     3: Midnight King

Winner owned: Angela Yeoman, trained: Sara Bradstock, ridden: Lily Bradstock

The question mark on this race was that although Southfield Theatre had gone into decline a bit early under Rules, had he gone downhill enough to lose this? The market showed initial disinterest, but there appeared to be some late money. This was not an easy option of a race, as TB Broke Her was race fit from a third at Buckfastleigh already this season and the less obviously ready to rumble Moscow Prices has become quite hard to keep out of the first two. In the end Southfield Theatre was quite an impressive winner, as he eased clear of TB Broke Her from the fourth fence out, although being eased (or idling) in the home straight made for a modest winning margin of a couple of lengths. Moscow Prices was very disappointing, jumping left and weakening quickly from the eighth, eventually pulling up at the furthest distant point of the course – a display a bit too weak to blame solely on lack of fitness. Midnight King will come on for the race and can add to his ten pointing wins, despite being about to graduate into his teenage years.
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Southfield Theatre has an early check of what first place is like here. He approved enough to be there a circuit later. Stalking him are Bankhall and Russian Conquest, with Moscow Prices and TB Broke Her tagging along next. As One More Tune is watching from the rear, Midnight King must be the obscured blur in sixth

Race 3: Moore Blatch Mens Open

1: Tom Barton     2: Apple’s Queen     3: Sarazen Bridge

Winner owned: Four Dames Partnership, trained: Sally Alner, ridden: Liam Harrison

This became a tighter contest than the first two, despite the first three all having moments when it looked as if they might call it quits. The sweat bathed Tom Barton hit his flat spot after two miles, but he rallied strongly to attack three out with Sarazen Bridge, then ran out of puff and hung left on the run-in. He just did not wander enough to open a door to Apple’s Queen, who ran a very good race considering that he missed all of last season. Having been prominent early, he lost his position after a bad error at fence six but was dynamic enough to recover. The bounce is a possible enemy next time, but he seems set for a good season overall, catching Sarazen Bridge near the line for second. Connections of the third will probably be satisfied with this opener, as the horse likes front running and does not have a track record of doing so sensibly on return from a break.
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Tom Barton (right) finds the line does come in time. Sarazen Bridge (middle) does not, as grey Apple's Queen has just nicked second place.

Race 4: Penson Events Restricted

1: Drumlynn     2: Rakasba     3: Sleepy Sunday

Winner owned & trained: Luke Harvey, ridden: Darren Edwards

Seven of the nine entries turned up for this, but only three finished. The betting ring felt that it was a two horse race in reality, and the second favourite of those, Shallamar, fell at the ninth, just after an awkward attempt at fence eight. From there on Drumlynn had all of the others covered, and the only risk was being less fit than it looked considering that since winning a bumper in summer 2017 he had only manged one other race and was unraced for sixteen months. Rakasba noodled around in his own time for second to make it 1/17 in point-to-points, beaten a very long way but even further ahead of Sleepy Sunday, who was another returning from a season off. She did so in unexceptional manner.

Race 5: Barfoots Countryside Alliance Club Members

1: Blackwater Bramble     2: Pointview Gale     3: Ballycahane

Winner owned: KR & RJ Smith-Maxwell, trained: Alexandra Dunn, ridden: John Smith-Maxwell

Quite a good race for one a step below Opens, and a runner or two from here will be winning at that level when the season gets going and the top horses are spread more thinly. Blackwater Bramble had already managed a Buckfastleigh success this season and he applied the fitness and ability to make this a comfortable number two for the season. Who does not like a comfortable number two? Ballycahane was disappointing, having already managed to run at the seasons opening meeting in Devon, but he was nearer Pointview Gale than had been the case that day, so the logical view is to be complimentary to Blackwater Bramble regarding the drubbing administered. Only three completed, and the non-finishers who did not dismay too much were Skyhill Allstar (pulled up around fence fifteen after a few sloppy jumps – fix that and he will be fine) and Summer Sounds (ran out of puff completely after a mistake four out – he will be fitter and soon running through the jasmine in our minds, maybe in the style of Type O Negative). Those less encouraging but not terminally malfunctional were The Well Road (looked well, but under pressure too far out to blame fitness alone) and Thereyarsee (needed the run, but looked less than excited by returning to a course where he has won four times). The bottom drawer was occupied by Princely Player, who was pushed along by half way, lost his jockey in the part where they are out of view and generally was not very good for a horse that goes well fresh.

Race 6: Equestrian Fencing And Timber Services Open Maiden

1: Danilo D’Airy     2: Airlander     3: Hello Jazz

Winner owned & trained: John Benfield, ridden: Zac Baker

Another race that cut up into just three finishers, but it is an early season maiden, so that outcome is hardly unexpected. The most popular horse was Airlander, a newcomer fielded by the Lacey team but he was well and truly given what for by Danilo D’Airy, whose only other run was in a Barbury bumper at the start of the year. Those with a modicum of effective memory will recall that the last of three divisions of that race was abandoned as the track was unraceable, so Danilo D’Airy need not have found massive improvement when being able to gallop properly was enough. Hello Jazz does not make the course all that often and has refused to race, so the first pair needed to put some daylight back to her and managed it. The paddock pick (other than needing the race) was Duke Master, an Irish import. He was in contention until the thirteenth, before dropping away and pulling up two out. In the form book he has done nothing so far, but time is on his side and perhaps he just needs shorter races. Two other interesting non-finishers took a step backward from earlier promise. Montarlot fell at the sixth and Free Ski ran out at fence eight – the latter being the more ominous regression.
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