Fontwell, 26/5/19

A sign of what a forgettable point-to-point season it has been comes here, when we brace ourselves for the horrors of family fun day, rather than go to Kingston Blount, where they had 67 entries and the ever popular organised chaos that is the hound race. Word on the street was that Kingston Blount was a decent meeting, recovering from the lack of horses at the last one, but all in all, this was not so bad either.

Going: Good, Good to Firm places

Race 1: Airlynx Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Light Gunner     2: Goldslinger     3: Joly Maker

Winner owned: The Plantation Picnic Club, trained: Richard Bandey, ridden: Harry Bannister

Only five went to post for this but four of them were potential winners and it was a bit of a surprise that the first two put twenty lengths back to the remainder. Goldslinger made that happen by setting a very searching pace, which the others were undecided about matching. Initially they let him go clear, then began to fear that he had no intention of stopping. They were right about the latter part of the equation, as even once Light Gunner got in front, the long time leader battled back and only lost by a neck. Light Gunner returned to a rapturous reception not normally accorded to the fourth favourite in a novice hurdle - perhaps the crowd were paying tribute to an improvement on previously shoddy jumping skills. Joly Maker's UK debut after nine months off was a bit laboured, but seeing him in chases soon is likely on looks. The market was headed by Demon Fou, who never got involved thanks to errors at hurdles two and six, both when he was trying to up the effort in pursuit of the winner.

x  Demon Fou (4th): At face value he has solid results for small track level. However, he flops in longer races and always seems to get outpaced at some point when around this distance. There is no happy medium. Such fates befall the conjurers of demons.

x x  Choral Bee (PU): Thought about planting herself at the start and gave up by the third hurdle. Her infrequent runs (she was quite portly on this occasion) and much declined performances should be enough warning about where she is likley to go from here, but there may be some singing honey harvesters out there who need warning against following the name.
Light Gunner frantically keeps Goldslinger behind him, although the gap narrowed and narrowed from here

Race 2: John Hills 65th Birthday Novices' Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Tomorrow Mystery     2: Zamperini     3: Lyn's Secret

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

After starting her career with four places in a row, Tomorrow Mystery had opened her account at Kempton last time in reasonably impressive style. She only had one possible threat here, and Zamperini would need to progress on his Plumpton win to do that. He could not, and Tomorrow Mystery won comfortabl despite rather ungainly efforts to get over the two hurdles in the home straight. Paddock pick Lyn's Secret was beaten a rather long way, but progressed a little on her hurdles debut and might dig out something winnable in class 5 handicap hurdle company.

Race 3: Ralph Waldren 75th Birthday Beginners' Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Cervaro Mix     2: Risk And Roll     3: Seero

Winner owned: Kate & Andrew Brooks, trained: Oliver Sherwood, ridden: Leighton Aspell

As the horses were going to post it was announced that one fence would be omitted, meaning two less obstacles. It would have been nice to know earlier, although it is possible that it was lost in one of many inaudible announcements on the Family Fun Day. The star of the show was Risk And Roll, who appeared to have been dropped into the sort of race that he might finally bother to win. Instead he was been urged along after less than a mile and provided chase debutant Cervaro Mix with an incredibly useful schooling session that would have resembled a contested race but really was not. Seero completed in his own time for third, jumping soundly. He might have low level handicap potential, but he has failed to win in British point-to-points as well, so might not be up even to that modest target.

+  Cervaro Mix (1st): A capable start over fences, despite pulling too hard in the early stages. This is the longest race that he has contested and in tougher company a shorter one would suit unless he learns a bit of patience.

x x  Risk And Roll (2nd): His subtitle is "an invitation to take on" and this golden opportunity was not going to be taken, something he made clear early on. How much longer will he be allowed to damage Paul Nicholl's winning strike rate?

Race 4: Luke Reardon 21st Birthday Maiden Hurde [2m 5.5f]

1: The Raven's Return     2: Officernisi     3: Dartmoor

Winner owned: The Rumble Racing Club, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Daniel Sansom

A weak novice hurdle and the complexion of it changed when clear leader Rio Gold took a crunching fall at hurdle six. It is unknown whether he could have sustained the pace, but only The Raven's Return finished off the race as if he may have been able to do anything about it. The Raven's Return had won a muddy bumper but so far hurdling had not been kind to him, so starting at odds-on seemed to be heaping more pressure upon him than was deserved. The one chasing him home was stablemate Officernisi. On paper form he appeared to be a slightly more interesting prospect but in the flesh he is not built for hurdling excellence. Dartmoor has shown nothing so far, just like a foggy day on Dartmoor, but the first two beat him a mile, which was the minimum that they needed to do.

