Huntingdon, 3/11/19

First there were six races. Then there were seven as popular demand saw the novices’ handicap chase as a late insertion to the card, but this confused the Racing Post website, so it looked like there would be only one if you trusted it. And finally after a division, we were left with eight. Rest assured – a 12.05 first race the day after a Rugby World Cup final is not civilised in the least.

Going: Good (by some miracle)

Race 1: Fairfax Saddles Claiming Hurdle [2m]

1: Ballyellis     2: Great Hall     3: Throckley

Winner owned & trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Jordan Nailor

The latest episode in Ballyellis’ Excellent Adventure (2019) also featured him being dropped into a speedy raw two miler for the first time since he came good. The way things had been going in slightly longer races implied that there was a potential problem with this, but he took on a bunch of opponents that were not in quite as sharp form as those met recently or who would still be disadvantaged at the weights if they were at their best. Also, six of his nine enemies represented stables that could be described as out of form to some degree. Thus for Ballyellis it was a fairly bloodless victory, with Great Hall, a course and distance winner last December, hanging on in touch and then being surprisingly one paced when push came to shove. Ditto Throckley, who had won a two mile maiden hurdle as recently in August, only for his stable to be dormant since. After settling much better than at Stratford last time, Initiative’s fourth, not miles behind Throckley, counts as progress but not yet enough to think of him as due to win.

+  Throckley (3rd): Fared badly as the weights stood but he blundered badly at hurdle five and nearly unseated. He can definitely show up better than this as jumping daftness is not his habit.

Race 2: Fairfax Saddles Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: Building Bridges     2: Silkstone     3: Waterproof

Winner owned: Oaklands Racing & Bloodstock Ltd, trained: Stuart Edmunds, ridden: Ciaran Gethings

The trouble with Huntingdon and its relative proximity to Newmarket is that novice hurdles of any description tend to attract all sorts of flat converts that either appear eminently qualified for jumping or close enough that the stables just need to dig out some sort of embedded preference in the horse for a greater challenge of their skills. Thus traces that look “could turn out alright” types frequently end up disappointing the world at large. This was not an attractive juvenile hurdle, so cannot turn out to be such an almighty clunker. Favourite Rafiot took quite a downfall from his promising hurdles bow at Kempton and that left the win in the hands of well-backed Building Bridges, whose only win from nine flat runs was a 1m 5f Navan maiden. Silkstone, flat rating 78 and a winner at 7f and a mile, stayed the distance better than expected but stamina could still have been the difference between winning and defeat. Which is not good for Waterproof’s future but he was only rated 51 on the flat, so this counts as a cracker by his measure. This trio can jump up and down for joy because they at least stuffed the remainder.

Race 3: Fairfax Saddles Novices’ Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Do Wanna Know     2: Hurricane Harvey     3: Mickey Buckman

Winner owned: Girls Allowed, trained: Charlie Longsdon, ridden: Robert Dunne

In contrast to the previous race there were some nice, but perhaps longer term, horses in this (regular readers will have heard that in many past Huntingdon reports but this time it is serious. Again). Mickey Buckman declined to bounce after a splendid effort on his comeback from twenty-eight months off, and that gives a thumbs up to Irish point runner-up Do Wanna Know and Irish point runner-up PLUS bumper placed Hurricane Harvey for managing to finish in front of him – they both benefitted from Mickey Buckman uprooting the last. Fourth was Known, one of two Nicky Henderson entries. The other, Captain Woodie, got a but sweaty before hand and ran indifferently as a consequence. Fricka, a surprise course and distance winner last month, made the running until landing badly and toppling over three out. She was not stopping at the time but there was a lot of power lurking behind.

+ +  Hurricane Harvey (2nd): Led when Fricka fell three out but was soon headed. Instead of dropping away, he rallied with a purpose and should have wins to come his way.

Do Wanna Know (1st): Impressed with his battling attitude and might be able to nab a handicap before the defeated have played their collective hands. Maybe he will improve into winning novices’ with a penalty given that this is only his second race.

+  Known (4th): Was not really fdone for pace but as he made his move he had to side-step Fricka and lost some forward impetus. Should do better as this was only his second race and he turned the tables on Killer Clown, who was ahead of him previously.

