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Sheppard is flying the flag for West Mercian talent

26-March-2024 12:49
in General
by Bob Bracher
The curtain fell on the current season at Larkhill as the Tedworth returned to the course that they last raced at in 1991. The weather played its part in the day giving two unpleasant hailstorms which sent racegoers scurrying for cover but otherwise it remained dry throughout the afternoon. There were a number of impressive performances during the meeting including a training double for Nicky Sheppard to seal her achievement as leading trainer at the course, a first career winner for Hugh Lillingston, a riding double for James King and a third course victory for Wolf Walker.
The Restricted race which opened the meeting appeared to be a virtual match between Wolf Walker owned by Robert Fear and Andrew Ham who had won both a Maiden and a Restricted at the Wiltshire course, and Red Nika a very impressive winner at Badbury Rings on his return to racing following a long absence. Described by winning rider Will Biddick as a ‘pointing equivalent of the famous meeting between Seabiscuit and War Admiral’ it proved to be very one sided with his mount brushing aside his rival to record an easy victory. Described by his trainer Chris Barber as ‘a bit quirky’ he was quick to highlight the role of Jamie Thomas in the training of him in a similar way to his stable star Famous Clermont. Chris added that ‘he has strengthened as his training has progressed and that there is much more to come’. Originally as a 5-year-old a light season was planned but with the three victories under his belt one option that is being considered for him is the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham as he has now won two Restricted races this season.
The Club Conditions race also appeared to be between the two principals Ihandaya, an easy winner at Didmarton this season and Horizon D’Ainay, already the winner of three races this season at Larkhill. However, the former showed an impressive turn of foot to draw clear from the second last and record a twenty lengths victory. Owned by Clive Hitchings and moved to Nicky Sheppard’s yard this season from Sam Loxton, the six-year-old partnered by Natalie Parker has continued to progress and has a bright future. Nicky commented that ‘we are very lucky to have him' and thanked Clive for allowing her to train such an exciting prospect.
The Mares Maiden race provided James King with the first leg of his double when the Joanna Mann owned Bushtucker Park made most of the running to defeat newcomers Cue Jump and Lamanver Stargazy who dead heated in second place. Previously trained by Olly Murphy and known to James, he was bought by Joanna following a Facebook advert as she had been looking for a Walk in The Park mare to breed from. Trained by Julie Wadland, for whom James rides on a regular basis, he advised that ‘she jumps fences well and that her rating under Rules was lower than it should have been so I was hopeful that she would be good enough to win a race like this’.
The feature race, the Tedworth Gold Cup, run over an extended three miles six furlongs, provided Grace a Vous Enki, ridden by James King, with another comfortable victory. Despite giving away ground when jumping left-handed at most fences he had too much class for his three rivals and had ten lengths in hand over Gran Paradiso. Recording his fifth consecutive Open victory at Larkhill this season, which must be a record, his next outing is likely to be the Lady Dudley Cup, a race his owner Joan Hitchings is particularly keen to win. A half brother to Yala Enki there was never much doubt that he would stay this extended trip and so it proved.
The biggest field of the day, the Novice Riders race, attracted a field of twelve horses and this produced a fairytale outcome for 19-year-old Hugh Lillingston on his pointing debut. Riding the family-owned mare All Loved Up he had twelve lengths in hand at the finish ahead of the favourite Diligent ridden by Shannon Holmes. Hugh, who has been working for Nicky Henderson since Christmas, is the son of Luke Lillingston, the international bloodstock agent, who is based at the Mount Coote Stud in Ireland.
Luke explained that they had been looking for a suitable schoolmaster for Hugh and she had been sourced by J D Moore. Although she was a Maiden, she had had plenty of experience including a fourth in a Hunter Chase at Fairyhouse which Luke described as ‘quite similar to Larkhill.’ Trained by Olive Nicholls she advised that’ as Hugh was based close by at Lambourn, they had been looking for a suitable yard to place the mare and she was delighted to help out and to be involved in his initial success’.
Those with longer memories may remember Luke riding in point to points in the 1980s and winning on Dombolus at Spring Hill.
A competitive Maiden concluded the meeting and provided a welcome winner for Special John owned by father and daughter Paul and Jazmin Hosgood and jockey Charlie Sprake. Setting off in front he held off the challenge of Badbury Rings ridden by Ella Herbison by two lengths. Acquired privately from Henry de Bromhead after he did not sell at auction he is related to Special Tiara the very speedy two mile chaser who won the Champion Chase in 2017. Jazmin who operates a horse transport business traIns this gelding along with Born in the West who was runner up at Cotley the following day.

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4m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)


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