Charing, 31/3/18

Ashford Valley Tickham

The uninspiring weather forecast was not good for the crowd, but the early cancellation of Aldington two days later did boost numbers of runners a little. In fact the only short, sharp bursts of rain finished well before the off and arrived after the last race, so people that failed to take an optimistic angle on the weather forecast missed out. Mind you, after the rest of the March weather, who would blame them for negativity? Well, the list starts with Horatio Nelson, includes Pablo Picasso, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Pol Pot, plus probably has others on it.

Going: Good to Soft, Soft places

Race 1: Shepherd Neame Open Maiden

1: Platinum Ben     2: Lightonthemountain     3: Shanoule Wood

Winner owned & trained: Nigel Padfield, ridden: Jack Andrews

This was quite a strange race. It looked to be run at a very slow pace, but in the context of being a very modest maiden and in comparison to the rest of the races on the card, the time stood up quite well. Having set the aforementioned slow pace, Lightonthemountain quickened it on the final climb of the hill, and he was a good dozen lengths ahead crossing the skyline. At this point the remaining runners found that their riders had decided it was time to do something about this. Only Platinum Ben was capable of providing the required effort, although between the last two fences there was a hint that his effort had flattened out. However, crossing the last fence Platinum Ben worried his way ahead of Lightonthemountain and clung on by less than a length. Shanoule Wood, who had come all the way from Dorset just trundled on at one pace for a non-threatening third.

Race 2: Charles Stanley Intermediate

1: Knockedoutloaded     2: Wonderful Present

Winner owned: Nigel Padfield & Mrs Julie Galloway, trained: Nigel Padfield, ridden: Jack Andrews

The only disappointing turn out of the day, with just three taking part. Knockedoutloaded had two opponents who in the past had shown ability to make life difficult for him, but were not firing on all cylinders this season. It turned into a very easy win but Knockedoutloaded sportingly allowed Wonderful Present (whose present is not as wonderful as his past) to entertain thoughts of an upset until the third last fence. Master Ally had given up much earlier and denied himself the fun of this false promise.

Race 3: Barretts Restricted

1: Indian Chance     2: Midnight Bliss     3: Top Man Tim

Winner owned: Ian Gibson, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Jack Andrews

Compared to most south-east Restricteds, this was a competitive race, with more than one contender having the potential to go on beyond this. The main trio, in racecard order, were Indian Chance, Midnight Bliss and Top Man Tim, but there was not the gap in the prices back to the less impressive clump - e.g. Stars Royale who will usually do anything to avoid finishing first and who had only won a two horse race was only one point longer than Midnight Bliss, a horse that impressed in winning a decent maiden at High Easter last week. The big three finished in racecard order, with Top Man Tim being he first to crack (possibly finding the going too soft), and the other pair getting in a good scrap to the second last. Indian Chance had a question mark over the muddier conditions as well, but coped with it just fine, pouncing on the hard working Midnight Bliss at the second last. The horse most likely to disrupt the smooth predictability of the outcome was Delineate, but he tried to put his rider into orbit at the open ditch on the second lap and then managed to shake him off when the pilot was showing great resistance to going airborne. The old 1-2 punch never fails.

Race 4: Tom Hills Memorial Mixed Open

1: Dont Do Mondays     2: Follow The Paint     3: Starkie

Winner owned & trained: Libby Lawson, ridden: Os Wedmore

A close finish reminiscent of the opening race as Dontdomondays and Follow The Paint kept the result in doubt until the end. After winning at High Easter last week, Follow The Paint started favourite but she has never been a consistent winner, and the horse that joined her in dominatiing the betting, Starkie, was a two miler under Rules - although he had finished second in an Open at Hackwood Park earlier in the month. The jack in the box was Dont Do Mondays, who recovered his old form and won it mostly from the front - a couple of times Follow The Paint experimented with edging ahead. He does not have a reputation as a thorough stayer but in 2015 he won 2m 6.5f handicap chase fair and square and it is perfectly norrmal that in three years his stamina would extend that little bit to be able to handle three miles point-to-pointing. Purists would consider his 2017 course and distance Members win from a fifteen year old in his farewell tour as inconclusive evidence.
Nouailhas does not fancy a second wander up the hill, but the rest are more tolerant. Generous Ransom is in the middle of the group going wide, with Conkies Lad to his left
Dont Do Mondays does do a parade ring lap of honour when returning in triumph

Race 5: Crawfords Ltd Conditions

1: The Job Is Right     2: Gowanauthat     3: Letskeepit Simple

Winner owned: Mrs M Devine, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Shane Roche

It is not often that the first three finishers tell a story, via their names, of how a race would be hoped to pan out, but it did here, only for the horses to work it through in exactly the opposite fashion. This is a success that was both heroic and gruesome at the same time. The Job Is Right was not looking totally comfortable on the first lap, and for the second half of the race he seemed on the verge of dropping out and pulling up at any time. At that point he looked just like a real trouble maker of a horse. However jockey persistance gradually ingrained itself in the psyche of the horse, and coming down the hill he began to pick off thoe ahead of him. The Job Is Right never lived up to his name, but did just enough to get in front of Gowanauthat, who has not so far adapted to pointing as well as might be hoped. Letskeepit Simple had been below par in his two previous races this season, and this was an improvement. With past form he could have won this, and being only an eight year old it is too soon to predict permanent decline, so the conclusion is that further enlivening is possible.

Race 6: Members

1: Generous Ransom     2: Conkies Lad     3: Cooladerry King

Winner owned: The Huntin, Shootin, Fishin Partnership, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Shane Roche

A seven horse turn out for the Members confused everyone - we expect three runners and a long odds-on favourite. With his top class handicap chase form and a nice tune-up over 2m 4f here, Generous Ransom was a popular option, but he found it hard to shake off an untypically blunder free Conkies Lad. The runner-up showed what he is capable of with a clean round of jumping, it would just be nice if he managed it more often. Generous Ransom had a question mark over his stamina for this, and by getting involved in a proper battle he proved himself in that respect. However, he might have been expected to be rather more smoothly dominant coming down the hill by the A20. After his distant, and fortunately inherited, second at Penshurst last week, Cooladerry King ran much better today, beaten less than ten lengths. He might be building up to a win if the weather will permit enough meetings to be staged for his gradual progress to be completed.
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