+  Meyer Lansky (6th): Who would have imagined a horse named after a top East Coast organised crime figure would end up at Jonjo O’Neill’s, sneaking around in search of a handicap mark. One to wait for handicaps with.
Do Wanna Know dashes up the run-in, but Hurricane Harvey (pink) made plenty of inroads into the lead. Mickey Buckman is trundling on in green, with Known closing in too. Meyer Lansky is the one in the distance.

Race 4: Fairfax Saddles Novices’ Chase [2m 4f]

1: Deyrann De Carjac     2: Pym    3: Whatmore

Winner owned: J Law, trained: Alan King, ridden: Tom Cannon

This has the potential to be a really good novices’ chase. Seven were debuting over fences but the other three had all won their only try in chases, and the average rating of the ten was 134. In addition four came from yards with a plus for stable form. Therefore getting beaten in this is not necessarily a reason to get dismayed – although the manner of defeat could be unpleasing to the eye. Deyrann De Carjac had a bit too much tendency for comfort to end up in second as a hurdler, but he won his experience gathering May run over fences and put in a very slick round of jumping to pounce two out and win this. Pym hit a flat spot mid-race but finished with some purpose, nicking the second spot from front running Whatmore.

+ +  Pym (2nd): His only ineffective run last season was the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the Festival and on this evidence he is poised to match his pre-Cheltenham achievements this term. And perhaps GO EVEN FURTHER.

+ + El Presente (4th): Had not run for eighteen months so to end up beaten only four lengths in a race of this quality was a cracking return. The bounce is feared but Mickey Buckman showed that not all horses need be affected.

+  Eskendash (8th): One of the lowest rated runners he was right in the mix until a mistake two out stopped him in his tracks. He will be winning chases if that does not become a habit.

Boldmere (PU): When Whatmore made what became a traditional open ditch error at the fourth he was hampered and never really got going with conviction after that. He is capable of better with some luck in running.

x  Whatmore (3rd): Did not get a bad result but he took an exception to all of the open ditches and that is a flaw to fear wherever he may go next.

x  Cotswold Way (6th): Without wishing to get hysterical over failure in decent company he was the horse that underperformed without doing anything obviously wrong. There is always one. And he had won first time out, plus on this course, distance and going as a hurdler.

Race 5: Macer Gifford Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Twotwothree     2: Rock On Rocky     3: Vue Cavaliere

Winner owned: Evason, Hewitt, Michaelson & Walsh, trained: Oliver Greenall, ridden: Paddy Brennan

Twotwothree has never posted results to match his name but did go 224 in bumpers. What a missed opportunity - a horse called Always Du Cerisier was the criminal. After failing to crack hurdles and a hesitant chase debut he has won two in a row over fences, both relatively comfortably. He had gone up twelve pounds in the handicap for the first win and he can look forward to similar official retribution. Rocky On Rocky wins with pleasing regularity but before today his Huntingdon chase results were U4UU so an accident free Sunday outing was a the max reasonable expectation. Vue Cavaliere seems to have ability to win a race like this but is struggling to find a functional distance. Course specialist Jackthejourneyman strangely pulled up, so between these three horses there seems to have been some sort of glitch in the Matrix.

Ambler Gambler (PU): Well handicapped now, he has not been in threatening form recently and dropping him down to two miles had a strong whiff of desperation. It failed.
Twotwothree is getting in the winning habit but post-race rituals still have him flummoxed

Race 6: Fairfax Saddles Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Elite Garde     2: Cagliostro     3: Global Ruler

Winner owned: Philip Rocher, trained: Paul Webber, ridden: Richie McLernon

Elite Garde is a half-brother to Deyrann De Carjac, winner of the esteemed novices’ chase an hour earlier. This was an affair lacking in comparative lustre. Again, most were debuting in chase company and several were lightly enough raced to consider natural improvement in this environment. Unfortunately when they were studied in the paddock there was a lack of stature common amongst them. Stocky and strongly built, yes, built to soar majestically over the bigger fences such as the open ditch by the stands, no. Losing the favourite Imperial Elysium at a very early stage, the remainder wound their cumbersome and not so merry way around. By the time that the field had reached the third last there was Global Ruler hanging on in front, outsider Cagliostro cruising along on his heels and Elite Garde close up but being niggled along. Global Ruler duly ran out of puff and Cagliostro took his measure but Elite Garde got a proper second wind and grabbed the race by the wotsits before the final fence. He may be quite jealous of his half-brother and if this was Greek mythology it would rapidly descend into violence, probably incest and, worst of all, an opera.

