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Fontwell, 27/1/19

The course were not exactly pushing the financial boat out for this Sunday meeting. Two novice hurdles, one 0-130 handicap (quickly got over and done with as race one) then a 0-105 and two 0-100s. Presumably the 0-105 was only on the card because there is a rule about having three out of six races at class 5. Rather fascinatingly there was a strong headwind in the home straight, making for some very slow finishes in races that are not noted for raging speed on an easier day.

Going: Good to Soft, Soft places

Race 1: Chancellor Of The Formchecker Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Dream Du Grand Val     2: Arthington     3: Darcy Ward

Winner owned: Million In Mind, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

A winless flat (one race) and hurdle (six races) horse in France, Dream Du Grand Val ‘s opening shot in Britain was six lengths sixth of twenty in a Cheltenham novices’ handicap hurdle. That, plus a bit of improvement for further settling into his new yard plus adding a hood, was enough to turn this race into a rather comfortable success. Despite tending to jump off to his right he let Arthington do the donkey work in picking off Darcy Ward and then gave that horse a taste of his own medicine between the final two obstacles. Not exciting stuff but the part of the crowd not taking shelter from the wind seemed more than pleased to open with a winning favourite. They dreamt of a Grand Val when some of us merely wisted after a blackberry and apple crumble with custard.

+ Darcy Ward (3rd): He had never raced left-handed before and the shorter distance was far from certain to suit. Losing by seventeen lengths was not fantastic but it was better than his recent showings and maybe he is thinking of doing something better soon. It is unlikely to be at Fontwell because he was all at sea when switching on and off the all-weather bend.
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Darcy Ward guides them out for a final lap. At this point First Figaro and Twenty Twenty lead the chase, but Arthington and Dream Du Grand Val (2) have it all in hand.

Race 2: Chancellor Of The Formchecker Novices’ Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Greanteen     2: On The Slopes     3: The Flying Sofa

Winner owned: Chris Giles, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

The excitement and fun was ratcheted up for this hurdle. By the time that they had crossed the second last obstacle the contenders were reduced to the big three in the betting. On The Slopes led but Greanteen was breathing down his neck and travelling more comfortably. At this point On The Slopes played the novice skier card and hung to his right on the run-in almost as if he could not help it. Greanteen kept his cool but every time he was a stride away from leading he was carried right a little more and in the end he only got home by a neck. The Flying Sofa, who had been off for ten months since his final bumper, was easing down and accepting defeat when he ploughed through the last. Not a bad return overall.

+ +  The Flying Sofa (3rd): Won a bumper and only looked lost when put in the Grade 1 Festival Bumper. This was not a terrible first go at hurdles after a long time off and he lost by far enough to potentially retain some handicap mark sanity when the time comes. Jumping the last with all the agility of a sofa is attributed to fatigue after a long time off.

x  Uallrightharry (Fell): Got a UK-Jumping thumbs up after two promising runs at Plumpton but in one he spoiled it by falling three out. Wouldn’t you know it he did the same again and brought down Hymn And A Prayer. Past enthusiasm has taken a dent but it cannot be ruled out that in future he will get small fields because nobody wants the risk of being anywhere near him as the third last hurdle looms.
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Crossley Tender leads Uallrightharry and On The Slopes (2). Behind them nobody seems too flustered so this must be two laps to go. Minnie Escape (10) hides Greanteen, chased by The Flying Sofa, giant Shutscombe Hill (6) and I’d Better Go Now.

Race 3: South Parade Pier Portsmouth Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Sky Full Of Stars     2: Glance Back     3: Bredon Hill Lad

Winner owned: Gilbert and Gamble, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

A second close finish in succession. If, just like UK-Jumping, you had invested in the Glance Back fund, events approaching the last were very, very encouraging. He had survived the downhill fences that completely confused him throughout. He had the inside rail and benefit of the left-handed edge to the run-in. Sky Full Of Stars was more inclined to jump right, so was not likely to use his slight lead to cut off the shortest route to the post. Yet with all these pluses, Glance Back simply could not get his nose in front and lost by three-quarters of a length. The perfect plan had unravelled because Sky Full Of Stars is not the greatest jumper around but for this level he is not slow and clearing the last fence is a big plus for him. There was only a short head deciding third and fourth, with Bredon Hill Lad just holding Chivers. This would have been less close had Bredon Hill Lad not belted the second last, at the time only gently losing ground on the first pair.

