Fakenham, 15/3/19

With a stiff old breeze blowing, there seemed a few less racegoers at this than on other occasions where the main attention is on the other side of the country. The races staged were not, with one exception, hugely stimulating nor informative in hindsight. Yet it is undeniably satisfying to be supporting the lesser meetings this week.

Going: Good to Soft, Good places 

Race 1: toteplacepot Selling Hurdle [2m]

 1: Clayton     2: American Tom     3: Generous Jack

Winner owned: Ashley Head, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Niall Houlihan

Although unable to publish it due to yet another hosting outage from Easyspace (grrr), our Previewer, Bloodaxe, did select Clayton for this, but he was expecting a greater price thanks to the ratings differential with American Tom. The betting market refused to comply and saw a twelve pounds ratings gap as worthy of having them almost joint favourites. The main pair had the race to themselves from a long way out – American Tom’s stablemate Cliffside Park having a second consecutive off day. We know that Clayton excels at finding ways to be second now but American Tom lacked a superior determination and succumbed by half a length. The runner-up had been off for ten months so might have been a little more wanting for fitness than it looked. To Clayton’s credit he dug this one out despite not getting going as soft as he would really need. The auction struggled on until he was sold for £6,000. 

x  American Tom (2nd): As noted above this was possibly excusable but a 134-rated regular in Irish Grade 2 and 3 chases should really have swept this up without turning a hair.

Race 2: Fakenham Staff Fundraising Run For Air Ambulance Handicap Chase [2m 5f]

1: Cap Du Nord     2: Nobel Leader     3: Un Beau Roman

Winner owned: The Unnamed Favourites, trained: Christian Williams, ridden: James Bowen

This became a fascinating scramble around for just over two miles which eventually unfolded into a scrap between the two horses seeking a third win on the bounce. Cap Du Nord has translated adding cheekpieces into “don’t be quite so slow at the end of races” and he was the one who came out best. A near unseat at fence ten and a clumsy landing at the last may have in combination cost Nobel Leader the win. Un Beau Roman, declared in first time blinkers, was allowed to have the usual hood instead, perhaps because he threatened a tantrum? He hit what has become a traditional flat spot at halfway, recovered to be a serious challenger before the second last, and then dropped away turning for home.

+  Nobel Leader (2nd): The jumping mistakes do not seem to be normal for him and he has in the past struggled on undulating courses, so the end of his winning streak at two may not signal the end of winning for an extended period if he goes back to level courses.

x  Un Beau Roman (3rd): We have noted his teasing as regards another win being due but dropping in the ratings and class is not seeing a difference. He was also noted as breaking a blood vessel here, probably late on, which signals time to be less optimistically faithful.

x  Well Smitten (4th): Looked the part when winning his chase debut on Boxing Day but he has not done well in three runs since. The only plus point to this day was not being as feeble as the last couple of tries. x Lord In Red (5th): Debuting in the UK, he had two chase runs for Noel Meade late last year and did not seem to enjoy them. One for hurdling here as well?
Cap Du Nord skips on passing the stands, chased by Viens Chercher, Un Beau Roman, Nobel Leader and Lord In Red.

Race 3: Robert Case Memorial Conditional Jockeys’ Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Swaffham Bulbeck     2: Emerald Rocket     3: Grand Inquisitor

Winner owned: Geegeez Co Uk Om, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Cillin Leonard

An interesting race for a four horse affair. Two brand new to hurdling and two who have hit a reasonable standard but missed out on winning due their own failings. Initially the experienced horses dominated the race. It did not last as Grand Inquisitor took off far too fast to get home and ended up being very tamely dismissed. That seemed to have left Swaffham Bulbeck in command but his stablemate Emerald Rocket started to make inroads from the third last and could be nominated as possibly the winner with the final flight looming. Swaffham Bulbeck really pinged the last and then perhaps Emerald Rocket did not seem so keen on overtaking on the run-in. A bad spoil on an otherwise respectable opener or was that reading of the race a it harsh?

+  Emerald Rocket (2nd): A two time flat winner, this counts as a solid jumps debut, pipped by a 119-rated winner. As mentioned above, there was just a hint that he could have won if he had knuckled down to the job 100%, hence only one axe.

x x  Grand Inquisitor (3rd): We knew in advance that pulling unsensibly hard was an option, and he did, but seeming to give up completely when headed was a new move.
Swaffham Bulbeck – a study in post-race delight

Race 4: Prince Carlton Cup Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Sideways     2: Henryville     3: Midnight Shot

Winner owned: Christian Williams Racing Club, trained: Christian Williams, ridden: James Bowen

An interesting quintet lined up. Two once better than this level but seemingly in decline against one whom was possibly past his best but in his usual grade, one who finishes second worryingly often of late and one up and coming horse who sneaked in at bottom weight. That was Sideways, who nabbed his third win from his last five races. He won a 2m 5f Fakenham race and then 3m 2.5f at Sedgefield. He tried a repeat at both courses and distances and got placed but mix and matching worked for him here. Henryville has been in dismal form but only lost by half a length this time. He seemed to get intimidated by being on the inner of the dog leg on the run-in and faltered for a couple of strides. Going round the outer is not likely to have worked as Sideways was finishing solidly. Midnight Shot has a cracking winning hit rate before this of 11/36, but only 1/7 when going further than 2m 5f, so this loss was no shock.

