Fontwell, 18/11/18

Not much to say about this. Everything was as it should be for the time of year. Weather. Going. Crowd. In fact it was all so typical that it could not be true. Expect a reset of The Matrix any time now.

Going: Good to Soft (Good places)

Race 1: Follow Top Tipster Templegate At Sun Racing Novices' Handicap Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Silver Sea     2: Hier Encore     3: Be Daring

Winner owned: Four Candles Partnership, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Daniel Sansom

Normally in a race like this, it is expected to see one or two (at least) that have done nothing of note so far but either drop the hint that handicaps will be a different story or catch the eye in the paddock as one to be physically improving. The list here was very short - Solstice Twilight. And she gave the impression that a longer race would be ideal, so this could be a fitness fine tuning exercise. The first two in the betting dominated the finish, with Silver Sea getting the necessary progression from first use of a tongue tie and fending off Hier Encore, who may not have had ideal ground, but is winless in twenty-one races at this point in time. There was a bulk trundle going on for the minor place, which Be Daring secured from handicap debutant No No Juliet, who might be the hopeful element for the form as she had not done badly in a couple of two mile, mares only novices' hurdles last season. It is not the slightest straw that has ever been clutched at.

Be Daring (3rd): A big horse that it is obligatory to describe as stuffy and hard to get fit, this was a decent effort as he did look to need the run. It would seem that he lurks awaiting chasing, but being now 0/16 hurdling, it is a bit worrying that connections have not tried it yet.

+  Solstice Twilight (7th): Has not set the world alight in two handicap runs, but gives the impression that her best has yet to be shown.

x  Hier Encore (2nd): There have been no shortage of flat and hurdle opportunities and he has spurned all of them. The spurning seems set to continue.

Sergio (PU): Showed ability before hitting a clumsy patch where even completing races came to be beyond him. It seemed that he was capable of outperforming his 25/1 odds, but he ran like a horse that has become fed up with bad luck.

Race 2: Follow Sun Racing On Twitter Salmon Spray Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Lisp     2: And The New     3: San Pedro De Senam

Winner owned: Mr & Mrs R Kelvin-Hughes, trained: Alan King, ridden: Tom Cannon

And The New and Moabit set off to make this a proper test, but Moabit misjudged his landing at the first hurdle and came down despite not making a mistake. That left And The New with an uncontested lead, which he appreciated the value of all the more when Lisp joined him two out and jumped left into him without any provocation. Lisp opened up a little daylight before the last, where she again went left but had nobody to clobber. From then on she went a-wandering up the run-in, looking for fight with any horse in reach. There were none. An alternative explanation is that after eight months break, she was a little tired and it caused her concentration to falter when left alone. San Pedro De Senam kept well out of harm's way at the second last and was shaping as if a big threat, but he did not find anything under pressure and was a good twenty lengths back by the time that he finished.

+  And The New (2nd): Ran a good race in the 2017 Champion Bumper, but he only had one hurdles win and the standards achieved seemed not to merit his 133 rating. He ran up to it, and if in the process of working out what hurdles is all about, he should have the ability to progress and compete in better company.
This quickly goes wrong for Moabit (1) but And The New is not getting distracted

Race 3: John Rogerson Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Glen Rocco     2: Diplomate Sivola     3: Plus One

Winner owned: J Kyle, G Mason, D Stevens, trained: Nick Gifford, ridden: Leighton Aspell

With a few chase newcomers, plus one that had not made it past fence number one on debut, this promised to be more of an information provider than a betting opportunity. Initially there were a couple very keen to get on with it, but once they had experienced the drop fences that come fifth and sixth at this distance, caution became the name of the game for everyone. That left the finish to be handled by two who were more patient early on. The more experienced Diplomate Sivola had the initiative, but his half length defeat here was over a quarter of a mile shorter, and stamina could have waned from any point after the final bend. It did not do anything so dramatic, but Glen Rocco still outstayed him, although not as easily as appeared likely when coming alongside after the second last. For Diplomate Sivola, there may be exciting chances to have further half a length defeats over more of this track's many distances.

+  Plus One (3rd): On his chase debut, he only really fluffed fence ten, but towards the end of the race he was a bit laboured and finished it like a horse feeling eleven months absence. Lots of improvement is possible.

+  Sandhurst Lad (4th): Marvellously unencumbered by anything resembling a turn of foot, Fontwell is not be the sort of course that he relishes at all. He coped with the winding passage as best he could, and watch for a better outcome when he gets a galloping track to plug his chasing wares.

x  Walt (5th): With most of the runners debuting over fences, he had seven previous tries and whilst winless, his best runs were not at all bad. Today he did not fancy it at all and was soon tagging along under sufferance.

x  Royal Magic (PU): Making his first chase appearance, he was in the fore very early, but soon started to drop back through the field. It appears that jumping fences is not his vision of a common sense idea.

UK-Jumping Selections: Glen Rocco (1st): On chase debut he had made a first fence mistake that led to a scrimmage from which he came off worst. Since then he has reportedly had a school around Fontwell, and it clearly had done no harm. He can go on from this.

Pull Together (6th): Ran very well to the third last and then rapidly ran out of puff. He has a poor record when fresh, so this was in no way a disappointment, and until he got tired his jumping was very solid. A good omen for the season.

Unfortunately Burst Ya Bubble was a non-runner, preventing what may have been a first UK-Jumping head-to-head-to-head.