+  Bredon Hill Lad (3rd): Ran off of 94 here, having won six chases, all when on a higher rating. Recent runs had been really quite bad but this was better even after the mess he made of two out. Another win is on the cards, especially if he can find a race with no more than six runners.

x  Chivers (4th): Only occasionally digs out a decent effort and his win here on Boxing Day resulted in him starting favourite whilst ironically convincing us that he had had his day and was very opposable this time around.

Wisecracker (Pulled Up): After a spell as the great hero for Placepotters in the sort of races that give them the greatest agonies, today he was at his worst. Shorter and drier is what he needs.
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In a rare accident for this site, a mid-race photo features the winner centre shot, with Sky Full Of Stars, erm, starring. Glance Back is about a neck closer to him here than at the end. In front are Bredon Hill Lad and Wisecracker. Chivers is rounding them up. Not very efficiently.

Race 4: Jamie Snowden Racing Club Maiden Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Umndeni     2: Birds Of Prey     3: Rosy World

Winner owned: St Quinton, DL Whateley & Syder, trained: Philip Hobbs, ridden: Richard Johnson

The betting said this was a two horse race. It was correct. After being beaten up at the start here last time and unseating, Umndeni returned to the scene of the crime and showed no mental scars in getting a win. He made a bit of a hairy mess of the second last but from then on Birds Of Prey, who was doing his best but not making any inroads on the winner, just had to grit his teeth and bear it. Although a horse named after a bird need not be getting involved with bears – too much danger of being eaten and forest defecation. Rosy World had the next strongest form in the race and came out best of the rest, just denying Grange Ranger third place. People who noted that Grange Ranger was trained by the race sponsor so supported him each-way solely on that will be cursing Rosy World but as Grange Ranger had been off for twenty-one months since falling in his only Irish point, not making the places had to be a realistic option to fear.

+  Rosy World (3rd): The yard is off of the cold list but still not flying and she is still a possible improver, especially in handicaps.
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The sun shines on the righteous, as well as Umndeni and Birds Of Prey. It is doing weird things to the big screen, proving that the screen is evil and needs to be destroyed.

Race 5: Chancellor Of The Formchecker Celebrating 10 Years At Fontwell Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Sartorial Elegance     2: Redmond     3: Arquebusier

Winner owned: RG Tizzard, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Harry Cobden

A wise man observed before the start that the race was populated with horses that have previously needed far less provocation than a stiff wind in their face to down tools. The race was as predicted but by taking things gently for as long as possible, Harry Cobden got Sartorial Elegance sneaking past Redmond and Arquebusier when they had seen enough racing for one day. Whether they were at the end of their mental or physical tether, or both, is not necessarily important as we know enough about them to not predict a different sort of outcome soon. This is form to put a big red X through. A Hazchem symbol would not go amiss either.

x  Sartorial Elegance (1st): Has a very modest strike rate and rarely shows any inclination to fix it. However, he tends to run OK at Fontwell, without being as reliable elsewhere, so it is important to have the self discipline to resist over optimism when he comes back.

Redmond (2nd), Arquebusier (3rd): No reason to get too excited about getting placed in this.

Polo The Mumm (7th): After proving himself unwilling to do more late in a race than go through the motions for the last couple of years, he was admirably positive at Wincanton last month and won. However, the horse he shook off was win-shy Boy In A Bentley, and he has been back to his usual self in two races since.

Race 6: chancelloroftheformchecker.net Handicap Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Sheila’s Fancy     2: Tigeralley     3: Lee Side Lady

Winner owned: Dare To Dream, trained: Michael Attwater, ridden: Jamie Moore

A convincing win for 33/1 shot Sheila’s Fancy. He had never won in plenty of flat attempts and done little in hurdles before this handicap debut. Under a positive front running ride, he kicked clear three out and was able to break a losing run for the yard that was into three figures (runners, not days). Although she had a pointing win, Tigeralley had not done much hurdling and she lost her debut handicap by seventeen lengths. We have to wonder if chopped up ground and a strong wind inexplicably motivated the two of them. Lee Side Lady has been in steady placed form lately, so the form might be dependable at a modest level. Fourth placed Eddy showed a bit more life than has been his way of late. The other two handicap debutants had a lot more weight to handle than Sheila’s Fancy and failed to shine in the same way. Espalion pulled up and Black Lightning was seventh – last of the finishers.

+  Eddy (4th): Ran off of 98 and lost by just over twenty lengths. That is still nearly a stone above his last winning mark but the performance had a bit more spark than any others this winter, so a long priced place could be looming.

x  Urbanist (Pulled Up): After being in good form over fences, he started odds-on for this switch back to hurdles. The drop down from three miles was not helpful but the general vibe was one of indifference. The x probably does not apply when he returns to chasing.
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