Edgecote, 28/4/19

Famers Bloodhounds

This has not been a good season for quantities of point-to-points attended, so some sort of contrition has been attempted by ticking off new tracks visited with some a nerdish mania. This was the second of the weekend and third of the season. In advance, word on the street was that the viewing was not quite as good as ideal, but after the inaugural season perhaps some tinkering was done, as only a short spell going away from the finishing line at the top of the hill was mostly hidden.

Where the course is a plus is it that it would fit every expectation of someone who is aware of pointing but has never attended. Directions tell you to leave the main road next to a pub and what follows is a good ten minutes of wandering around tracks and lanes until reaching the course. It sits on a slope and is surrounded by a ring of hills that leaves the attendees in an isolated idyll of pastoral tranquillity, where we then watch a sport that most of the rest of the bemused world would perceive as utterly futile. The attractions included a top notch egg and bacon sandwich, a comparable ice cream and a bar named after legendary staying chaser Spanish Steps, who was trained on these very fields.

Numbers of runners left a little to be desired, as was the case last year on quicker ground. Perhaps one issue is the racing surface, which has a bit of a ripple rolling across it. For instance, between the last two fences, the stretch by the rails starts high and levels out approaching the last, in the middle it starts low and rises near the fence and on the inner there is a more consistent gradient. Maybe it is not a big deal, but it is not hard to imagine why some people would opt not to run on it. Another note is that the winning line is slightly onto the turn and the winning post on the inner is a metre or more ahead of that on the outer. With no close finishes here it did not matter, but the only two horses to take the inner line did so after jumping to their right are forcing the issue. There could be races where this is the difference between first and second. The final point was that with few runners the six races seemed to take forever – the opener was off at 1.30 and the sixth did not begin until 4.35. With two 2m 4f races included the gaps did not need to be that long, especially as riders who were destined to pull up tended to do so at the top of the hill, rather than have a long hike back.

Going: Good to Firm, Good places

Race 1: John Nicholls Members

1: Follow The Paint     2: Our Sox

Winner owned: LJH Racing Club, trained: Laura Horsfall, ridden: Will Thirlby

In a busy career (forty-three races, six wins, thirteen second places before this) Follow The Paint has been very consistent – incredibly so for a horse that ran out on debut – but so far this season she had been well off of her game, and first impressions were to look for reasons to oppose her at long odds-on. Unfortunately Our Sox pulled up in his last two Rules runs and his pointing debut, and his need for two handlers was not a good omen that he was intending to change policy. Poyntzpass also had two people guiding him around before the race and once they let go he proved reluctant to visit the start. He may even have unseated his rider, but that was at the point where he was almost out of sight of the racegoers. Not an inspiring bunch to open the card, but someone had warned Follow The Paint not to mess around, so she won. The margin was a comfy six lengths and would have been more had she gone on from Our Sox sooner. Having enjoyed a long break between Rules and pointing, Our Sox had come on for his opener and having been a 115-rated chaser, it would only take a couple more steps in the recovery to be a potential late season winner. Poyntzpass ran out and unseated his rider passing the course exit with a lap to go. A tricky customer but he has won in the past – once in a two horse race.
Follow The Paint (near side) was in the racecard with maroon and white colours, but that would have been far too distinctive. The choice was made to look like Our Sox, thus suggesting that yellow clad Poyntzpass is some sort of dissident 

Race 2: Farmers & Mercantile and RJV International Open Maiden, 2m 4f 

1: Neil The Legend     2: Bite My Tongue     3: Pandinus Imperator 

Winner owned & trained: D White, ridden: Kai Lenihan 

A point on colours here. One owner had two of the five runners, and the normal silks were blue and white hoops. The second string dropped the blue hoop off of the cap, which was hardly a distinctive change. Additionally there was a horse in white and blue, so we had 60% of the field bearing very similar kit. There was another in blue with white seams, but armed with red sleeves, only to have a white cap, which meant by tucking into the pack he could be almost anonymous as well. An overheard conversation suggested that the connections that fielded Jemma’s Gift and Neil The Legend did not have a high opinion of either’s talent level. This was possibly not a reason to worry, because the other trio lacked much to enthuse over as well. The undersized Bite My Tongue had been third here on pointing debut but his Rules career had been a shambles. Tailed off last in two flat runs, pulled up in three out of four hurdles and then tailed off twelfth of thirteen in his only finish. This was the favourite… Pandinus Imperator has offered a little more at his best but like Jemma’s Gift, his most recent form letter was an R. The final runner was Blue Bombay, off since pulling up in his only Irish run three years ago. The selection was Neil The Legend because he was the one runner who looked like he could make a racehorse and his fifth in a pointing bumper could have been against some decent horses – time will tell. That concept paid off, but it was not the chaotic race that could have been predicted. Blue Bombay pulled up with just under a lap left and Jemma’s Gift lost her slim remaining chance with an error at the open ditch in the same vicinity. The other trio made a race of things until Neil The Legend opened up a gap before the third last. Bite My Tongue could not match him and Pandinus Imperator was able to be sensible but not effective at the same time. 
Neil The Legend gains a win not yet of legendary status but should he struggle to extract himself from Restricteds, this may one day be looked back upon as something out of the ordinary. Bite My Tongue is jumping into the blurry bit, pursued by Pandinus Imperator