Race 4: Kate Hallin Birthday Celebration Juvenile Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Tazka     2: Yamuna River     3: The Lincoln Lawyer

Winner owned: Barry & Baronness Noakes, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

With the form endorsed by the winner landing a Grade 2 race at Cheltenham on Saturday, the juvenile hurdle at Kempton a month ago looked a key race. The three refugees from it were Tazka, beaten a dozen lengths, Vlannon (a couple more back) and Yamuna River, who had been tailed off. Vlannon unfortunately pulled up lame, and Yamuna River so nearly upset Tazka. The Lincoln Lawyer had finished second in less illustrious company at Huntingdon before having a long trip and shockingly bad performance at Sedgefield, so his third place is not necessarily a gloomy indicator for the race quality. However, just behind him was Tour De Paris, whose flat and hurdle exploits are less encouraging.

+  Yamuna River (2nd): It looked like she had learned a lot from her Kempton tailing off. A win now looks entirely feasible in the near future.

Race 5: Sun Racing Southern National Handicap Chase [3m 3.5f]

1: Shanroe Santos     2: Morney Wing     3: Wizards Bridge

Winner owned: James Summers, trained: Lucy Wadham, ridden: Leighton Aspell

Less runners than usual did not make for a lesser race, and Shanroe Santos packed up a tidy prize to take home to East Anglia. The form of his comeback at Carlisle had been endorsed by Loose Chips winning at Sandown, and he took some bragging rights back from Morney Wing, who has won a Sussex National (Shanroe Santos a runner-up in the last renewal of that) but is now 0/3 in this race. There was no hard luck story for Morney Wing - he just carried off the last quarter of a mile less well than the winner. Wizards Bridge now has a chase record at Fontwell reading 1P113, but in the final half lap the main pair did not give him a look in as regards to making it win number four. An interesting note here is that the four horses not to have tackled a race over this far before ended up fourth, sixth, pulled up and pulled up. The implication is that it was a fiercer stamina test than appeared the case to the naked eye.

+  Morney Wing (2nd): He has won the Sussex National at Plumpton, and this looked like a very nice tune up for the renewal in early January. There was no fault in his run, Shanroe Santos was simply superior on the day.

x  Mighty Leader (P): Made mistakes and started to jump off to his right by halfway. This is his default setting and the longer the race, the harder it is to defy the ground lost, especially when he is in races like this, where the others refuse to follow him.

x  Robert's Star (6th): Lost his place at the head of the betting market when late money came for Morney Wing, and in that respect the non-money was accurate as he put up a lacklustre effort and never seemed like a realistic threat.

UK-Jumping Selections: Shanroe Santos (1st): A good win that was far from unpredictable after his very decent comeback at Carlisle. Although a specialist on right handed courses, the final turn is right-handed and leads trickily into the open ditch that begins the final straight, so such horses ought to find Fontwell easier to adapt to compared to those needing to go left-handed.
A big win but Shanroe Santos does blase terribly well

Race 6: Like Sun Racing On Facebook Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Bonza Girl     2: Shaw's Cross     3: Sky Full Of Stars

Winner owned: GT Lever, trained: Jeremy Scott, ridden: Rex Dingle

Some people would have been quite smug about coping with the complexities of the opening race on the card. Later in the afternoon there was this thing dropped in, solely for the purposes of giving a lesson in humility. Udogo ensured a strong pace, and although Bonza Girl had taken his measure after the second last, he was set for second when a faller at the final hurdle. That left the winner cruising home from a couple who tried to get involved but failed, plus some stragglers that sat at the back and waited for a slow down that never came. Sky Full Of Stars finished quite well to worry Shaw's Cross for second, but the latter is quite unexposed whereas the third is much more of a known quantity from an array of wins and places in the north, and thus more challenging to draw improvement from.

+  Bonza Girl (1st): Off since the spring, she seems to have improved for the summer off, and is on the sort of handicap mark where she may well find another race or two before being forced out of her depth.

Shaw's Cross (2nd): A sneaky low grade Irish import of the type that Paul Henderson usually finds a race for, this was far from a blemish-free show, but it was only the seventh race of his career and natural improvement can still come along.

x  Kalarika (PU): Finished in front of Bonza Girl in the spring, but she was really not in the mood at all, and having failed to get in contention, she eased out of the race entirely.

Westerbee (7th): Held up in isolation during a strongly run race, she made some modest progress from the third last to briefly threaten for a place, but she did not find this as much fun as she needed, and the effort petered out quite weakly.

x x  Bound Hill (PU): Has had some compliments on here a long while ago and did win a couple of races early in 2017. However, there has been water under the bridge since then and today he conspicuously downed tools with a circuit to race.

Race 7: Follow Top Tipsters At Sun Racing Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Mortens Leam     2: Full Shift     3: Midnight Owle

Winner owned & trained: Michael Hawker, ridden: Philip Donovan

A very difficult race to track as most of it took place in the direction of the sun, and the almost all of the colours were either yellow or black/dark blue based, making the horses hard to distinguish. With an array of characters of dubious repute involved, it may be that the defeated relished the anonymity. Very exposed plodder Grayhawk (he finally won a point-to-point at the end of last season) was actually travelling very well when he fell at the twelfth, which is not a good indicator for the merits of the race. When they emerged from the glare for the last time, Mortens Leam was in the process of fending off Full Shift to get the second win of his career. Whilst on the topic of worrying indicators, Mortens Leam has historically been a bit clumsy and was not retained by the usually horse-loyal Pam Sly, despite being only six years old and havng time to learn the job properly. Although below his best lately and slumping down the ratings as a result, Full Shift has won three races over the years, so perhaps someone can give Mortens Leam a heavily spin doctored lecture on how he can use this to build a more reliable future for himself. Midnight Owle was too far back for the same script to work, but it could be adapted to his having Turban in fourth.

x  Arquebusier (6th): Suffered a bit from Grayhawk's fall and was not a contender from there, but he is not really a chaser and assuming that the hampering was the sole source of his disappointement would be inaccurate.
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