+ Elite Garde (1st): Lightly raced over hurdles, he showed a distinct knack for chasing here, even if the accusation of “won by too far” is valid.

+  Cagliostro (2nd): Has a career notably short of achievement but the sound jumping shown here is a workable tool in 0-100 chases.

x Debrouillard (7th): Showed definite promise in maiden hurdles either side of New Year but has gone backwards since and this chase debut saw him under pressure after a mile or so. The old form will continue to tempt, but something drastic needs to be done before support is merited – hood and tongue tie have been tried.

x  Stephanie Sunshine (8th): Before this she had been third in both chases, which caught the eye, but they were not great performances and she does not look as if she was made for fences.
As good as it photographically gets vaguely into the sun, even though Elite Garde is missing. They are, left to right, Stephanie Sunshine, Petronella Manners, Debrouillard and Cagliostro.

Race 7: Fairfax Saddles Handicap Hurdle, Div I [3m 1f]

1: Mr Love     2: Silent Encore     3: Robyndzone

Winner owned: Ben Turner, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Finally! A win for Mr Love, although having not set the world alight in his first two Skelton yard excursions, the faithful could not have been blamed for giving up the ghost for today. He surged clear two hurdles out but then showed signs of fading stamina on the run-in. Fortunately for him and adequate margin had been established and the victory came. There was a fair scrap for the minor honours going on behind, so a serious wobble could have cost him. One thing to keep in mind about this race is that it will live in history as a classic for fans of headgear. Every declared horse had some – the first three all turned out with cheekpieces, the placed horses being tongue tied as well.

+  Mr Love (1st): Will still be well handicapped on old potential after being reassessed for this, but it would not be a shock to see him drop down a furlong or two when trying to hit a second home run.

x  Silent Encore (2nd): On the one hand he ran well enough to ease concerns that going right-handed is a waste of time and effort for him. On the other it was his seventeenth career run, and none have ended in victory.

Robyndzone (3rd): His yard turned up today with nine winners from their last twenty-one runners and he seemed as well suited by the course, distance and going as any. The expectation would have been that if he does this well, he should have primed for even better.

Race 8: Fairfax Saddles Handicap Hurdle, Div II [3m 1f]

1: Out The Glen     2: Our Nest Egg     3: Peter’s Portrait

Winner owned: The Two Hats Syndicate, trained: Debra Hamer, ridden: Paddy Brennan

Quite a strange closer. Stamina was not guaranteed in several and Mamoo and Jimmi Chew ensured that the pace was strong enough to stress those not designed for three miles plus. However, well into the race, the field were still well bunched together (it was too mild to be a case of them trying to keep warm). There was a minor late scattering, but at the end Mamoo was rallying and only needed a couple of dozen more strides to nick back two places. That left a race where staying power was a lesser factor than expected and yet still significantly affected the outcome. Out The Glen was not short of endurance, but we only had pointing form to deduce that - he had been terrible under Rules. Our Nest Egg stays well, but was missing a hood and had a very quiet stable behind him, so did surprisingly well.

Out The Glen (1st): Got used to being tailed off under Rules but was suddenly transformed on hurdles debut, and after five months off. It would be likely that he only gets a manageable ratings rise for this win.

+  Peter's Portrait (3rd): As for Out The Glen, so for him. Except that he only finished third.

+  Mamoo (4th): An absolute maestro (or should that be beastro?) of inconsistency, the handicap mark is workable and he looked here as if success could be near. The decision as to whether that happens will be his, and his alone.

x  Jimmi Chew (5th): A timely warning to be careful regarding Out The Glen as by making two wins look like quite hard work he had limited his rise in the ratings to eleven pounds. It was enough to knock him out of the places here, although he did well enough until the last hurdle.
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