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Fontwell, 14/3/20

There was a small crowd for this, but with a higher profile (and much higher quality) meeting at Kempton on the same day, this Fontwell does not really seem to be needed on this particular date. Strange one to be running.

The big talking point before the meeting was that after the fate on Goshen the day before, how would Gary Moore fare? Would misfortune continue to persecute the brave or was Fate coming along with a swathe of minor consolations. After non-runners he came away with two winners from four runners (two of whom were in the same race anyway), so it was sort of the latter.

Going: Chase - Heavy, Hurdle - Soft, Heavy patches

Race 1: Visit attheraces.com Maiden Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Wagner     2: Hit The Rocks     3: The Topp Notes

Winner owned: Potwell Racing Syndicate, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Rex Dingle

Only five of the original seven declared actually made it to the race, and three were anointed as not in need of troubling racegoers interest, meaning that the race had 10/11 joint favourites. The finish was not as competitive as hoped with Wagner making all and leaving co-jolly Hit The Rocks struggling from the third last. Hit The Rocks ran down that hurdle - something he has done before - and was beaten afterwards. Wagner just kept trundling on and came home with a great big (Lohen)grin on his face.

+  Wagner (1st): Having had wind surgery since beaten narrowly on hurdling debut, it is possible that there is still some significant improvement to come from his direction.

+  Hit The Rocks (2nd): Before this he had been rated 111 officially but that was not deemed worth trying to exploit yet. He has not been flawless in his three hurdle race but when he does try a handicap hurdle it is potentially a clue that the yard feel that his hesitant jumping has been resolved.
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Horses unaccustomed to dry land set off in hot pursuit of more familiar angry skies. Wagner leads Hit The Rocks and The Topp Notes, with Brecqhou Island making harder work of it.

Race 2: Dr Alastair Wells Retirement Mares' Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Duhallow Gesture     2: Misty Whisky     3: Nikap

Winner owned: Galveston Partners, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Ben Godfrey

Duhallow Gesture won this race in 2019 and with a rating only three pounds higher now, she came and doubled up in 2020. The previous win had been rather comfortable but it was her own fault that this was harder work as she belted the final hurdle, nearly unseated, and gave a second chance to Misty Whisky, who failed by a length to give Rex Dingle three consecutive winning rides. So he went off to Kempton and made it three out of four. Nikap appeared to have a fair chance on her best, but there were two big negatives - a slightly longer race for a mare who races very impatiently and the fact that her only other race on a sharp track ended when she ran out. It was the former that did for her here. White Chocolate's contribution on handicap debut was a bit feeble given that her rating of 117 could have been worse. Daytime Ahead used only be intereted at Wincanton. Recently she has added Exeter to the approved list. Bookies could not give her away for love nor money (nor cake) and it is clear that Fontwell is not yet considered OK.

Race 3: Wayne Andrews Stag Party Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Ouro Branco     2: Sky Full Of Stars     3: Away For Slates

Winner owned: Pearce Brothers & Partner, trained: Nigel Hawke, ridden: Keiren Buckley

An unusual way to win a race at Fontwell from Ouro Branco. He had triumphed in his chase debut at Catterick then been fractionally disappointing at Sedgefield. Cheekpieces were added to the mix here and for the most part he travelled like the winner in front. Yet every so often he would be a bit slow at a fence and briefly look as if he was about to throw it all away. In the end he did struggle home by a head from an apparently revitalised Sky Full Of Stars. It was impossible not to wonder what was going through his mind as the race progressed.

Away For Slates (3rd): His jumping has become a disaster area lately but he was quite reliable here and only ended up losing by three lengths. All he needs to go all Steely Dan on us and go back, Jack, and do it again. Four of his five career wins have been in fields of five or fewer.

x  Delface (5th): Before today he had finished placed in three of his four chases and generally seemed to be homing in on success over fences. He had a proper off day here and even if he had not, there has been no sign of distances longer than 2m 0.5f being of any use to him.

Empire - Brother Bennett (4th): Heavy ground is not his thing and being forced into a 0-110 due to a dearth of 0-100 chases added up to a day when he was not that bothered.
Description
Ouru Branco seems a bit more pleased about the way he sneaked the result than Keiren Buckley.