+  Midnight Shot (3rd): This distance counted against his best, so this unexceptional effort could well be recovered from.

x x  Ballykan (5th): The one who has been prone to second places lately, he did not continue in that vein because he more or less downed tools at the thirteenth. Time will tell if it was breathing or brain that let him down.
Midnight Shot leads Ballykan, Sideways (straining to be in shot) and Set List

Race 5: toteexacta Fakenham Silver Cup Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Thistimenextyear     2: Zoffany Bay     3: All My Love

Winner owned: Rebel Racing (2), trained: Richard Spencer, ridden: James Bowen

This 0-125 race is one of the main events of the season at the course. The prize fund was £18,000 so it is surprising that no one horse rated below 115 joined in for a rare tilt at such a big prize in a race where they not out of the handicap. It also featured the 2018 winner, Potters Midnight, and All My Love who was a one length runner-up. Then there was Demopolis, a newly hooded and fairly unexposed JP McManus runner. The other four were hard to rule out of consideration although when Zoffany Bay unseated in the paddock, it was time to wonder what sort of mood he was in. Fine it turned out. The race was mostly uneventful until the final hurdle. Potters Midnight was staying on strongly but Thistimenextyear was coming along a bit quicker. Then Potters Midnight completely missed the out the jump, being brought to a complete halt. Thistimenextyear was left with the win, but All My Love and Zoffany Bay also passed the static leader, who to his credit got going again well enough to only lose by three lengths.

+  Thistimenextyear (1st): Although he was finishing quickly, it is hard to know whether he would have won without Potters Midnight blundering. What we did see was a horse more in a racing frame of mind, possibly due to the hood being removed.

+  Embole (7th): Got well beaten stepping up to 2m 3f last time and the immediate return to the minimum was noteworthy. That loss had also been his only try on sharp and in the market he was about as welcome as a lump of plutonium in a lucky dip for Kim Jong-Un, despite a recent line through Dino’s Velvet having him very well treated in comparison to Potters Midnight. He dropped out when it all quickened up after the third last, but on a non-tight course he could stage a recovery.

x  Demopolis (8th): A lower class of race and the hood did not enliven him at all.

Race 6: Walter Wales Memorial Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 5f]

1: Stonebrigg Legend     2: Point Of Departure     3: Come On Charlie

Winner owned: Yen Hall Farm Racing, trained: Sarah Humphrey, ridden: Ben Poste

A stereotypical Fakenham race. The shape of things came when somebpdy forgot to put the cheekpieces on Mr Love (this is not a sexual euphemism, but would be a good one to start spreading around) but it was at least spotted before he left the paddock. From there, some clumsy novices produced a race in which two went clear and Primal Focus fell at the last with the race all but won. The other departure was Mr Love at the first. Chasing debutant Come On Charlie jumped right and hung right and is probably not destined to come back here, or anywhere like it. Thus the departure of Primal Focus left Stonebrigg Legend in complete control but as she had been only five lengths behind Sideways here on New Year’s Day it was surprising that the earlier result did not get her seeing off Primal Focus for the role of jolly having dibbed in on only ten stone. She will live with it. Point Of Departure was never travelling with any conviction but keeping going was enough for second.

Stonebrigg Legend (1st): She has got her act in gear over fences and can be placed to find another win as the season winds down.

Race 7: Fakenham Open Hunters’ Chase [3m]

1: Sir Jack Yeats     2: Silvergrove     3: Connetable

Winner owned: Gowing’s Eleven, trained: Richard Spencer, ridden: James King

The usual second last was omitted here because someone (Come On Charlie?) had knocked a whacking great lump out of the middle of it in race six. Philip Hobbs had success at Cheltenham, he can afford to settle the bill. As a contest this race complete disintegrated. Sir Jack Yeats and Silvergrove went well clear after a mile and Silvergrove came to the end of his tether two miles in. As we saw earlier, there is no such thing as a procession at Fakenham, but this was almost it. Zeroeshadesofgrey and Dineur were early departures and poor Tulsa Jack manage to suffer both a burst blood vessel and a slipped saddle. The way he jumped and remembering how the rest of his luck went, he had to be satisfied to be given the option to pull up. Getting back to the winner, Sir Jack Yeats spent spring 2018 in the Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham and Aintree (in vain) so this would have seemed a nicely gentle diversion.
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