Easter Saturday brought its fair share of squally showers and blustery conditions at the Avon Vale point-to-point at Larkhill. The highlights of the day's racing were a double for trainer Sally Alner and stable jockey Stan Sheppard, an impressive victory for Lough Inch, who had travelled down from Leicestershire, and a first point-to-point winner for 17-year-old Mitch Bastyan.
Sally Alner and Stan Sheppard began proceedings by winning the first two races starting with the Maiden in which Stan rode the favourite, Tom Barton. Owned by the Four Dames Partnership consisting of Anne Tory, Diana Dampney, the Hon Patsy Todd and Hilary Cox, the winner was held up for most of the way and produced to catch the long-time leader Right On Roy after the last. Bought out of Peter Niven's stable in September 2014, he has benefited from the application of a hood, which has quietened him to good effect. Placed in all his races this season, he was certainly not winning out of turn.
Garstin made every yard in the Mens Open to secure the double for Sally and Stan and comfortably beat off the efforts of You Too Pet, ridden by Peter Mason, by four lengths. Owned by a partnership headed by Nicky Turner and including Anne Tory, who advised that this was her first ever double as an owner. The winning gelding clearly likes Larkhill, as this was his fourth career win at the course and he needs to race right-handed.
Sally had hopes of a quick fire treble when she ran the veteran Master Medic in the Ladies race (Natalie Parker). However, after the 15-year-old gelding was pulled up at the 14th fence, Sally immediately announced his retirement and paid tribute to her gallant stable star. The winner of four chases under rules, nine point-to-points and a Hunter Chase, he has been a feature on the Wessex scene for several years and will be much missed. Seigneur Des Bois won the race in good style for Isle of Wight owner Anna Reed and trainer David Buckett. He was ridden for the first time by Hannah Watson, a good friend of Aly Stirling, the gelding's usual pilot, who was not available to ride. The winner clearly enjoyed being able to dominate the race and much preferred the sounder surface than he had previously encountered at Parham.
The Restricted was won by Minella Selfie, ridden and trained by Ben Clarke. After Bold Cuffs had set off quickly Minella Selfie took it up at the 13th fence, was never in any danger and was left solo at the last when Mirs Choice ran past the fence when a well beaten second.
The Intermediate saw a great battle between Cousin Pete and The Flying Doc. The latter led at the last, but Nick Phillips conjured a strong run from Cousin Pete to win by two lengths at the line. Owned by Nick's mother Scilla, she was quick to give credit to her groom, Dibby Brown, who has brought the horse back to full fitness; connections are now contemplating a Hunter Chase for him. Unbeaten in his last three races, he is certainly a progressive sort.
Lough Inch made a 7 hour round trip from his Melton Mowbray base to easily win the Club Members Riders Conditions race. Paying his first ever visit to Larkhill trainer Tommy Morgan said 'When it started raining I nearly pulled him out as he does not like the soft ground but I decided to let him take his chance. I had come to Larkhill looking for better ground'. Jack Andrews, riding the gelding for the first time, described his ride as 'fantastic' and 'the best horse I have ridden'. Now the winner of nine of his 12 English point-to-points, he has been very well placed by connections, having been originally a gift horse from Jonjo O'Neill's stable.
Mitch Bastyan secured his first ever point-to-point win when he won the Hunt Race aboard the Jack Barber- trained Subtle Sovereign. Mitch, who works for Jack, was having only his second ride for the stable, but had previously won an Arab Flat race aboard How Realee for Sue Herrod. Now owned by Jeremy Barber, Len Vickery and Robert Fear the grey gelding took it up at the third last from long-time leader Pasternak Jack and drew clear to win by 20 lengths.
Prior to the point-to-point races Megan Bevan notched up her third win this season in the 138cms Pony Race aboard Mayday Black Mink and Charlie Sprake won the 148cms Pony race riding Goldwell's Gucci. This was Charlie's fourth pony success and his first in the 148cms category.
Open Maiden (7 ran)
1 Tom Barton 4/7F Stan Sheppard; 2 Right On Roy 10/1 Jack Andrews; 3 Bee Crossing 7/2 L Muspratt. 6mins 32s. 3l, 8l. (Sally Alner)
Mens Open (7 ran)
1 Garstin 3/1 Stan Sheppard; 2 You Too Pet 6/4F P Mason; 3 Tin Pot Man 2/1. 6mins 15s. 4l, 8l. (Sally Alner)
Ladies Open (4 ran)
1 Seigneur Des Bois 5/2 Miss H Watson; 2 Trueflying Colours 2/1 Miss B Hampson. 6mins 21s. 15l. (David Buckett)
Restricted (4 ran)
1 Minella Selfie 5/2 Ben Clarke; finished alone. 6mins 38s. (Ben Clarke)
Intermediate (6 ran)
1 Cousin Pete 5/4 N Phillips; 2 The Flying Doc 4/6F J Newman; 3 Russian Empire 4/1 James King. 6mins 32s. 2l, 10l. (Elizabeth Brown)
WAPP Club Members (4 ran)
1 Lough Inch 4/6F Jack Andrews; 2 Virginia Ash 4/1 L Drowne; 3 Ballybough Gorta 9/4 E Henderson. 6mins 44s. 15l, dist. (Tommy Morgan)
Hunt Members (3 ran)
1 Subtle Sovereign 4/6F M Bastyan; 2 Pasternak Jack evens L Drowne; 3 Qianshan Leader 6/1 J McNeile. 6mins 39s. 20l, dist. (Jack Barber)