The Point to Point season is upon us, with action on Saturday, January 22 at Larkhill Racecourse.
The Royal Artillery hold their annual Point to Point at Larkhill and this is the fourth meeting at the popular Wiltshire course this season with an entry of 82 horses for the seven races.
The day starts at 11am with a charity side saddle dash, then the first on the card runs at 11.30am.
Larkhill Racecourse is 5m north west of Amesbury, near the A303, A345 and A360. Postcode SP4 8QR.
Etickets can be purchased at www.pointingwessex.co.uk
Entry Costs on race day £12.50 per person by cash or card, race cards £3, children go free.
Since the last meeting all of the fences have been moved to fresh ground and the bends have also been moved.
Currently the going is reported as being good and it is likely to remain the same by the day of the meeting. SVGC Limited are welcomed as sponsors for the racecourse and will also sponsor a race at the meeting. The feature race is the INEOS Grenadier Mixed Open race for which 13 horses have been entered. It is a high-quality entry headed by Caid du Berlais trained by Sam Loxton.
The winner of two Hunter Chases last season at Wincanton and Warwick and the dual winner of the Champion Hunter Chase at Punchestown this will be his seasonal debut but this veteran is a class act. Amongst his potential opponents is the very progressive mare Highway Jewel trained and ridden by Bradley Gibbs who was a winner of a Mares Hunter Chase at Cheltenham last May but her best performance last season was when beating Hazel Hill at Chaddesley Corbett.
Winners this season include the evergreen Southfield Theatre who is bound to set off in front, Maitree Express who won well at the last Larkhill meeting, Dragon d’Estruval who won one division of the Conditions race at the Avon Vale meeting and Envoye Special who won the other division at the same meeting. Trio for Rio is another to come into the reckoning as is Salvatore but if Caid du Berlais is fully tuned up he should be too good for his rivals.
The Conditions race for 5-year-olds and upwards is the race before the Mixed Open and this would certainly be an easier option for Dragon d’Estruval. Previously trained by Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins and the winner of four steeplechases he is now in the capable hands of Phil Rowley and will be ridden by the promising Ben Bromley. His main rival looks to be Sixteen Letters trained by Neil McLean who was second to Envoye Special at the last meeting but he might have to settle for the runner up spot again. Lord Scoundrel owned by Graeme McPherson is a seven-time winner under Rules but this is his seasonal debut. Minim Mouse runs well at Larkhill and should give Chloe Emsley a good ride whilst Tuff Nano needs to put a disappointing run at Barbury Castle behind her but on her best form could run well.
The Novice Riders race could see another winner for 16-year-old Olive Nicholls as her father Paul has entered both Monsieur Gibraltar already a winner for Olive at the last meeting and Old Guard who won his only point to point last season and has won 9 races under Rules. Possible opponents are the progressive Footloose who has won his last two races for Arron Butterfield and the ex-Irish trained Doldido the winner of a Chase at Galway in September. Another former resident at Paul Nicholls yard is Captain Buck’s who is now in the care of Jenny Gordon but he may be aimed at the opening race on the card. Fan Club Aulmes won two of his four races last season and this progressive gelding trained by Fran Nimmo might be one to chase Olive Nicholls chosen mount home.
The meeting starts with the Hunt Members where Captain Buck’s should give a bold show for Freddy Gordon in his search for his first winner. His principal rival will be the representative of local trainer Harriet Waight of either Coco Live or Fleur du Pommier. Coco Live has advanced considerably since moving to Harriet’s stable but this would be his seasonal debut and the fitness of Captain Buck’s might be the telling factor.
The Restricted race may see the reappearance of Nuova Vita who was successful in a Maiden race at the last meeting. Trained by Ed Walker and ridden by Chloe Emsley he caught the long -time leader Satellite Receiver over a shorter trip but the longer distance should not be a problem for him. Honey I’m Good was an easy winner of a Mares Maiden at Barbury Castle and this mare may give Nuova Vita the most to do. Arcal Fifty always run a game race at Larkhill and Lagonda was runner up in a similar race at the Avon Vale meeting. F orty Acres shaped encouragingly on his seasonal debut at the last meeting and holds each way prospects.
Satellite Receiver is the standout entry from the 18 entries for the Maiden race. He showed improved form from his three runs in Ireland when beaten by Nuova Vita and this Chris Barber trained six-year-old should be able to go one better. Of his opponents Don’t Ask Fitz was runner up at the Avon Vale meeting and should find a race this season. Dorset Diamond would probably have finished second at the last meeting but for unseating Charlie Sprake at the second last. Westhill owned by Clive Hitchings and trained by Sam Loxton was in third place when falling at Chaddesley Corbett and provided not affected by that fall should be considered. Albert Hucklebuck has place form over Hurdles when trained by Chris Gordon and he is a potential ride for his 16-year-old son Freddy. Highland Glory out of the very successful mare Highland Retreat was sold cheaply out of Dan Skelton’s stable and her debut over English point to point fences should be noted.
The meeting concludes with a Flat race over two miles for which fourteen horses have been entered. There is not much form to go on but He’llstopatthetop was runner up in a similar race in December and could easily go one better for owners Tracy Williams and Donna Walters. Royal Buck’s was third in the other division of the Flat race in December and could use his racecourse experience to good effect. Maid of the Night, Hallowed Rose and Pocketts Road were fourth, fifth and sixth in another race at Barbury Castle and there may not be much between them. Sailed Away was in training with Sir Michael Stoute but never ran for him and is now with Michael Kehoe. Phil Rowley has a tremendous record in these races and his representative Turbo Dave would certainly go on the short list.