Race 4: Follow At The Races On Twitter Novices' Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Galtee Mountain     2: Made For You     3: Dharma Rain

Winner owned & trained: Pat Murphy, ridden: Mark Grant

Deja vu cut in (again?) for this race as Galtee Mountain made all, knocked the final flight flying and then held on by half a length from a rallying Made For You, who may even have won but for making his own error at the second last hurdle. With Dharma Rain and En Couer brawling for third just three lengths behind this evolved in a much closer finish than had seemed likely from a long way out. The unlucky horse was Clondaw Robin who was going quite well on Galtee Mountain's heels three hurdles out only to be be struck into, get a really large cut as a result, leading to him having to be pulled up.

+  En Couer (4th): Failed to get home at 2m 3f on soft going, and he will be of more interest if the ground ever dries out.

x x  Montys Angel (RO): Being 1/30 for her career should be enough to put anyone on red alert but for good measure she ran out for the second time this season - final hurdle and in last at the time.

Race 5: Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Handicap Hurdle [3m 2f]

1: Deebaj     2: Chloe's Court     3: Highdawn

Winner owned & trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Tom Cheesman

When selecting races for Deebaj the past policy seems to have been to use a random number generator to pick the distance. For the most part he has not been convincing as a stayer but in his longest previous race (Uttoxeter on heavy over 2m 7.5f) he had lost by only half a length. What Deebaj showed us here is that he has really been a stayer hiding in the body and spirit of a loon ball all along. The reason for the confidence in the face value result is that he outstayed Chloe's Court, whose combat skills definitely emphasis stamina over speed and, erm, absolutely everything else. And Deebaj did it in testing conditions. And the pair were over twenty lengths clear of the rest.

Jimmy (PU): Despite being known for mood changes every couple of furlongs, he was allowed to start favourite for this, but it did not take long for him to show that gloom and misery was going to be the outcome.
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Deebaj planning his next enigmatic action / stroke of mischief

Race 6: Sky Sports Racing Virgin 535 Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Native Robin     2: On The Road

Favourite for this three horse race was The Dawn Man, a disappointing chaser who had suddenly got it together on his stable debut over three miles at Wetherby. He was not really up for it today and connections reported to the stewards that he needed a more galloping track. The shortage of past chasing aptitude and a second at Southwell does raise a question mark that there may be more to it than that, although the rest of his good form is around Worcester and Wetherby. On The Road has not won for three years and after two close calls recently in blinkers he was now given a shot in a visor. The bare numbers tell a tale of him offering up more of the same but the close two length defeat was down to Native Robin, having got the race won, pulling himself up on the run-in, only to wake up when he heard On The Road breathing down his neck.

UK-Jumping Selections - Native Robin (1st): He did not have his ideal three week gap between runs, but in a small field and with suspect oppo he was able to defy it anyway. The way that he ground to a halt halfway up the run in gave us all a scare that we could have done without.

Race 7: Visit attheraces.com Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Twenty Twenty     2: Flagrant Delitiep     3: Man Of Plenty

WInner owner: Mark Albon & Gary Moore, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: NIall Houlihan

After six races conditions were so tough on the run-in that The Knot Is Tied and The Raven's Return pulled up after the last and only were deemed to have finished because the nearest course exit required them to walk over the line to get to it. Although not attractively handicapped Twenty Twenty has been in form of late and it was not a shock that he was ready for win number three here. Earlier this season he was developing a nasty habit of being satisfied with a place but this snapped him nicely out of that silliness. Flagrant Delitiep had not really shown much in bumpers and novice hurdles and after losing his handicap debut by nine lengths a rather harsh three pound rise had ensued, so this counts as a decent effort.

+  Flagrant Delitiep (2nd): Could now be progressing slightly faster than the handicapper is persecuting him and is worth keeping an eye on.

x  The Knot Is Tied (5th): He had pulled up in all three runs this season, two of them Grade 3 handicaps and the other a 0-130. Going into a 0-120 conditional jockeys' race should have seemed much, much easier but he apparently did not see it so.

The Raven's Return (6th): The last three runs had all been sound placed efforts in handicaps on soft or heavy over distances from two miles to 2m 5.5f, and included one on this course. So this shocker was a surprise flop. He was not too far off the leaders at the second last so perhaps something went awry late on.    here.
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