Fakenham, 3/6/18

Warm and crowded for ladies’ day. Excellent ice cream and seafood as usual, radically taken in that order. It works and do not mock without trying. The racing factor on the day was that the last hurdle was very close to the winning line, leaving an unusually short run-in. The runner-ups in races one and three may have great reason to regret that. And if not regret, to both rue and lament the situation.

Going: Good

Race 1: Pedlars Hall Café Double Bubble Breakfast Novices’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 7f]

1: Fifty Shades     2: West To Crossgales     3: Emmas Dilemma

Winner owned & trained: Christian Williams, ridden: James Bowen

As regular readers will have noticed, UK-Jumping kind of likes the prospects in staying hurdles of horses that have proven their hurdles staying power. For this one, the only horse that had shown certain 2m 7f stamina was Fifty Shades, and he only did so when pipped by a nose at 3m 1f six days earlier. Obviously every stayer in development has to start somewhere, but he was taking on horses whose form at shorter did not really scream out for the need to go up in distance. Therefore Fifty Shades won and did it with his superior stamina, although he also got very handy clear routes up the inner on the last two bends when traffic could have scuppered him. West To Crossgales comes from an out of form stable that is best known for modest handicap chasers that win a few races each. He went wide on the final turn, was less slick at the final hurdle than the winner and lost by a rapidly diminishing head. When your luck is out… Emmas Dilemma has run solidly for modest levels of racing in both appearances since coming over from Ireland. Alas, she has shown a three miler’s speed, but not yet a three miler’s stamina.

+  Fifty Shades (1st): Still has untapped potential in longer races, and the way he deftly used the inside line on the last two tight bends put to bed the worry that sharp tracks are not ideal for him.

+  West To Crossgales (2nd): Almost certainly could have saved the margin of defeat somewhere around the track, and has now been placed in his last three runs when stable form is wobbly. Look forward to him going chasing.
Hier Encore leads Amble Inn, Volcan Surprise, Cocker and Fifty Shades, who ambles on rather than in with total confidence. Emmas Dilemma and West To Crossgales help him to prove that patience was a virtue here.

Race 2: Jarrold Ladies Day Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Princeton Royale     2: Running Wolf     3: Hedgeinator

Winner owned: D Nott, P Beadles, R Clarke, trained: Neil King, ridden: Jack Andrews

This race was effectively decided at the third fence, where with the first two having set off like the clappers James Bowen and/or Hedgeinator decided that they were being tactically suicidal and took a pull to let Princeton Royale have an uncontested lead. Unfortunately for the rest, there is nothing that Princeton Royale enjoys more than a clear passage (and why not?) so he went on and won the race having eased down plenty on the run-in. With half a lap to go Easy Street appeared to be a big danger but he hit the fourth last hard, did the splits and came to halt, leading to an immediate pulled up. For Running Wolf, Hedgeinator and Mercers Court – whose enthusiasm seemed to drift in and out at various points of the race, which is fairly normal for him and does not prevent intermittent winning – all they had was a good scrap for second.

Easy Street (PU): Moved out of easy street into a class higher than he was accustomed to success in. Up until the critical error he was looking like a massive threat to the winner and providing the almost fall did not do him a mischief, he can deliver in class 3 company.

Site Selections: Princeton Royale (1st): He had lost all four visits here, but never by more than two lengths, and this race played out in a way that he approved. Coming here often lets him control the race at a sane pace which is his magic formula. And he has become more flexible about which headgears are useful.

Race 3: Britbet Coming Soon Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Yensir     2: Artful Artist     3: Haafapiece

Winner owned: Ladies In Racing, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Richard Johnson

It did not look like a strong maiden hurdle and the first three soon left the remainder for dead when things got serious. Yensir had been third on jumps debut in what looked better company than this, but on the flat he was 0/18, including losses of a nose, a short head and a neck. Would his determination be enough? Well, it was, but Artful Artist is not exactly Captain Resolution himself, having collected no wins in thirteen hurdle races in Ireland and one or two too many close losses of his own for comfort. It looked like Artful Artist ran on well from the last where Yensir got the slicker jump, but when both horses have an ‘unfortunate’ history, the first impression can be deceptive. Haafapiece has been going backwards from some promising early form, and he dropped away a bit weakly from the last. The most annoying thing about this race was Derek Thompson. Again. For some reason he felt the need to remind us seventy-eight times that Richard Johnson had come here to for one ride – Yensir. Well, Sam Twiston-Davies was here for one ride, Artful Artist. You pays your money, you takes your choice, or you saved it for the novices’ handicap chases.

x   Yensir (1st) & Artful Artist (2nd): Neither have a compiled a trustworthy history, so it is best to treat this form with a bit of cynicism. At least Yensir has the possible progression of hurdling focussing his mind a bit better than boring old flat racing.
The jockeys are always keen to sneak a view of the replay and work out how it all, erm, worked out. Talk Of Monty (4) and Yensir (5) are absolutely insistent to consigning the past to the dustbin of history with a bit too much alacrity and righteous indifference.

