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Post Info TOPIC: Combined Services at Larkhill on Sunday 4th February 2024 by Bob Bracher


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Date: February 6th
Combined Services at Larkhill on Sunday 4th February 2024 by Bob Bracher

Keagan Kirkby
The news about the fatal accident that Keagan Kirkby suffered at Charing came after racegoers had left Larkhill but the loss of a genuinely popular young man will be felt across the whole point to point community. A real enthusiast with a strong love of horses, he achieved one of his ambitions when securing his first riding victory aboard the fragile Ask for Glory at Dunsmore in November 2022. Always with a smile and time to talk he had built strong connections with both Robert Varnham in Guildford and Hannah Grissell in Sussex and his career seemed to be in the ascendancy. He will be much missed by all his fellow jockeys and friends and sincere condolences are sent to his family.

Combined Services review
At Larkhill on Sunday the annual renewal of the classic Coronation Gold Cup sponsored by Leidos turned into a real thriller. Although the field only consisted of five horses it was full of quality with three of the participants boasting unbeaten records this season with two wins apiece for Grace A Vous Enki, Regatta De Blanc and Viroflay. Setting off in front Viroflay ridden by Charlie Sprake in the absence of usual rider Olive Nicholls with the other two market leaders jumping left-handed, the field was still in a tight group approaching the third last. James King aboard Grace A Vous Enki produced bold leaps at both this and the next fence but Will Biddick riding Regatta De Blanc chased him all the way and at the last had a better jump and as they battled all the way to the line neither would give way and they flashed past the winning post together. After a delay, the judge could not separate them and declared a dead heat which all parties agreed was a very fair outcome at the end of a tremendous tussle. Will was thrilled for his mare who he described as 'really tough and genuine against much more battle-hardened rivals' and Rupert Swallow on behalf of the Pendil Partnership was delighted that she had kept her unbeaten record intact.

Grace A Vous Enki watched by her proud owners Clive and Joan Hitchings spoke very highly of their trainer Nicky Sheppard whose yard is only 20 minutes from their home. Clive, visiting Larkhill for the first time this season declared that 'point to pointing is what I love' and despite all of the success they have had under Rules this win was a real highlight. James King, with this victory, advised that he had now managed to win each of the four Classic point to point races and is riding at the top of his game.

Viroflay, who was only two lengths behind the two winners ran another strong race on his favourite course and certainly was not disgraced.

The Conditions Race for Novice Riders sponsored by Caterpillar produced a strong front running performance from Tara Storm ridden by Eve Hobbs and despite a challenge from For Rita ridden by Abigail Henry he drew clear on the run in. A delighted Eve recording her fourth career victory explained that the gelding had lost 25kg since his last run and ran right up to the line. Previously undertaking pre training for Ben Pauling Eve had returned to the family farm to concentrate on the training of the gelding and a good season looks in prospect.

Another horse full of confidence is Horizon D'Ainay who defied his five pounds penalty when recording his third course success in the Qinetiq sponsored Restricted race. With the usual pilot Toby McCain Mitchell riding at Garthorpe trainer Justin Brotherton had turned to James King to deputise and this new partnership gelled well. Justin explained that since his previous outing 'he has just been kept ticking over with periodic visits to Martin Keighley's gallops and is ridden by Daisy who has only been riding for three months.' James complimented Justin saying 'no mean performance to improve a horse out of Dan Skelton's yard' He may be aimed at a Novice Hunter Chase.

The ups and downs of racing were in evidence with the first career victory for Shannon Holmes aboard Diligent in the Atos sponsored Ladies Conditions race. Unseated in the Novice Riders race riding Jabbea Shannon set off in front on Diligent trained by her grandmother Mary Sanderson. Headed at the second last she found a renewed effort from her game mount and had too much in hand for Jarlath at the winning post. Shannon, 17, works for Nigel Hawke and this was her ninth career ride. The gelding had previously been trained by Nigel Hawke with whom he had secured the majority of his nine wins under Rules.

There was a close finish to the Maiden Conditions Race sponsored by Civica with the race looking to be between Designer Destiny ridden by Edward Vaughan and Two in Tune ridden by Martin McIntyre as they jumped the final fence. However, sweeping past them both on the run in was the mare Love That ridden and trained by Josh Newman at Woolminstone near Crewkerne. Bought unseen from Ireland on the recommendations of Aiden Fitzgerald she had disappointed at Badbury in November but since then thanks to the efforts of Hannah Morgan at the yard she has found her form and looks likely to continue to improve.

Another ex-Irish point to pointer secured victory in the final race, the Maiden sponsored by Supacat, when All Star Boy ridden by Will Biddick held off a challenge of Money From America ridden by Ivor Herbert. Bought by Ed Bailey for Chris Barber Ed explained that ' I tried to buy him at the Newmarket Sale but was not successful but after his last outing when he pulled up I managed to arrange a deal' Chris advised Will not to hit the front too soon and added that he thought that the gelding has much ability and will improve for that outing. Chris has now acquired three of the horses that ran in that Maiden in Ireland in November namely this gelding, Summer Jam and Wolf Walker and all have won for him having pulled up in that Irish race - a real testimony to Chris's training skills.

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