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Chepstow, 26/4/19

For a nation that likes to obsess over weather and weather forecasting we sure do like to contradict ourselves about it. Five days earlier Chepstow had what was by their standards a quite feeble turn out of runners, yet due to the much derided weather forecasting, this meeting had 77 declared. Should the showers have shunned South Wales (as if!) then a swathe of non-runners was to be expected, but it turned good to firm patches into good to soft ones and almost everyone was happy. Results suggested that the chase track was a bit slower than mostly good.

This meeting was also very well attended as free tickets were available until Wednesday night. The early start for the first day of evening racing on turf was not a plus, nor the chilly weather. So we can say the crowd, whatever it added up to, fitted the formula of (F – E – C + H), being Free ticket applicants, Early start defectors, Chilliness wusses and Hipsters who attended to see an obscure local folk rock band after racing.

Having not been to Chepstow for years, it was also a reminder that the scale of the facilities for a track that aspires to stage big meetings are really quite small. Had the spots of rain developed into something worse, shelter whilst watching the parts of a race actually in view would have been at a premium.

Going: Good, Good to Soft places

Race 1: Sun Trade Windows Handicap Chase [3m 2f]

1: Dont Be Robin     2: Midnight Magic     3: Conas Taoi

Winner owned & trained: Richanda Ford, ridden: Jonathan Burke

Thirteen started this race and thanks to Day Of Roses and Cottonwool Baby being anchored at the start and a smattering of errors by others at the first two fences, the runners were soon well strung out along the back straight. This made it look as if the pace may be very strong, too much for 3m 2f, but a circuit later eleven were in close contention. Five fences out there were still nine taking it seriously but after the third last we were soon down to a trio that mattered. Conas Taoi had been ridden along on the distant final turn, so to see him not find any more half a mile further on was not unsurprising nor cause to criticise. Midnight Magic, in contrast, was going very nicely but when he needed to quicken, he took some time to respond, during which Dont Be Robin had pounced up the middle of the track and seized just enough advantage to cling on by a neck. Day Of Roses was fourth. He had progressed from the back to get quite close in the hidden entry to the home straight, only for the ones at the front to run away from him just after he got there. How unsporting.

Dont Be Robin (1st): In previous chase runs he had tried cheekpieces and blinkers, and also suffered less than ideal luck in running at times. Putting on a visor for the first time worked a treat and might do so again.

x  Kovera (6th): For a 0-100 class horse he had been in good form since the autumn, including a couple of wins in his repertoire. This was an off day and maybe a sign that he thinks he has done enough for this season. Will he have any scope to progress again next winter?

x  Timcoda (PU): Showed some ability in Irish points and was second in a bumper. No significant showing in novice hurdles could have been handicap mark protection, but having unseated on chase debut, he jumped poorly here. Not one to depend on over fences.
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Dont Be Robin is being quite enthused about success. Conas Taoi is pretending that he does not care about losing, but nobody is convinced

Race 2: Sun Trade Windows Novices’ Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Jatiluwih     2: Alrightjack     3: Shiroccan Roll

Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Philip Hobbs

Five runner novice hurdles, especially those with a couple of guaranteed also rans taking part, do not often produce a grand spectacle but this one had a great finish. Leader Alrightjack had tried to mix up the pace in the race and then attacked after the final hurdle on the far side. Jatiluwih and Shiroccan Roll failed to fall for that old nonsense, and favourite Jatiluwih looked in control when leading two out and Alrightjack made a minor mess of it. The gap was soon four lengths but there was a huge void between the final two hurdles and it was soon apparent that Alrightjack was closing the gap again. He failed by half a length to get back up. Kudos to Jatiluwih for handling Alrightjack’s plan to harass him into defeat, and may we never have to type his keyboard unfriendly name ever again. This paragraph has taken aeons to get where it is now.

+  Shiroccan Roll (3rd): Is tall but lacks substance at the moment and when (if?) he fills out there is plenty of improvement possible.

Race 3: Braceys Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Grey Diamond     2: Chapmanshype     3: Connect Four

Winner owned: Walters Plant Hire Ltd, trained: Alan King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

This race more than doubled the second in terms of runners, but there was not much in the way of exciting talent. Ffos Las bumper winner Grey Diamond was the nearest to it and his fourth to Pentland Hills at Plumpton is good form. Unfortunately he had fallen in his latest race so there was a little bit of unknown over how he would enjoy this. Perfectly well it turned out. He was chased home at a respectful distance by Punchestown bumper winner Chapmanshype but the horses in third and fourth, Connect Four and Jen’s Boy had shown nothing over hurdles in earlier tries and only Grey Diamond was far enough ahead of them for comfort.

+  Connect Four (3rd): Previously no factor at all in a bumper and hurdle on this track, he does at least look like he can make a racehorse, so this third place can genuinely be natural progress rather than just a reason to give up on the ones that finish behind him. And he did see out the race relatively strongly.

x  Jen’s Boy (4th): The only reason that he was 7/1 for this was due to being trained by Nicky Henderson. And maybe losing a bad Towcester bumper by a nose. But his hurdle form is terrible and as much as he was more involved on this occasion, there was not enough added here to justify being suckered in to back him next time.
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Nearest the camera Jen's Boy does not know what to do now that he is back in the first four. Grey Diamond is soaking up the moment but Wayne Hutchinson is strangely determined to remain anonymous

Race 4: Dunraven Windows Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Keep Moving     2: Triple Chief     3: Lord County

Winner owned: The Country Side, trained: Philip Hobbs, ridden: James Best

The feature of this race was half a dozen declarations, all of whom seemed to be able to make some sort of case for themselves, and the prospect of some rather aggressive front running from a bunch who would prefer to act like that if given the chance. Keep Moving, the maestro of patience in the line up, had no history of acting on good ground. In contrast top weight Barton Knoll adores it. The fact that Keep Moving won and Barton Knoll was the first beaten does suggest that the chase track was riding a bit softer than the official going. Triple Chief battled on solidly from the second last but it never looked as if he would catch Keep Moving in time.

