10 January 2011 Scene & Heard: Larkhill Racing Club - Larkhill
by Carolyn Tanner
Michael Miller is still a few winners short of the 178 recorded by his father Richard, but he moved two closer with an expertly-ridden double on Vintage Class in the first Conditions race and Jayne's Crusader in the Men's Open.
The latter, a half-brother to the smart pair of Carole's Legacy and Mad Max, was acquired by Diana Dampney and her sister and brother-in-law, Annie and Percy Tory, from breeder Paul Murphy, who had him in training latterly with Robert and Sally Alner.
He is trained for the trio by Sally, who rides him herself all the time and who joked "He's been let off today - he's only got 12.7!"
Percy is President of the PPORA, and the runner-up to Jayne's Crusader, Mount Benger, who was beaten just a head, belongs to that organisation's Chairman, Richard Fuller, and his wife Charlotte.
"It's even better to have trained it myself," smiled Michael after the victory of Vintage Class. The son of Hernando was in the Alner yard last season under the care of daughter Louise, who has since moved north, but was moved to Michael as he was too big for Sally to ride. "I bought him at Ascot at the same time as I sold Braeroy, and his three-year-old half-brother sold for 100,000 at Doncaster this year," said owner Bill Dupont, who pointed out that he was Michael's "second cousin, once removed."
"On that evidence I think he's good enough to go Hunter Chasing," opined Michael of his charge, "but we'll look for an Intermediate first."
"He's a proper owner-rider horse," said trainer Jenny Gordon after Description had jumped his rivals silly when making all to win the Ladies' Open under London-based shipbroker Camilla Ewart, who owns him with her partner Jamie Warner, for whom he was an initial runner. A winner under Rules for Sue Smith, Description was not necessarily the first choice for the duo at Doncaster's August Sale, as Jenny pointed out. "Meanus Dandy made 40,000, and we also looked at Hell's Bay, but who needs those two now?" she laughed.
Description is likely to return to Larkhill in a fortnight, with Hunter Chasing on the agenda at a later date.
"The best I've ridden," was the accolade handed by rider Sam Drinkwater to Dammam, who landed the Conditions Race Division One. "He was off the bridle early because they went such a suicidal pace," said Sam, "but he needs to be handy because all he does is stay."
Dammam was a first success between the flags for his trio of owners, John Cantrill, Ian Dunbar and David Mason, but all three have enjoyed victory under Rules. He had one run in a Bumper for Alan King, and may eventually return to the professional game, although the immediate plan, said David, is for one more Point before Hunter Chasing.
Dammam was saddled by Jelly O'Brien in the absence of her husband Fergal, who was on duty at Sandown in his capacity as head lad to Nigel Twiston-Davies, and it was the latter's assistant head lad, Richard Bevis, who sent out Mr Melodious to take the Maiden Division Two in the hands of Jonny England, amateur with Evan Williams.
The chestnut was given by Raymond Mould to Jonny's brother David, who rode him over hurdles, and he now runs for their father John.
Richard was quick to hand the credit for the victory to his partner Dom Green, admitting "She does all the work."
The chestnut, who is docile enough to be groomed by the couple's son William, 3½, lives with a Shetland pony and is out in the field for most of the day.
It was a good day for the England family, as David finished fourth in the Welsh National on Ballyfitz.
With Ryan Mahon in action at Chepstow, Will Biddick was called upon to deputise by trainer Richard Barber and went home with two winners under his belt. Will lives a stone's throw from Wadebridge, where he is training half a dozen from his own yard, and would otherwise have stayed closer to home, but he had no complaints. "The horses I'd have ridden there didn't run very well," he smiled, "so I've done much better coming here."
Will took Part One of the divided-on-the-day second Maiden on Peter Maltby's Flanshan, who was sidelined before he got onto a course. "He was going to run as a five-year-old but he fractured his pedal bone when he kicked the stable wall so we gave him the year off," explained his trainer.
The Restricted was also split at declaration, and Will, wearing Paul Barber's famous silks, doubled up in Division Two on Dualla Lord, who would have been carrying the colours of Paul's wife Marianne had she not inadvertently left them in Ireland! Dualla Lord, who was late into the paddock due to Will's saddle having to be retrieved from his previous race casualty Buck's Bond, was found for the Barbers by Liam Burke, who told Paul "If you want a grey horse there's one here."
Harry The Viking, owned and bred by Bill Bush and partnered by his granddaughter Amanda, made amends for his faux pas last season at Barbury, where he jinked right on the flat and unseated his rider, by landing the Maiden Division One in good style. "I've never sat on anything that jumped like that, and I was never worried," beamed Amanda, describing her mount as "a dream ride."
The meeting was notable for some smart performances, but was also marked by the inordinate number of fallers, with no fewer than 29 riders hitting the deck (see also Injury News). The fences were well-built, as always at Larkhill, but they certainly appeared to be unforgiving, and caused problems not just to novice horses and jockeys. It could also be argued that some horses were a bit ring-rusty at the start of the season, but as one experienced rider pointed out, such a casualty list does little to show the sport in a good light.
Two of those on the ground in the Restricted Division One were Will Biddick and James Banks, whose departures in the closing stages handed Godfrey Maundrell his 150th Point-to-Point victory on Spiders Nephew (see also Landmarks).
The winner is trained for Hilary McCall by Paul Thompson, who is hoping to attract more owners to his yard and for whom it was an initial success under his own name - "I trained him last year but he was listed as being with Godfrey," he explained. "He wasn't getting home last year but he had a wind operation in October, which has helped him."
"You get a lot for your money," he laughed of the tall seven-year-old, adding "He's a great hunter but he takes a lot of holding together."
"I've survived two falls, but probably on the first slope tomorrow that will be it." James Tudor, who prior to racing had fervently expressed the hope that he would end the meeting injury-free in order to get away for a week's skiing the following day.
Devotees of Larkhill were chagrined to discover that the famous "Selby Gap" no longer exists. This opening in the railings was named after the President of the Larkhill Racing Club, the newly-married Terry Selby, and allowed racegoers access from the unsaddling enclosure to the course, but it was unfortunately closed off when new rails were erected.