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R A continues strong competitive fields at LArkhill this Saturday

The Royal Artillery hold their annual point-to-point at Larkhill this coming Saturday, the fourth meeting at Larkhill course this season.

Since the last meeting, all 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.

A good entry of 82 horses have been received for the seven races, which are due to start at 11.30am and, prior to the first race, there will be a Side Saddle Dash at 11am, which should be a good spectacle to watch. Masks should continue to be worn in the officials’ area and the paddock, and social distancing should be maintained, particularly in the crowded areas.

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, who is trained by Sam Loxton. The winner of two hunter chases last season at Wincanton and Warwick and a 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 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.

Caid du Berlais
Caid du Berlais (WIll Biddick up) Photo: Tim Holt

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 a 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 five-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 both Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins, and the winner of four chases, 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 may have to settle for the runner up spot once 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 Conditions contest for novice riders 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 previous meeting, and Old Guard, who won his only point last season and has won nine races under Rules previous to that. 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 may be aimed instead 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 the 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 in 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 runs a game race at Larkhill and Lagonda was runner up in a similar race at the Avon Vale fixture, while Forty Acres shaped encouragingly on his seasonal debut at the last meeting and holds each way prospects of his own.

Satellite Receiver is the standout entry from the 18 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 here. Of his opponents, Don’t Ask Fitz was runner up at the Avon Vale meeting and should find a race this season, while 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 the potential ride for his 16-year-old son Freddy. Highland Glory, out of the 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 14 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 still. Sailed Away was in training with Sir Michael Stoute, but never actually ran for him, and is now with Michael Kehoe. Phil Rowley has a tremendous record in these races and his representative, Turbo Dave, certainly makes the shortlist.

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