+ +   Officernisi (2nd): caught the eye as being constructed to tackle fences, and being six years old already, the day for that being done cannot be far away.

Race 5: Oliver Child's 13th Birthday Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Adrrastos    2: Storm Home     3: I'dliketheoption

Winner owned: Mrs KB Gunn, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Aidan Coleman

A key non-runner left us with another three runner chase. The first two miles were entirely uneventful but the crowd was treated to a thriller of a finish, with Storm Home and I'dliketheoption trying to quicken past Adrrastos and that horse showing a nice stubborn streak to not let them manage it. A pillar to post win for a horse that had previously appeared committed to being a two miler and no more does suggest that the bland first 80% of the race was down to a modest pace being set. The crowd did not care.

+  Storm Home (2nd): Previously in chases he had shown only minor promise but this was easier than the novice chases contested and he is also safely still a novice for the rest of the season. Therefore, despite reservations on the way that the race was run, this is potentially a reliable sign of progress.
Addrastos keeping a more modest demeanour as everyone else is delighted with the result - he knows that come the zombie apocalypse, horses will inherit the earth. The wolves are happy to let them think that...

Race 6: Lymington Town Supported By Nationwide Concreting Handicap Hurdle [3m 2f]

1: Our Reward     2: Mister Tickle     3: Buster Edwards

Winner owned: Heart Racing Hr3 And Andrew Humphrey, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Ben Hicks

After an exciting chase half an hour earlier, the hurdlers upstaged them with four in a row at the final hurdle and the fifth runner only having weakened very shortly before that. From that point on proven stayer Buster Edwards would likely have the upper hand, but he could not deal with Mister Tickle and Our Reward. Mister Tickle initially hung right but focussed with purpose when having the rail to straighten his line, and most of the way he appeared to just be holding Our Reward at bay. Then, with only a handful of metres to run, Our Reward realised that he could pinch it and stuck his neck out to claim it by a head. Again, victory for the horse fourth of five in the betting drew an unusually keen reception as he jogged back to unsaddle. With an earlier win at Kelso in the bad, the yard was having their fourth winner in a row. Interesting (or perhaps not) side note - the first two were both in first time cheekpieces. Maebh was only five lengths back in fourth, using blinkers for the first time, and Mickieblueeyes, back in fifth, ran his best race for some time.

+ +  Mister Tickle (2nd): The promise was definitely there in novice company and for his handicap debut he was unlucky to bump into a rival from a spectacularly in-form yard.

+  Our Reward (1st): A sharp track, hurdling and fresh from a break are a good combination for him. Hopefully the new headgear will not sabotage the last of those trends.
Half of the run-in to negotiate. Mister Tickle (nearest) seems to have command as due to the angle Our Reward is further back than it looks. Buster Edwards tries to use the space on the far side and Maebh (4) is exactly at the point where she runs out of steam. If any readers had a funny turn at the occurence of a relevant in action shot on this site, many apologies and it probably will be a long time before it happens again...

Race 7: Handicap Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Multigifted     2: Stubborn Logic     3: Brown Bear

Winner owned: Mrs LN Harmes, trained: Michael Madgwick, ridden: Marc Goldstein

A fourteen horse field was by far the biggest of the day and being a 0-100 race, it struck fear into the hearts of those looking to end the meeting on a high. Or it should have done. There were some in-form horses for this level, plenty that looked well in the paddock and a suspicously short priced 6/4 favourite in Stubborn Logic - after a Warwick fall when going well but still too far out to know how he may have ended the race. He ran prefectly well but Multigifted had been knocking away on the verge of victory since late February and finally got everything right. For a four time flat winner, this first jumps triumph was a little overdue. Brown Bear showed a glimpse of his old best to be third, but the amazing thing was that he was thirty lengths of more clear of the remainder. This was largely due to being a trongly run race - a few imploded early on and none of the first trio got involved until the last half mile or so.

Multigifted (1st): Could well follow up after a spell of good form and she is well exposed to the handicapper so hopefully immune to an absurd rise in the ratings.

+  Stubborn Logic (2nd): Showed intermittent promise in Ireland and again will hopefully not be taken literally for the distance back to the fourth. He was a bit of a nightmare to lead round in the paddock and a bit more common sense from him there would save some precious energy for the race itself.

x  Just Perfect (PU): Making his handicap debut, he had gained blinkers and a tongue tie, plus had a wind surgery, since last running, but the combination of factors failed and he seemed less than optimistically enthused about everything he had to do here.
...or it might only be half an hour!!! Multigifted (orange) and Stubborn Logic (white & maroon) have a protracted bout of equine fisticuffs but Brown Bear is applying the common sense of a horse certain to be third 
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