Race 3: A-Plan Ladies Open

1: Back Bar     2: Letbeso     3: Beggar’s Velvet

Winner owned: Richard Cranfield, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Izzy Marshall

If this had been his pointing debut, a history of two mile hurdling might have been a reason to oppose Back Bar. However, he had fitted in a close Horseheath second and a High Easter win this spring, so the stamina questions had been answered before this site had a chance to ask them. Always best to get someone else to do the hard work. He turned this race into a cakewalk, the entire racecard jotting being: led, 12L clear 16, easily. Letbeso and Beggar’s Velvet, both having novice riders with a five pound weight claim, were left to bash at each other for second. Beggar’s Velvet shaped as if he was going to take it but he had made a few mistakes and his rider lost an iron after a bad one at fence fifteen. That stalled his momentum and the energy wasted in these errors found him out as the climb to the line continued. Letbeso’s patient approach thus paid off, gaining the best possible placing. At times it did look as if he was at the back due to not being fast enough to be closer, but that must have all been part of the cunning plan.

Race 4: Jim & Daphne Rose Novice Riders’

1: Susquehanna River     2: Stage One     3: Brians Well

Winner owned & ridden: Harry Arkwright, trained: Francesca Nimmo

Novice riders, four of whom are yet to ride a winner, and eight horses of varied ages, residual talent and enthusiasm to tackle three miles with a long climb to the finish. What could possibly go wrong? Let us handle them in finishing order and then merit of non-finish. Susquehanna River: He has won three this season but liberally sprinkled it with refusals, and a fall. Always near the front, he led at the fourteenth and was in control after three out. Given his recent record, Harry Arkwright could not give the horse time to start thinking until they were over the final fence, by which point they were clear. The paddock exit is just before the winning post, so there was one final danger. No concern generated. Stage One: He finished a distant third to Susquehanna River at the last meeting here and was one place and a few lengths closer now. He is a very reliable candidate to be in the frame and sometimes the oppo is slow enough for him to win. Brians Well: Outpaced as early as the fifth, he noodled away as others wavered and was finally able to struggle into third on the run-in. Not a close third. Arkose: The feature of this was the continual verbal encouragement that he got from rider Alexandra Knight. As he is fifteen and too savvy for his own good he may have found coaching from a jockey having her second ride a touch condescending. He did not make any less effort for it, and his habitual safety first completion was made, losing a place in the very late stages. We Never Give Up: Unseated at the third fence, before she had a chance to show what sort of contribution she was going to make. Crowded Room: Slow away and slow again when jumping the first, he was never much involved and pulled up at the tenth. Black Jack Rover: Owner of three victories and a second already this season, from just five runs, he moved authoritatively to the front approaching the open ditch which is fence fourteen and promptly went around it rather than over it. This is not his historic style, so was it just a mad moment or have his ideas suddenly veered towards enjoying disruption? Too Much Too Soon: Prominent early, he was losing touch after a mistake at the twelfth fence but his rider was keen to complete and rode a steady final mile to achieve that. The horse was not fooled and refused at the second last.
Susquehanna River is about to sustain his win or surrender completely approach to recent races, although any horse intimidated by this tiny fence would need a stern talking to (note that they look bigger from the take off side due to the hill). That is indeed Stage One in distant contact. 

Race 5: Cox and Robinson & NFU Buckingham Intermediate, 2m 4f 

1: General Arrow     2: Legal OK 

Winner owned: Odd Sock Partnership, trained: Tom Ellis, ridden: Gina Andrews 

After unseating in her first two points, Thechampagnesonice had landed a walkover at the end of March, which meant that she was not really expected to play a part in this. She jumped very carefully and was well adrift when pulled up at fence ten of sixteen. That left a head to head between Legal OK and General Arrow. The flaw in Legal OK under Rules was an inclination to go as fast as possible from the off and not last his races. He had, however, won an Irish Maiden point and also nabbed a Restricted on British pointing debut, so the tools are there when the brain grinds into action. He was taken steadily to post and seemed to settle fine this time. Unfortunately he hit the second fence and then the open ditch that was fence ten, then the thirteenth and by the time he came to the final couple there was not enough energy left to avoid belting them as well. The up shot of all this was an easy success for General Arrow, who began the season with a couple of places but now has strolled through Maiden, Restricted and Intermediate success without tuning a hair. 

Race 6: Trainers, Owners & Supporters Of The Farmers Bloodhounds Conditions 

1: Hawkhurst 

Winner owned: Keith Loads & Alan Hill, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Gina Andrews 

Only two took part and Just Skittles had gambled on a step up in class to try and pinch a race for which his owner-trainer was one of the sponsors. It did not work and he pulled up before the fourteenth, leaving Hawkhurst to do the final lap as a well paid schooling session. He does have his off days, but were this to be one of them, the signals would have gone out earlier.
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