Ampton, 14/1/18

Dunston Harriers

The gradually becoming traditional early season hike up to Bury St Edmunds. The weather forecast was for a cold day with an uncomfortable bit of wind chill on top. In reality it was mild and very, very still – but overcast and gloomy throughout. With the course (distantly) over shadowed by the smoke belching sugar beet factory to the south, it may have been the inspiration for industro-gothic scenarios that recur in the arts, such paintings as de Loutherbourg’s “Coalbrookdale By Night” or the written word in a Dickensian edge-of-townscape or Tolkein’s vision of Saruman industrialising Isengard, or even how Eli Roth initially envisage “Hostel” shaping up. This is a strange track in its own right. When there, it seems slightly oval, but perhaps with mighty tectonic forces squishing the uphill end. However, aerial photos prove it to be an isosceles triangle. There is no suitable conspiracy theory for this.

Going: Good, Good to Soft places

Race 1: Loveday & Partners Conditions, 10 year olds and over [3m]

1: Broadway Symphony     2: Foxcub     3: Conkies Lad

Winner owned: The Profligate Partners, trained: Tracey Bailey, ridden: Zac Baker

The favourite for this was Foxcub, whose encouraging Cottenham run did not prove his stamina for trundling up the hill from the third last here. That part of the finish he did surprisingly well, but along the way he fluffed the last fence and it cost him the race, losing in the end by only a length. Broadway Symphony had pulled up on seasonal debut, but he was fit enough for this run, the possible problem was being a bit too keen. He was on his toes in the paddock and it was carried over into the race. At halfway, the note made “won’t keep this up” but he did. Apart from the jolly, only Conkies Lad managed to stay roughly in touch, and as he pootled up the hill, the pace never once seemed as if it would be fast enough. Most of the defeated were either not fit enough or have been indicating that they are past their best. Young Cheddar was one of those whose fitness was found out by the rise to the line and The Job Is Right represents a team not known for first time winners.
Easy going for Broadway Symphony early on, with Spitfire Ace the best of the rest

Race 2: BWSC East Anglia Ltd Open Maiden, Div I [3m]

1: Steeles Terrace     2: Lady Of The Rea     3: Unseen

Winner owned: The Two Farmers And A Butcher Partnership, trained: Andrew Pennock, ridden: Evan David

The maiden, which was set to be a modest affair, got split into two races, and this was the stronger of the two. Thus, based on the name, the owners earned the additional prize per race of a big box of various meat cuts, even if they did not really need it. Steeles Terrace looked in the paddock as if there were some fitness rough edges to be smoothed out, but the opposition could not handle him anyway. He led at the thirteenth and stayed on relentlessly, even if fairly slowly, to make a narrow advantage into one of eight lengths at the finish. Behind him there were three horses in the battle for the places. Lady Of The Rea showed a nice attitude to fight on for second considering that she had done the donkey work prior to Steeles Terrace seizing the advantage. Unseen, who is missing his left eye, would presumably find right-handed tracks like this easier to negotiate and he held off Come On Harriet for third. Just. With unexceptional raced horses involved, the race was at the mercy of a newcomer of half-decent skills, but the one contender, Woolards Ash, was severely short on the jumping side of his game and pulled up after a couple of miles.

Race 3: Open Maiden, Div II [3m]

1: Summer Sounds     2: Indian Chance     3: Staple Head

Winner owned: James Jackson-Stops & Tim Jackson-Stops, trained: Francesca Nimmo, ridden: James Jackson-Stops

A sponsor did step in for this race when the division was made, but the announcement was not entirely audible, so they will sadly remain anonymous. This was quite appropriate for what looks like a very weak race. Even the way the finish panned out made it look feeble. Summer Sounds made the running for most of the way, was headed two out, and then regained the advantage over the last where Indian Chance jumped slowly and followed on by going to the finish at a very laboured rate of progress. This was the third race on the spin that Indian Chance has been runner-up, and even allowing for less than optimal fitness, it was an ugly way to bring up the treble. Summer Sounds has shown ability to win a race in the past, but his enthusiastic part-owner/rider is not a prolific winner (as can be most tactfully put) - at least they have got there in the end. Taking the turn at the bottom of the course Sackable Offence was losing touch (and not repeating the improved Cottenham run) when she fell, at which point Staple Head appeared the most likely to pick up the prize. He found less the than other two when it really mattered – which may prove to be greater criticism than it currently reads. The debuting horse for this division, Withorwithoutlou, also jumped badly, but after a school round – the benefit of which will be seen, or not, soon – she pulled up before three out with no harm done.
Sackable Offence is failing to give Summer Sounds the elbow in a very brief interlude where he was allowed to lead. Third placed Light And Day could not sustain his position. The pursuit was the big grey Rollingontheriver and Withorwithoutlou

Race 4: Timico Mixed Open [3m]

1: Warden Hill     2: Goodnight Vienna     3: Jimmy The Jetplane

Winner owned: John Chatfeild-Roberts, trained: Helen Connors, ridden: Tim Chatfeild-Roberts

