Old Sodbury owner Ray Geddes, who has been a standing dish at Larkhill since riding winners aboard his top-class Master Vesuvius nearly 40 years ago, achieved a 1-2 in the Larkhill Racing Club Men’s Open, writes Brian Armstrong.

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Martin Cooney had Mustangsallyrally in a prominent position throughout, but couldn’t hold off stable companion According To John when Will Biddick pressed the button after the third last. “I’m proud of both, especially Mustangsallyrally who’s carried 7lb more”, said Ray. According To John, third to Denman in Cheltenham’s 2007 Royal & Sun Alliance Chase, is now half-way to Christie’s Foxhunter qualification and connections will seek to secure the qualification via another Open or a Hunter Chase.

The win completed a treble for Seaborough trainer Richard Barber after debutant Spider Monkey and I’m The Article’s Maiden race wins. The former, who led after two out under Will Biddick, is from the family of 1974 Champion Hurdler Lanzarote and provided a first point-to-point success for Jared Sullivan, whose firm, Potensis, sponsors champion trainer Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard.

Jack Barber produced I’m An Article on the flat to provide a second winner of the season for Melanie Alford, Jeremy Barber, Brian Lock, Ned Nolan, Susanne Read and Phillip Walters, the six members of The Peckmoor Partnership.

Coombe Hill notched his first win since the 2010 Coronation Gold Cup when sauntering home under Darren Edwards in the second Conditions race. The win was a first for Charlotte Tizzard since she moved to her partner Nick Fear’s family farm at Wingfield near Bradford-upon-Avon, and a first point-to-point success for Blandford owner Geoff Thompson, who bought Coombe Hill from the Tizzard family six months ago. A hunter chase campaign is on the cards.

New Forest owner-trainer James H Young described Hincheslea Moor as “my best horse ever” after David Turner had driven the five-year-old past long-time leader Artic Fire (Rachel King) on the run-in in the Restricted. Named after a local viewing spot two miles from the Youngs’ home, Hincheslea Moor won his Maiden at Littlewindsor in May but failed to reach his reserve – “thankfully”, sighed James – at Cheltenham Sales shortly afterwards.

Noble Aran (Micheal Nolan) completed a family win for the Barrow family in the final Maiden division. Owned by Ray Barrow, found by Ray’s son-in-law, Tom Long, from Ffos Las racecourse chairman, Dai Walters, and hunted with the West Somerset Vale and trained by Ray’s daughter, Julie Long, Noble Aran already looked the winner when the Barber-Biddick challenger Spuddler fell at the last.

South Midlands yards took the remaining two races. The Jenny Pidgeon-trained Orient Legend (Tom Ellis) made virtually all the running in the first Conditions race. National Champion Gina Andrews adopted similar tactics on Description, who held off the Barber-trained Gwanako (partnered by Gina’s younger sister Bridget) to repeat his 2011 Ladies’ Open win, despite a blunder at the fifth. “[Owner and regular rider] Camilla [Ewart] broke her hip in a schooling fall before Christmas, so I said we should get the best”, smiled Oxfordshire trainer Alan Hill, who took over the horse from Jenny Gordon in December.

Colonel Dickie Winchester and new Larkhill Clerk of the Course Suzie Vickery presented a David Trundley print of the course to Major Mike Shaw to mark his retirement after 10 seasons in the post.

The next Wessex Area meeting is the Royal Artillery at Larkhill on Saturday 21st January.

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