Keep Moving (1st): This was only his second win and like the other one earlier this season, it did look as if the shortcomings of others opened up the race for him. That does not mean he will not win again but be wary of short prices, especially if there are a few more runners taking him on and general vibe of nobody giving him a soft success.

Bestwork (Fell): He has an excellent strike rate in chases and got an uncontested lead here without having to go at a silly pace. He still was swamped leaving the back straight and whilst he tried to rally five out, he was only edging into the deficit when he fell soon after. The conclusion is that putting him in cheekpieces did not work.

Race 5: Braceys Handicap Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Epsalion     2: Iron Horse     3: Adherence

Winner owned: JH Frost, trained: Jeremy Scott, ridden: Rex Dingle

Just the eighteen runners to unravel in this race and whilst the ratings band was 0-110, it had the feel of not being that strong. And in the paddock it did seem that the race had attracted a greater than average number of small horses. Nobody had told Espalion that there was no need for quality, as he adopted the severe waiting tactics that did not work for stablemate Day Of Roses in the opener, then showed that horse how to pull them off. At the second last he was finding that Iron Horse was going to be a stubborn rival, yet not one that would quite be able to match him at the business end. Adherence had won his last race when seemingly beaten only for the leader to fall and bring down another horse that had his measure – that being Iron Horse. He again did his rallying belatedly and probably ran to form with Iron Horse. All it got him here was third, just ahead of stablemate Pleney (one of several handicap debutants here) who was outpaced mid-race and kept on stoutly. Worth a try over further, if only to find a slower run race.

+ +  Harry Haze (6th): Had not looked like winning in novice hurdles but twice had shown enough to beat half of the opposition. He caught the eye in the paddock here and two out and place was seeming possible for this handicap debut. That did not happen, but he is one to keep a very close track of.

+  Espalion (1st): Two out of two since wind surgery and potentially not done yet. A chase future awaits.

+  Iron Horse (2nd): Bad luck and trouble means that he does not have one win in recent weeks and a tiny jolt of inspiration could have made it two.

x  The Vollan (11th): Showed distinct ability in a couple of novice hurdles and was only beaten four lengths when fifth on handicap debut. Another decent try was looming only to find that between the last two he went out like a light. The extra three furlongs were potentially unhelpful but he stopped a bit too quickly to simply blame stamina.

Race 6: Dunraven Bowl Novices’ Hunters’ Chase [2m 7.5f]

1: Pink Eyed Pedro     2: Thegirlfrommilan     3: Fateh

Winner owned & trained: David Brace, ridden: Jack Tudor

After umpteen tries the sponsor finally landed his own race, via the very useful tool of Pink Eyed Pedro, whose twenty pointing runs had produced ten wins and five second places. Given the ease of this success, it is a mystery why Pink Eyed Pedro has made such a meal of failure in low level handicap chases. The outside assistance was that favourite Thegirlfrommilan jumped really badly and gave her chances away (it began at the first fence and never got cured) plus the ground had turned against Mister Robbo, whose best looks decent but he has never mastered the art of consistency. So he could have failed on better going. With four to jump it looked as if Fateh may make his presence felt but he had nothing to match an Open class horse like the winner, having only won a Maiden and a two horse Members himself.

Race 7: Sun Trade Windows Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Delface     2: Bardd     3: Mere Anarchy

Winner owned: Pipe’s Prospectors, trained: David Pipe, ridden: Tom Scudamore

In truth, UK-Jumping’s attention to this race left a little bit to be desired. It was the final event to be witnessed in the current season, the ten runners were much of a muchness (although the betting market got it right), they were quite a known quantity with no up and coming youngsters ready to do something surprising and we had the dangerous preconception was that nothing that any of them would do could be totally revelation unless the oppo underperformed – and that does sum up how the race happened in real life. Of course, whatever outcome is seen for that build up, the winner then has to sit in the pile labelled “had I been more ruthless, I could gave backed that.” And it was getting a bit gloomy by this time as well. The result could have been a little different because Delface tried to drag part of the second last flight home with him. Two factors prevented this being a disaster. The second last was so far from the finish that it was out of sight. And the main challenge was from anti-win protestor Bardd. Mere Anarchy battled on heartily for place after hitting a catastrophic mid-race flat spot. Anarchy is in his name, but it is in Bardd’s soul.

+  Delface (1st): Has his second win of the season and whilst the concept of being impressive is not on his agenda, a wind op late last summer has allowed him to be consistent and predictable and the odd additional win is on the cards.

x  Nabhan (6th): Came here with a lot of things in place for a good day, including a good show last time over course and distance in a big field. However, he has no jumps win for three years and counting…

x x  Bardd (2nd): Proved to be his trainer’s worst enemy when in Nicky Henderson’s yard and early signs are that he holds new handler Danni O’Neill in similar lack of esteem.
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