FORMER top chaser Poquelin made the perfect start to his pointing career in Sunday's Larkhill Racing Club Conditions race.
The 11-year-old picked off his rivals one by one under a confident ride from Will Biddick before strolling clear on the flat.
Formerly trained by seven-time champion National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls, for whom he won nine races including five Cheltenham chases, Poquelin was a first winner, at the second attempt, for Ditcheat handlers Andy Croskery and Lucinda Gould.
Andy Stewart and Paul offered him to us and Lucinda owns him with Dave Staddon, John Gane and Tim Yeoman,” explained Stewart.
“He’s stabled at Alhampton, Will hunts him, I ride him out in my lunch hour and Lucinda mucks out. The idea is to have some fun, so he’ll probably stay pointing.”
Larkhill's 2014 opener also saw two 16-year-old riders open their accounts. Megan Nicholls, daughter of Paul, got off the mark when the Stewart family’s Gwanako came from off the pace in the AGA Ladies Open.
“I gave Gwanako too much to do when we were runner-up at Wadebridge in December, but he’s jumped his way into contention today and stayed on very strongly,” revealed Megan.
“I’ll be concentrating on my studies at King’s Bruton for the next 18 months, but he and my other pointer, Join Together, will give me plenty of experience and fun in the meantime.”
Gwanako is trained at Bruton by Paul Nicholls’ assistant head girl, Rose Loxton, who has looked after the Stewart family’s Big Buck’s since the four-time World Hurdle winner arrived at the Nicholls yard from France in 2007.
West Buckland schoolboy Chester Williams, son of Devon trainer Nick Williams, made the perfect start aboard his mother Jane’s Maiden winner Un Ami.
“Chester was unseated from Un Ami when cannoned into during his only ride over hurdles at Exeter in October,” said Jane, whose daughter Lizzie Kelly hit the national headlines when winning on Aubusson at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
“Un Ami is best when held up, but we wanted him and Chester to get round safely after Exeter, so we’ve deliberately raced him prominently round the outside today.”
Trainer Sally Randell enjoyed her first success from her new Eastbury yard with Maiden winner Flan The Man (Will Telfer). The victor was bought privately by Peter Whittaker after being placed in his four Irish outings.
“It’s then taken us four months to get him fit,” explained Sally. “The plan is to go hunter chasing and he’ll be very suited to long distance races and soft ground.”
Rumbavu delighted Robert and Sam Waley-Cohen by making much of the running and repelling all challengers in the Men’s Open.
“He’s not very big and 12st 7lb is a lot for him to carry, but he’s won 11 races now,” said Robert. “If all’s well, we’ll run him the three-mile, six-furlong Lord Ashton of Hyde’s Cup, at the Heythrop’s new Cocklebarrow course on Sunday.”
Most of Alskamatic’s 23 owners were in the winner’s enclosure after the eight-year-old had taken the Restricted under Claire Hart, despite jumping the last in third place.
“That’s him – he stays and wears the others down,” said delighted Kingsclere trainer Richard Bandey.
“He’s been second in each of his five races since winning here last season, so he deserved that.”
The next meeting at Larkhill is the Royal Artillery on Saturday, January 25.