This was a decent line-up, as would be hoped for in the qualifiers for this series, but Warden Hill turned it into a rout. The official margin was fifteen lengths, but it does scant justice as to how easy the success came, and when anyone did try to pressure him, excellent jumping bounced the challenge back to the oppo with interest. The interesting point is what happened to Counting Stars, who was the paddock pick. When Warden Hill decided to go clear with about a lap to race, he was the one horse who could go with him. They were in complete control three out, but at the next fence, Counting Stars was beaten and stopped. The commentator called it as a refusal, but it looked very much the decision of the jockey to not jump the fence. Counting Stars was dismounted and walked back, so was it minor lameness that ended his race or had Warden Hill just run him into exhaustion? The next four crossed the line closely grouped, with a few sloppy jumps potentially being the difference between Jimmy The Jeptplane finishing third instead of ahead of Goodnight Vienna. He had Bivouac and Always A Chance breathing down his neck. Amongst the heftily defeated was Total Compliance, who seems to make a habit of needing his first race of the season. For the last couple of seasons it has got him spot on for the next appearance.

Race 5: Hodge Family Restricted [3m]

1: Allie Beag     2: The Master Remover     3: This Breac

Winner owned: Ian Cobbold & Alan Hill, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Joe Hill

In the post-race interview, Joe Hill admitted that the yard had made rather a pig’s ear of training Allie Beag last season, and changing the approach, plus putting on cheekpieces for the first time, added up to a twenty lengths win. As part of the downfall last season was a hampered and unseated in race two, there has to be a chance that Allie Beag sees one win per season as enough again. The Master Remover is prone to blunder his way into defeat and despite this being the location of his maiden win, the mistakes were there again. In this case, they probably cost him nothing, as Allie Beag was far too dominant. With a touch of mischievousness, he secured second by a neck thanks to jumping the final fence better than This Breac, who has not graduated all that successfully from winning his maiden at Cottenham – and this despite dropping his policy of jumping as if closing his eyes two strides from the fence. Who would have thought that watching what you are doing could be harmful? A kick in the groin for the health and safety mob. The remaining finishers were well scattered. Pettistree was below par despite appearing fit enough to challenge for a place, whereas Willflywontsink needed the run, but at least ended up ahead of Pettistree. Bracho had come all the way from Wales without having the fitness to justify the journey (connections had a hot chance in the final race as well) and he was badly tailed off and may not have jumped the last couple just for the sake of it – although from diagonally across the track it appeared that he did.
Willflywontsink touches down ahead of Allie Beag (nearest), The Master Remover (far side) and Cresta One landing a bit weirdly between them. Cobajay Away and Stars Royale are the identifiable pursuers

Race 6: Pearn Wyatt Transport Intermediate [3m]

1: Hawkhurst     2: Robin Des People     3: Mahlers Spirit

Winner owned: Keith Loads & Alan Hill, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Joe Hill

A second wide margin winner in just over half an hour for the Hill team. This one had debuted in points by wiping the floor with the Restricted horses at Cottenham, and Hawkhurst was not in any way perturbed by having to go up a grade. The final score was an eight lengths win, which could have been eighteen had it been necessary. Because Hawkhurst had been so dominant, the next bunch home were battling out the finish as if they were at each other’s throats for first place. Robin Des People edging Mahlers Spirit for second, two horses who enjoyed successes last season. They were just ahead of Margot Fontane – notably lacking in anything to dance about in 2017 – and Ginuwinefizz, who stayed on neatly have a harem-scarem display of jumping in the first half of the race. The lack of in depth research for this is because it looked a very tricky heat and the time seemed right to emphasuise tea and cake for twenty minutes.

Race 7: Signpost PPORA Novice Riders, six year olds and up [3m]

1: Finnegan’s Hollow     2: William Money     3: Farmer Matt

Winner owned: The Chatelaine Partnership, trained: Stephen Barr, ridden: Hector Barr

First question from this – do you depend on a jockey who is wearing a coat in the paddock on a day not notably cold? The headstrong and sweaty Third Intention did not, and after forcing a strong pace he had shot his bolt by fence twelve. Second question from this – do you trust form of their New Year meeting, where the very early start must confuse people and horses alike. Just Cause, an uncertain stayer who won there, fell at the seventh, so left the question open. The race was won by Finnegan’s Hollow, finding this a considerably easier option than the big field Mens Open at Larkhill in which he made his British debut. After an impressive novice riders’ win at Barbury Castle, William Money succumbed to defeat for a second time, but only by a couple of lengths and he at least stood up for himself to keep Farmer Matt in third. After noting Curragh Hall’s minor promise shown at Cottenham, which indicated a sliver of hope over two and a half miles, he proved the theory here. Kicking on at fence twelve, he was ten lengths clear at the fourteenth, six ahead three out, down to fourth by the next and well behind at the last. He is at least interesting, in an aesthetic sense, when returning to the industro-gothic ambience addressed in the intro.
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