Wallace weighs in to save Larkhill
The battle for the survival of Larkhill as a racing and equestrian venue seems to be over before it has really begun following an abrupt about-turn from the Ministry of Defence.
Alerted to the announcement from the Larkhill Race Committee that the MOD had declined to renew their lease for the 2023-24 season and beyond, news filtered out into the public domain very rapidly. To the dismay of Pointing fans, who recognize it as a bellwether of the health of their sport in the West Country, the impending closure seemed scarcely believable, and racing fans were incredulous that the Army could not source sufficient space across the rest of Salisbury Plain to accommodate live firing and exercises.
After the news was made public in Horse & Hound, the story reached no less an influencer than Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, who swiftly countermanded the decision. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, a source at the MOD commented, "The Minister recognizes that as custodian of the largest land resources in the UK, the MOD has a duty to not only use the land to ensure our forces are best prepared but also that the local communities who have farmed or used the land for centuries are supported."
However, Pointing is not quite out of the woods yet. The terms of any new lease are, as yet, unconfirmed, and are likely to show a demonstrable increase in cost. This will place the emphasis back on Point-to-Point committees among the 7 fixtures using Larkhill to up their game, and resource themselves better. Time will tell if they are all capable of doing so.
Meantime, the new 2022-23 season got underway at Knightwick in Worcestershire and Great Trethew in Cornwall over the weekend. Select fields were a reflection of the difficulties in preparing horses in the unseasonably dry summer and autumn, but entries for the Portman this weekend are better.