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Way forward for point-to-pointing at Larkhill unsure after 75 years

  • The future of point-to-pointing at Larkhill is uncertain as leading figures hope to find a “practical solution”.

    Larkhill racecourse, which operates on a corner of Military of Defence (MoD) land on Salisbury Plain, has hosted racing for 75 years and its history can be traced back even further.

    It is a key venue in the British point-to-point calendar for many reasons. And while racing has the green light for the 2022/23 pointing season, the course will then close unless the MoD reconsiders its decision to end the lease. It follows the news of a halt to racing at Barbury, although hope remains on that front too.

    There is appreciation of the wider picture of MoD priorities, rather it is hoped a positive way forward can be found for all involved. Those working to keep Larkhill open highlighted its importance as a venue, not just to point-to-pointing, but the wider racing, equestrian and associated thoroughbred industries, as well as the fabric of the local and rural communities.

    “If the demise of Larkhill proves correct, it will be a real problem for the sport. Larkhill is, of course, one of the great point-to-point courses which has begotten many superstars,” Point-to-Point Authority chief executive Peter Wright told H&H, giving examples of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business and the 2022 Queen Mother Champion Chase victor, Energumene.

    “But perhaps more importantly still, it is the backbone to our national winter programme, providing six of 12 fixtures that can run however much rain falls, and is also the link between the South West and the Midlands. As such, it would be a disaster if we lost it.

    “However, we have not given up hope and I am hopeful that a practical solution can be found to keep it open, even with some compromises, perhaps on dates and the course itself.”

    South West-based handler Chris Barber told H&H Larkhill is known for its reputation as a top track.

    “It’s a very fair, galloping track. Usually, the best can win round there,” he said, adding that its central location and chalk-draining ground are part of its importance as a course.

    Charlie Poste, who runs point-to-point training and young horse production business Station Yard Racing with his wife Francesca, told H&H Larkhill is a course people beyond pointing circles reference because of its significance and reputation for competitive racing.

    “From our point of view as young horse producers, there’s no doubt it is one of those tracks – [in the same way as a] a top Rules track – that people give more credence to the form when you win at a venue like that,” he said.

    Larkhill is also home to a British Eventing fixture, plus many unaffiliated and military horse sport activities. It also supports the development of equestrian sport within the military and local communities. It is understood that there will be implications for eventing at Larkhill, but not necessarily tied to the same outcome as the point-to-point course.

    Andrew Ritchie, chairman of the Larkhill racecourse committee, told H&H they are “very disappointed” with the MoD decision to close the course.

    “It has been a popular feature of rural Wiltshire life for 75 years,” he said. “Its loss will be a great blow to thousands of racegoers in the West Country and to many members of the civilian and military communities who live and work around Salisbury Plain.

    “It will also be much missed by racehorse owners, trainers and riders throughout the country. I sincerely hope the MoD will reconsider its decision.”

    H&H has contacted the MoD for comment.

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