Race 4: Wordingham Plant Hire Limited Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Master Of Finance     2: Gin And Tonic     3: Ballycamp

Winner owned: J David Abell, trained: Lucy Wadham, ridden: Maxime Tissier

A four horse race that was decided by jumping in some ways and not in others. Well supported favourite Le Precieux completely failed to notice the sixth fence, walked through it and ended up on the floor as a consequence. Ballycamp got sideswiped by the winner at fence three and lost half a dozen lengths whilst his rider got the irons back, and then with the race up for grabs made a mistake of his own, which prevented him, a horse with no wins and nine second places in chases, from even being runner-up from three finishers. Master Of Finance made the aforementioned mess of the third and fluffed the last, but survived both to win. Meanwhile second place went to Gin And Tonic, whose chase history before now is one of raging incompetence, has never jumped as well as he did today and still did not win.

x   Le Precieux (Fell): There were several reason to speculate that now was his best chance to show something lively in Britain. Instead he blundered it into oblivion. Silly fellow.

x x  Ballycamp (3rd): Did not have the best of luck here, but he is a spontaneous combuster of his supporters money in all respects.

Race 5: Aylsham Show – August Bank Holiday Lady Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Havisham     2: Dizzey Heights     3: Occasionally Yours

Winner owned: David Brownlow, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Page Fuller

This win was all down to Page Fuller. When the starter tried to make them race, nobody wanted to lead, so they set off at a slightly strenuous trot. Before the first, Havisham was sent into a gallop and in no time at all he had a twenty lengths lead whilst expending minimally more energy than the rest of the field. After being given a breather three hurdles out, he started to go clear again, and although he was tying up late on, Havisham came home four lengths to the good. Canford Thompson was the first to show a bit of urgency in the pursuit, but it bottomed him out and he languished in fifth at the line. The next to chase Havisham was Dizzey Heights, who finally at least ran like the two and a half mile hurdler that her flat form implied should be the case, but clearly the form is not trustworthy. Veteran Occasionally Yours was an honourable staying on in third. This means in twenty one visits here he has two wins and three places for each-way purposes, and yet buffoons continue to describe him as a course specialist, presumably because he sports the same colours as Cool Roxy. Unplaced favourite Bisoubisou did not appear to benefit from a helpful ride, but all her best results have been on softish going, so it is not certain that she could have done much better whatever tactics were used.

x  Havisham (1st): Got a spectacular gift in the running of the race and it may be rash to simply think that this was inevitable for his first handicap hurdle spin and first jumps race on decent going.
Havisham is rather pleased with himself and also the imminent delivery of a bucket of cold water

Race 6: 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards Novices’ Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Midnight Bliss     2: Golans Choice     3: Toosey

Winner owned & trained: Caroline Fryer, ridden: Bryony Frost

At the third last this race suddenly got a lot easier to win. Youngoconnor fell at that fence and Millen Dollar Man unseated independently, but probably distracted by the faller. It should be noted that Youngoconnor had not jumped very fluently throughout and maybe was feeling a hard race in the Huntingdon heat six days earlier, and Millen Dollar Man, not proven to stay this far, was tailing off. So it DID get easier when they departed, but perhaps the result remained the same. This was a first Rules win for Midnight Bliss who got her rating from a short and abortive hurdles campaign in the past – one last place and three pulled ups. In point-to-points she initially seemed the type to find a Maiden and maybe later a Restricted with a bit of luck. Instead Midnight Bliss has gone batdung crazy since late March, winning four out of five and finishing second in the other. She was appropriately well backed and burned off Toosey who is not well handicapped for his modest Rules achievements and had beaten frustrating win shirker Sandygate far less convincingly in points than Midnight Bliss - to the tune of fifteen lengths less. Golans Choice plodded on for second because plodding seems to be what he does.

+  Midnight Bliss (1st): She is in the form of her life and is hard to oppose until she snaps out of it. She has been on the go all year and deserves a bit of a break, but now is hardly a tempting time to do it.

Toosey (3rd): Has only won a four horse maiden point-to-point from a teasing troublemaker, and whilst he is himself not conspicuously trying to annoy us, the overall vibe of his career leaves a dubious odour about his attitude. He also tended to jump right here, so if being forgiving, only do so on certain courses.
Midnight Bliss leads at the first, with Toosey starting as he means to go on. Golans Choice is next, with Youngoconnor hidden and a Millen Dollar Man in rear. Might having the medic so visible give bring evil equine thoughts to the fore?
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