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DECEMBER 2018 HORSES TO FOLLOW
CRACKING FIND     (Sue Smith)

7 year old bay gelding     (Robin Des Pres – Crack The Kicker)     9/1471632/33153116-3232

After an inauspicious bumper debut he was sent for a shot at point-to-pointing and pulled up twice before he dug out a late season win at Chaddesley Corbett in a big field maiden, doing so by a country mile. That was enough to prompt a second thought about his skills for Rules racing and Cracking Find finally lived up to his name with a win in a 2m 4f novices’ hurdle, although it did involve getting a dead heat and then getting the stewards to disqualify the opponent that tried to rough him up. He has reached the stage now where he has won five out of nineteen hurdle and chase races. However, when the tally is narrowed down to runs where Cracking Find had at least four weeks break between them, he has an impressive hit rate – 1713313112. On shorter gaps between races he has a score of 462356332. Most other things that can be pitched at him he has fielded with dexterity of a chess Grand Master turning the world championship into an endless succession of draws. Perhaps there is a bit of a bias to smaller fields, but he does most of his racing in them and when necessity demanded Cracking Find was able to win an eleven runner novices’ hurdle. So let us just roll with the blindingly obvious.

Races at least 4 weeks since the most recent appearance

KHANISARI     (Evan Williams)

4 year old grey gelding     (Dark Angel – Kadayna)     2043

Having loitered around in a flat yard in Ireland without doing much more than lean against a post chewing on a grass stalk and mocking the actual runners for being a bunch of conformist teacher’s pets, in spring this year Khanisari was sent out into the big wide world to earn his keep. The name that was conferred on him by the Aga Khan’s team of 4,300 specialist horse namers (they are all needed when hamstrung by the letter that the name must begin with) might lead us to think that opening an Indian restaurant would be perfect, as naming it after himself would tick all of the ethnic marketing boxes that people inexplicably still fall for sixty years down the line. However, a little known fact is that horses have a religious objection to Sag Aloo, so that career was blocked. Khanisari instead went to a stable that ran him in a bumper at Down Royal. It has turned out to be a respectable sort of race, and he only lost it by three-quarters of a length. Evan Williams, coincidentally often referred to as the Jahangir Khan of South Wales, dived in for the acquisition, but the British bumper bow did not go all that well. After that chastening experience Khanisari has been running over hurdles and has lost by about six lengths in a race at Taunton that seems as if it could be OK and by four lengths at Ludlow very recently. It seems likely that he can get his account opened soon.

Handicap hurdles up to 2m 4f

OUTRAGEOUS ROMANA     (John O’Shea)

7 year old bay mare     (Mahler – South West Nine)     5/9870PP/3135-5131155

There is nothing too outrageous about winning four out of seventeen hurdles, although when her record was checked the Racing Post website was having another mental freak out and double counting all of her races, so it showed eight wins from thirty-four, which is ultra-heroic for a horse bearing a rating of 97. That is a proper unusual combination of horse and bear. The first thought on Outrageous Romana was that she might be a class 5 handicap specialist, but she is not that inflexible and has won a class 4 race. Where her intolerance does cut in is with the weight carried. When you hear people agonising over a horse carrying an extra pound here or there, the common sense counter is that a half ton horse is not going to notice the difference about whether it carries an extra bag of flour or not. This mare is the exception. When the weight on Outrageous Romana, after the rider’s allowance is taken into consideration, is no more than 10 stone 5 pounds, her record in handicaps is P31115. On higher weights she has gone 355135. That is a trend that she will probably keep working with, although in her novice hurdle runs she included a seventh and a thirteenth, so Outrageous Romana does like working with prime numbers for some bizarre reason. There may be a problem with soft ground as well, but the evidence is not conclusive yet.

Handicap hurdles when carrying 10 stone 5 pounds or less
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SATURDAYNIGHTFEVER     (Fergal O’Brien)

6 year old bay gelding     (Kings Theatre – Get Me Home)     457-3

When he turned up for a hurdle race at Plumpton in November, his bumper form was strong enough to encourage selection for the to follow list with no consideration of the result achieved on the day. Had Saturdaynightfever jumped the rail and kicked the living daylights out of a tractor, that might have prompted a second thought, although not necessarily a total change of heart. Another concern is that his owner, Malcolm Denmark, does have a bit of a history with precocious types that flourish in bumpers and never go on to much improvement from there. However, that seemed to reflect a policy when buying store horses, whereas in this case he actually bred the horse as well and is stuck with the fruits of his creation. The two bumpers that catch the eye are Saturdaynightfever losing by three lengths at Ascot, with a fellow Malcolm Denmark homebred Soldier Of Love in front of him. What was better was finishing a close fourth to the useful Kateson, with Classic Ben and Deyrann De Carjac splitting them. A lot of this is about avoiding the awkward question – finishing third at Plumpton on his hurdling bow did involve a loss of fifty-nine lengths. He was a bit sluggish mid-race (there had been a need to urge him along to make progress in bumpers as well) and the waiting tactics were probably overdone. There is always the option to slap on the cheekpieces if he does not shape up mentally soon.

Hurdles over 2m 4f or more

TOMKEVI     (Rebecca Menzies)

7 year old bay gelding     (Khalkevi – Tamsna)     7411/760521P2/157U55315-6

Tomkevi had a long and successful career in France. For many people the idea that he might have done too much work at a too young age would have been a discouraging factor come purchase time. The cliché of this moment is that fortune favours the brave. The end result of that bravery is the run of numbers that are shown above, proving that one abysmal intro run was nothing to be worried about – Tomkevi was beaten 62 lengths at Sedgefield on British debut. Those consistently solid outcomes can be narrowed down even further when looking solely at small fields, those of six runners or less. That produces a score of 111P1531 (level stake profit = 17.5 points without one extreme odds win inflating it), and it is not terribly important whether the challenge is the smaller or the larger obstacles. Strangely he bucks current trends in field sizes by finding small field hurdle races much easier to come by than those over chase fences. If you have a horse who is also field size fussy, you could do a lot worse than copy all of Tomkevi’s entries and then expect the unexpected. But of course, once you do that, it is no longer the unexpected. This horse rises above such existential challenges to just concentrate on simple counting.

Races with up to six runners

VERY EXTRAVAGANT     (Neil Mulholland)

9 year old chesnut mare     (Touch Of Land – Raveleen Rose)     55/2448P4/111PF/6P-7FP

By the standard of a horse whose age is about to hit double figures, Very Extravagant has not raced often. A shoddy analogist may state that she does not put her extravagance into keeping busy. The other rather ominous factor in her form is that were the middle of 2016 to be expunged from our space-time continuum, she would have a very nediocre looking record. Pedants will be accommodated by noting that if something that drastic happened to our neatly linear measure of time, we would have far greater problems on our plate than Very Extravagant’s statistical history. For starters the sudden reappearance en masse of various plagues. Returning to the subject of our racing attention, this mare had one go at chasing, pulled up and has stayed well clear since. So we concentrate on hurdles and note that she won at Uttoxeter twice and Fontwell, both left-handed and level. This common config has appeared on her agenda less frequently than might be imagined – her record is 41117F. The fourth was in a listed race on hurdles debut, the seventh was a loss of fewer than ten lengths after an absence in excess of a year and the fall was when about to be last of three finishers under an inexperienced rider, i.e. all three can easily be forgiven. Unless Attila The Hun and his horde emerge from a black hole to stop her, more wins on the correct tracks are perfectly viable.

Handicap hurdles on a level, left-handed track

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