Avon Vale Report on Sunday by Kirsty Boutflower
Christmas is a time for families and it was therefore appropriate that the last meeting before the festivities at Larkhill on Sunday turned into something of a family affair with Igor taking the Mixed Open for Sam Waley-Cohen for father Robert, Ben Bromley winning on the family-owned Dragon d’Estruval and a memorable first winner for jockey Arron Butterfield who was wearing his grandfather’s colours. The fog tried its hardest to cancel every race but after continued discussion between the stewards and jockeys, the meeting was deemed fit to go on and the public were treated to some excellent finishes despite the overall visibility being a challenge!
The meeting commenced with two divisions of the bumper and some quality horses were on show. With over half the horses entered being owner/trainer, it shows that Pointing is still well supported at the very heart of the sport. Zero visibility proved problematic for the commentator and spectators and it wasn’t until the last furlong, that the beautifully-bred Presenting Miranda emerged from the gloom to edge ahead of co-favourite Whitsand Bay in the opener. A half-sister to Presenting Percy, Sir Johnny Weatherby’s lovely homebred mare certainly took the eye in the paddock under the care of trainer Kelly Morgan. Alice Stevens who partnered the winner said that she had led the whole way and was clearly impressed by her. Kelly who had foaled the mare for Sir Johnny explained that the Isjamala partnership was named after his children, Issy, Jack, Max and Lara.
The second division was won by The Tablet for owner/trainer Maurice Linehan and this half-brother to Easy Bucks won nicely under jockey Zac Baker. Zac said how the horse had gone ten lengths clear at one stage and was possibly idling by the line. Trainer Maurice, who had bought the gelding privately as a 3 year old, felt he was a really nice horse and would now be offered for sale. A really classy sort, he would be a nice addition to any yard.
Another who was put on the market after his win was Yeoman Warder who was well backed to take the short maiden for jockey Luke Scott and trainer Tom Weston. A big scopey grey son of Shirocco, the gelding improved on his first run at Hexham where he had become unbalanced and Luke said he was well-suited by this galloping track. This form may turn out to be fair as the second, Don’t Ask Fitz (owned by Matt not Mick Fitzgerald) looked to be an above average debutant and as a full brother to Ask Ben would certainly be one to keep an eye on.
Sam Waley-Cohen could be described as one of the last “true amateurs” combining riding with running his dental businesses but as he shows regularly round Aintree, that is certainly no barrier. His mount Igor had formerly been trained by Nicky Henderson for father Robert but didn’t build on his novice hurdle win when sent chasing. A smiling Sam explained Igor had really enjoyed his jaunt around Larkhill, jumping well and he won a competitive Mixed Open cosily by 3 lengths from Ballymoy, himself a former classy horse under rules who should open his pointing account soon. Close-up in 5th was Olive Nicholls, daughter of NH trainer Paul, who was making her riding debut on Monsieur Gibraltar. Judged on this ride, it won’t be long before she is celebrating her first win.
The most imposing looking winner all day was The Big Sting who kicked off a double for trainer Chris Barber whose horses are in great form. The big Scorpion gelding was dropped back to two and a half miles and this looks the minimum for him. Jockey Will Biddick was enthusiastic in his praise and said he was cantering over the opposition. A delighted owner Phil Fry explained his daughter Lorraine had bought the horse at Doncaster Sales and he should easily progress through the ranks this season being aimed at an Intermediate next.
Chris’ second winner was possibly lucky to survive an objection after his Envoye Special finished first in the second division of the Condition race as he leant on the second horse, Sixteen Letters along the run-in but after a Stewards Enquiry the result stood. Winning jockey James King was confident he would keep the race as he explained his horse had won going away by two lengths. A relieved Chris said the horse would improve from the run and the aim would be to run him in Opens and then Hunter Chases. The earlier division of the Conditions Race was won by Ben Bromley on Dragon d’Estruval who was running for his father and grandmother. A thrilled Ben said “he literally took off when I gave him a tap and flew past the others,” running out an easy 12 length winner at the line. Bought by father Anthony from the “Double Green” Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, the horse had been with both Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins. This was Ben’s third winner of the season and this horse looks an exciting addition to his team.
The finale, the 3 mile maiden was a fitting end to an enjoyable day with Footloose giving Arron Butterfield his first ever winner. Arron who works for Colin Tizzard, owned, trained and rode the winner. Arron’s father Alex who himself worked for Jennie Pitman and Nicky Henderson explained that Arron keeps his horses at Toomer Farm nearby and trains his own horses after his work at the Tizzard yard is done. Footloose who looked a picture in the paddock was the standout on form especially after the horse he had finished a good second to last time, The Big Sting, took the Restricted.